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Editorials

Dissent: Bigger Isn’t Always Better

By Violet T.M. Barron and Julia S. Dan
Dissenting Opinions: Occasionally, The Crimson Editorial Board is divided about the opinion we express in a staff editorial. In these cases, dissenting board members have the opportunity to express their opposition to staff opinion.

Harvard’s reach, both literal and figurative, is undeniable. It boasts offices on five continents. Its name alone holds tremendous global weight. Its 400,000 living alumni can be found all over the world.

Even so, some — like former University President Lawrence H. Summers and, with today’s opinion, this Editorial Board — still seek more.

The Board’s call for Harvard to physically expand selfishly ignores the costs local communities have already incurred from the University’s presence in Allston and disregards the harm further expansion could cause.

Even though the Board qualifies its support for expansion by calling for Harvard to consult locals, no number of conversations can remedy the steep rise in rent and housing costs Harvard’s pernicious Allston infiltration seems to have sparked. The Board’s well-meaning aspirations of accessibility are just that — aspirational.

Moreover, a bigger Harvard is not necessarily a better Harvard. Elitism doubled is still elitism. Viewing expansion as even a partial answer to concerns about diversity in a world without race-conscious admissions distracts from initiatives like socioeconomic affirmative action and ending legacy admissions that could more directly address these questions.

While the Board has adamantly and admirably defended these efforts, it takes a step back today by mislabeling expansion as a worthy step toward a more diverse Harvard.

With expansion, the same dismal ratios that describe our existing student body demographics — for example, that 67 percent of Harvard undergraduates come from the top 20 percent of the income distribution, while 4.5 percent come from the bottom 20 percent — would simply play out across a bigger population.

In framing expansion as even a partial solution, the Board fails to acknowledge that the handful of spots opened by physical expansion won’t suddenly be filled by a more diverse demographic of students.

Expansion could also hurt, rather than bolster, Harvard’s undergraduate community. We can already see the tears shed on Housing Day when first-years learn that they’ve been placed in the Quad, much less across the Charles.

When done right, initiatives aimed at increasing access to Harvard should be celebrated. We applaud Harvard’s ventures into the digital realm as a less disruptive alternative to its land grabs in Allston.

For proof, one need not look further than the digitalization of one of Harvard’s most popular courses, Computer Science 50. CS50’s virtual success — it has seen more than four million online registrants — speaks to the unquestionable draw and potential merits of Harvard courses that are just a click away for many.

Ultimately, Harvard has the power and dollars to do what it will. While we cannot wave away the 360 acres Harvard already owns in Allston, we can ask that the University recognize that we don’t need another Science and Engineering Complex, a thirteenth undergraduate House, or 1,000 more spots in the freshman class.

Rather, we need careful, balanced consideration of the students who already attend Harvard and the locals who reside in and around it before the University blindly heeds this Board’s imprudent calls for expansion.

Violet T. M. Barron ’26, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Social Studies concentrator in Adams House. Julia S. Dan ’26, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Government concentrator in Adams House.

Dissenting Opinions: Occasionally, The Crimson Editorial Board is divided about the opinion we express in a staff editorial. In these cases, dissenting board members have the opportunity to express their opposition to staff opinion.

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