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As 2011 comes to an end, The Crimson looks back at the most important events at Harvard over the year.
10. Football Team’s Triumphant Ivy Season Ends in Tailgate Tragedy
After Harvard finished second in the Ivy League in 2009 and 2010, the pundits projected the same result for the Crimson in 2011. A loss in the year’s first contest to Holy Cross and injuries to quarterback Collier Winters and linebacker Blaise Deal only seemed to bolster the prognostications. But after that lone loss, Harvard reeled off nine straight wins in historic fashion en route to an Ivy title.
All sorts of records fell in 2011. The Crimson broke its modern-era record for points scored in a single season, with 374 in its 10 contests. Winters’ replacement as quarterback, Colton Chapple, became just the second player in program history to throw for five touchdowns; the following week, having returned from injury, Winters became the third. On Nov. 5, Harvard’s 35-21 victory over Columbia made Tim Murphy the winningest coach in Crimson history, passing the mark set by long-time coach Joe Restic, who passed away on Dec. 8.
A resounding 37-20 victory over Penn secured the Ivy title for Harvard. The season ended with the annual Harvard-Yale game—which the Crimson won, 45-7. The triumph was marred by disaster, however. At the tailgate party before the game, a U-Haul truck driven by a Yale student struck three women, leaving 30-year-old Nancy Barry dead and two hospitalized. Yale announced that it would launch a special review of its tailgating regulations in response to the accident, and it remains unclear whether Harvard will follow suit.
9. Summer School Instructor Swamy Sparks Anger with Editorial
In July, Indian politician and Harvard Summer School instructor Subramanian Swamy published an editorial in India that soon caused ire on both continents. In light of the piece, which proposed demolishing mosques, disenfranchising non-Hindus, and forbidding Indian citizens from converting from Hinduism, a group of Harvard students circulated a petition calling Swamy’s words offensive and asking that Harvard cut its ties with him.
At first, Harvard claimed that it would stand by Swamy despite the “distressing” content of his op-ed. A civil liberties group warned that any action against Swamy would be a violation of the instructor’s free speech rights.
But in December, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences reversed course. When the Summer School course catalog came up for approval, the Faculty passed a motion to exclude Swamy’s economics classes from the 2012 roster. Though some expressed concern that removing an instructor based on his political viewpoints sets a dangerous precedent, the majority of the Faculty, led by Diana L. Eck who introduced the motion, saw fit to end Harvard’s relationship with the inflammatory politician.
8. “I Am Fine” Spurs Campus Discussion About Mental Health
An anonymous essay on mental health published by The Crimson in February opened a floodgate of heartfelt responses from the Harvard community and beyond. In the essay, titled “I Am Fine,” the writer discussed her struggle with depression and suicidal thoughts at Harvard. Her frank, haunting piece emphasized the importance of students talking to each other about their emotions rather than attempting to make their busy schedules and taxing workloads appear effortless.
The community listened to the writer’s message. Over one hundred people posted comments on the article, many sharing their own painful experiences with mental illness at Harvard and at colleges across the nation. Administrators, editorial writers, and concerned students encouraged students to open up to each other about their feelings and to take advantage of mental health resources at Harvard. Dialogue about this often silent issue increased through many channels: a new online forum inspired by the article, a new website from a student mental health advocacy group and appearances outside the Science Center, and the opening of the HappyNest, a play space in the Quad geared toward reducing student stress.
7. First Locations for House Renewal Picked: Quincy and Leverett
Early in the year, Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds and Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith announced the beginning of Harvard’s long-planned major renovation of its 12 residential Houses. Old Quincy will serve as the first test project for construction on all undergraduate Houses, and House Renewal will rank high among the University’s priorities for its quietly budding capital campaign. Drawing inspiration in part from recent renovations at Yale, the construction will update outdated heating, ventilation, and air conditioning and increase wheelchair accessibility.
While Old Quincy undergoes its 15-month face-lift, which will start soon after Commencement in 2012, students will be relocated to one of several swing spaces. After that, administrators recently announced, Old Leverett will be next to see renovations.
6. Convicted Murderer Sentenced to Life in Prison for Shooting in Kirkland House
The legal saga that arose from the fatal drug-related shooting that rocked campus in 2009 played out in court this year. After a three-week trial in which the defendant’s attorney argued that another man fired the bullet that killed 21-year-old Justin Cosby in the basement of Kirkland House, Jabrai Jordan Copney, 22, was found guilty of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Two other men, originally charged with first-degree murder along with Copney, pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of manslaughter and avoided trials. Jason F. Aquino was sentenced to 18 to 20 years in prison, and Blayn Jiggetts, who cooperated as a witness against Copney, received a sentence of 9 to 12 years.
