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A couple of weeks before the semester started, the undergraduate student population received an email from Dean Khurana regarding the college’s newest initiative: “Harvard Everywhere,” which seeks to “reinvent the full range of Harvard co-curricular activities and resources — house-based activities, public service, athletics, arts, interest clubs, health and wellness — in ways that will reach [students], wherever [they] are this fall.”
Being the enthusiastic pre-frosh that I was, 10,000 miles from campus because of visa restrictions, I was initially intrigued, and waited in curious anticipation of the project’s launch.
“What do you think Harvard Everywhere is going to look like?” I commented blithely whilst in conversation with a fellow Singaporean.
“Ah... whoops… I think I must have archived that email too quickly.”
As classes began, one of my professors, Joseph K. Blitzstein, cheekily joked, “Inspired by the creation of Harvard Everywhere, I am launching Stat 110 Everywhere. ”
It didn’t take me much longer to realize that Harvard Everywhere was becoming one of those initiatives which persistently remain in phases of inception, struggling to garner traction amid an over-committed, perpetually-busy student population.
A quick browse of its website reveals that the initiative is organized into eight “squads,” each led by one or two faculty or administrators: Academic Engagement; Arts; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; House Life; Public Service, Civic Engagement, and Social Justice; Recreation and Fitness; Student Organizations; and Wellness and Health Promotion.
Each squad has its own subpage, which has a brief expository prologue on their area of interest. The Recreation and Fitness squad, for example, has developed a “Grow, Play, and Achieve” program – titled the GPA program. But beyond the blurb, links are scarce on each subpage, making it a bit of challenge to find out how each program is functioning, or access any existing resources related to the initiative.
From my perspective, Harvard Everywhere has yet to have a delible impact on many students (particularly the international community), and if it is functioning to a much greater extent in places that I am unaware of, there is a lack of equitable distribution of information and resources regarding the program. Furthermore, though a skeleton of its structure exists, the program lacks concrete goals for continued engagement. I do not doubt that the College has sincere intentions for Harvard Everywhere, but its execution thus far has shown a lack of commitment.
One promised offering of Harvard Everywhere that would greatly benefit students is the Classroom to Table program, adapted for the virtual setting. While it cannot completely replicate sitting in Harvard Square, face-to-face with one’s friends and professors, the prospect of enjoying a meal over Zoom is an amusing substitute, and would provide a similar avenue for relaxed and informal conversation outside of a classroom setting.
In like manner, the organizing team could reimagine other events already familiar to the student body, such as Yardfest, or yearly student productions, scaling it appropriately for the virtual environment.
Of course, it goes without saying that there are certain traditions which would be much more infeasible to adapt — the annual Harvard-Yale game, for instance. Indeed, the greater challenge for Harvard Everywhere is to incorporate opportunities for interaction that do not take place over Zoom, and preferably decrease screen time. I personally hope to see the Undergraduate Council collaborate with the administration on this matter, and remain accountable for the use of funds specially reserved for investment in student engagement.
That said, for all that the UC and the administration can do, making Harvard Everywhere happen is no mean feat, and it can only be accomplished through the collective effort of the student population to stay consciously engaged and intentionally involved.
Harvard Everywhere as a concept has untapped potential. We should not simply wait with bated breath until the Harvard diaspora is reunited on campus. Indeed, in past weeks, I have received several “condolences” on being a freshman in the current situation, particularly from upperclassmen. I appreciate the sentiment, but must admit that I do not feel the magnitude of loss that others imply, having never experienced Harvard in-person. Even though it is unlikely that 2020 will be our best year at Harvard, I firmly believe that it can still be meaningful. We may mourn the loss of an in-person academic year, but this ‘mourning’ should not last — the College and its students should not give up on improving the virtual College experience for all.
Beverly J. Fu ’24 is a Crimson Editorial comper.
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