This morning, I looked out of my window in Eliot House that faces the MAC Quad to see a portion fenced off, presumably ready for the onslaught of bulldozers that will soon wipe away a significant portion of one of the few green spaces we enjoy on our urban campus.
I wish that I could say that I was surprised. Though a spark of hope glimmered faintly when I first saw that the to save the quad held the names of over 500 concerned individuals, it was soon stamped out by announcing the dictum of Campus Services: changes will proceed as planned. As if on cue, we have since been assured by the administration that steps will be taken to revamp the space. That there are plans in place to make improvements. That they have our best interests in mind. That we should not worry our pretty little heads about it.
This decision does not have an incredible effect on me personally. I am not a member of the Harvard Quidditch team, which practices regularly on the lawn. I don’t make a habit of studying or playing sports there, as do many of my peers on those precious few sunny spring days that Massachusetts gives us. I have not attended the annual Holi festival, celebrated there since I was a freshman. But even so, as I read the frantic email from a concerned Kirkland student encouraging people to save the quad, I felt the kind of anger Harvard students are all too familiar with rising in my stomach. Not the sort of anger, by any means, that drives one to chain oneself to a tree or even to make any substantial inconvenient lifestyle changes, but the type that drives one to commit that most effectual of political acts: to write an angry email.
In the email I began to draft to Meredith Weenick, Vice President for Campus Services, I got so far as to write: “Though I expect that my University would not make such a drastic change without even the basic courtesy of an official notice or the solicitation of student feedback…” before I had to stop.
It was not the dwindling of this anger that stayed my hand, not the desire to tone down my irritation for the sake of politeness, nor even some impending paper deadline that distracted me from writing. It was the realization that this statement was an outright lie: in fact, I do expect the University administration to make such decisions, and at this point I expect these decisions to be made without even a cursory consideration for how Harvard’s students might feel or respond. I do not feel that this is “my” Harvard, and unfortunately I know of a great many people who share this sentiment.
From the decidedly curt “get over it” retort given to concerns about the impact of destroying summer-storage on low-income students to the almost amused disinterest in calls for increased funding for student organizations, the current University administration has made clear their disregard for the opinions and input of students. There seems to be a fundamental disconnect between Harvard’s actions and what Harvard says are its goals that I could hardly put better than did my comrade Darragh Nolan when he wrote, with what I can only interpret as a lavish helping of sardonicism, “Harvard talks a lot about common spaces...”
Indeed, Harvard seems to talk about a lot of things.
I hardly have a dog in this fight. I am here after taking time off, entering my last year as one of those super-seniors who wanders around campus lost without his peers. I will be leaving soon enough, and time will eventually purge the College of any who remember when the MAC Quad did not have those extra parking spaces.
But as I prepare to exit the Harvard Bubble, I would like to leave a word of warning to the Harvard administration: This attitude will have implications. Perhaps we current students cannot raise enough of a voice for you to hear us now, but you should rest assured that ten, fifteen, twenty years down the line, when we are looking back at our alma mater with checkbooks in hand, all the “plans in place” in the world will do nothing to change whether or not this Harvard felt like “ours.”
Nathan H. Pointer ’15 is a Social Anthropology Concentrator in Eliot House.