Till the Song of the Puritans Dies

We support the democratic process of reforming Harvard's alma mater.

The release of the 20-verse “longlist” of potential final lines for the lyrics of “Fair Harvard” has brought with it unique and exciting ways students can help change one of our school’s historic traditions. Whatever we may think about the substance of the change, it is good that students can help guide a change that will impact the next generation of Harvard affiliates.

Upon the revision of the title of “House Master” last year, we stated, “Our world evolves, Harvard evolves, and we evolve with it.” Evolution is a constant theme in this whole matter; Danielle S. Allen, Government professor and co-chair of the Presidential Task Force in charge of the contest, has called the alma mater the “anchor ritual” of Harvard, and part of its “DNA.” If we are to grant this matter the same level of significance as Allen does, then it is only fair that Harvard let the general University community decide what the spirit of Harvard should be.

Our position remains the same: While we originally did not find the proposed changes to our alma mater a substantive change, we did express hope that the contest would re-engage students with tradition and encourage students to reflect on Harvard's past and roots, especially as they relate to the present. And it appears the campaign has embraced this goal. The current voting system, contrary to being a trivial popularity contest, offers the Harvard community the chance to have their voice be heard.

Moreover, the Solution Space that the Task Force has created has been instrumental in creating a forum for open discussion about all issues Harvard, including the topic of the alma mater. We encourage all Harvard students and affiliates to allow their thoughts to be heard by submitting to the Solution Space.

The 20 verses that comprise the longlist are mostly fine choices and worthy to replace the final line of the alma mater’s. Some, like “Veritas be Thy Destiny’s guide,” seem particularly suitable and succinct. We hope the final choice will carry our school’s motto, as it is empowering to students, situates Harvard’s lessons in the world, and places an emphasis on the pursuit of truth. But regardless of the line the administration chooses to cap the refrain, we shall be glad to have had the chance to help play a part in this decision, and we hope our fellow students will be, too.


This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.


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