Brittany J. Smith, the only Harvard student charged with a crime in connection to the murder, pleaded guilty after her boyfriend Copney’s conviction and received a three-year prison sentence. Smith’s friend Chanequa N. Campbell, the other student dismissed from Harvard just before her graduation for her involvement in the shooting, served as a witness in Copney’s trial and was not prosecuted.
5. Reverend Peter J. Gomes Dies
Reverend Peter J. Gomes died in February after serving 35 years as Harvard’s Pusey Minister and Plummer Professor of Christian Morals. Gomes was known at Harvard and nationwide for his oratorical gifts, best-selling books, advocacy for equality, and many endearing quirks. Speaking out when he saw injustice and standing up for students in tough circumstances, Gomes was seen as a moral compass at Harvard.
University President Drew G. Faust invoked Gomes’ memory at the 2011 Baccalaureate Service, a ceremony that Gomes had presided over for decades. “As a man of multiple labels, Peter Gomes was a little ahead of his time,” Faust said at the service. “The black, gay, and once Republican preacher did not fit any categorization.”
After Gomes’ death, the University named Wendel W. “Tad” Meyer as the acting Pusey Minister and launched a search committee to find a permanent minister. The search is ongoing.
4. Harvard Brings Back Early Action Admissions
This year brought early action admissions back to Harvard, reversing a policy that had once been heralded as a way to level the playing field in Harvard admissions.
Five years ago, administrators announced that Harvard would eliminate its early application program in favor of a single admissions cycle per year, claiming that early admissions programs put less privileged students at a disadvantage. Harvard administrators had hopes that colleges nationwide would follow Harvard’s lead in moving to a single-cycle admissions policy. But only Princeton and the University of Virginia did so, while universities like Yale and Stanford that often compete with Harvard for top applicants kept their early action programs.
With the return of early action to Harvard, admissions experts questioned whether underprivileged applicants would be at a disadvantage under the revived program. But when more than 4,000 applications poured in this fall, the Office of Admissions reported that the pool was more diverse than the last time the program existed. Eighteen percent of those applicants received acceptance letters in December.
3. After One Historic Season, Basketball Team Headed Toward Greater Heights
As Harvard men’s basketball coach Tommy Amaker often remarks, it’s not easy to do something for the first time at a school that has been around for 375 years. But that’s exactly what the Harvard men’s basketball program has done and continues to do.
It was a historic year for the Crimson. In March, the Crimson captured a share of its first Ivy League title ever, defeating Princeton, 79-67, in front of a boisterous crowd at Lavietes Pavilion. But the celebratory mood faded one week later when the Crimson fell to Princeton in heartbreaking fashion in a one-game playoff to determine the Ivy League’s representative at the NCAA tournament.
After turning down an offer from the University of Miami in April, Amaker returned to Cambridge for his fifth season. Even before the 2011-12 season tipped off, Harvard turned heads, hosting a star-studded group of eight high school recruits—six of whom were ranked in the MaxPreps.com Top 100—in an attempt to persuade them to commit to Harvard.
On the court, Harvard has continued to succeed. Its win in the inaugural Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in November helped propel it into the Top 25 in national rankings for the first time ever. And with an 11-1 record midway through the season, the Crimson appears poised to continue making history, likely heading in 2012 to Harvard’s first NCAA tournament berth since 1946.
2. ROTC Returns to Harvard
After nearly four decades of contentious relations with the military, Harvard officially recognized the Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in March following the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the national military policy that banned gays and lesbians from serving openly in uniform. The University opened a Naval ROTC office on campus in September, though Harvard cadets will continue to conduct their training at MIT because student participation rates have remained low.
Though many praised Harvard’s decision to renew its ties to the military, students have protested Harvard’s recognition of ROTC because the military does not allow transgender or intersex individuals to serve openly.
In 1969, Harvard expelled ROTC when faculty and student outrage over the Vietnam War reached its peak. Later, the University justified the continued split with the military on the basis of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” which Harvard said violated its anti-discrimination policy. Harvard was the first of its peers to welcome back ROTC this year; Columbia and Yale followed within several months.
1. Protesters Occupy Harvard Yard
From October, when members of the Harvard community joined the Occupy Boston protest and some were arrested, to early November, when students walked out of an Ec 10 lecture in protest, support for the nationwide Occupy movement simmered on campus.
Then the occupation of Harvard Yard began. Overnight, the University limited entrance to the Yard to Harvard ID holders only. The increased security left students and tourists divided over the movement. A freshman circulated a petition asking the campers to relocate, and professors urged University President Drew G. Faust to open the gates in a letter and at the monthly meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
In a series of victories for the Occupy movement, Harvard agreed on a new contract for custodial workers, avoiding a threatened strike, and said that it will reconsider its investment in controversial chain HEI Hotels & Resorts. With winter approaching and Occupy Boston shut down by police, Occupy Harvard packed all of its tents—except for its large metal geodesic dome—but vowed to keep advocating for Harvard to bend to its remaining demands. The gates, however, are open wide once more.
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