Earlier this week, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana rejected a proposal for a bridge program, called the First Year Institute, designed to ease the transition for low-income and first-generation college students. As we have opined before, a bridge program is critically missing at the College, and the Dean’s decision to opt for a “Advocate” instead of a bridge-program is misguided. The rejection of the First Year Institute is a failure of the College to truly integrate low income students, first generation college students, and students from under-resourced high schools.
Rather than create a bridge program, the College plans to hire a part-time “First-Gen Low Income Student Advocate” within the Freshman Dean’s Office. No matter how slickly “First-Gen Low Income Student Advocate” rolls off the tongue, this new position will not fix the glaring problems at hand. Students who come from any of the backgrounds towards which the First Year Institute was targeted will enter Harvard without the skills and resources many of their peers already have. A single bureaucrat will not be able to teach these students the skills they did not pick up in high school or their own households.
Moreover, every experience is different and what students know varies. The creation of a single “advocate” in lieu of a bridge program provides a one-size-fits-all solution that fails to recognize the purpose of the proposed bridge program: to allow disadvantaged students to gain skills their high schools or backgrounds did not provide them in a dynamic and interactive environment that they can leverage to address their particular needs. More importantly, it takes away the agency from individual students to address their own needs in a setting that presents them with all available resources. As it stands now, disadvantaged students are less prepared to take on Harvard—academically, socially, and emotionally—and are no less likely to take their first year in stride.
Dean Khurana’s decision to reject the First Year Program will prevent a significant portion of the College from taking advantages of the opportunities promised to them. When students are not given the support they need, they struggle to find a sense of belonging and end up questioning their place at the College. His decision not only goes against his long-standing philosophy of prioritizing inclusion, but is also a direct failure to the students who come from under-resourced backgrounds.
We object not only to the content of Dean Khurana's decision but also its dissemination. By not making public any justification for his decision, he has shown disrespect towards the students who have put years of work into this proposal. Dean Khurana should make his decision-making process clear. A public statement, potentially through a College-wide email, would help those frustrated by his decision and help students to move forward with a constructive solution. We also hope that, in the future, when students invest time and energy to propose solutions to issues on campus, adminstrators will listen more actively. We hope this recent decision does not develop into a broader trend of ignoring student input.
Harvard has a responsibility to support the students it admits. By rejecting the bridge program proposal, Dean Khurana has not only disregarded the efforts of students who poured hours of their time into the idea, but also strayed from the agenda he has pushed as Dean of the College. If Harvard is to make good on its promises to students, the College must invest in real solutions rather than half-hearted attempts to placate student voices.
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.