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While I pretended not to see a little-cousin-shaped mound underneath a blanket on the living room floor, it struck me that he believed that if he could not see me, I could not see him.
He was five years old then. Object permanence is a little tougher at that age — it’s what makes hide-and-seek all the more fun.
As Harvard has dominated headlines in the past few months, I’ve found myself wondering: What’s the Harvard community’s excuse?
Lately, I have seen too many of my peers acquiesce to a mindset of “if I don’t acknowledge it, it doesn’t exist,” falling into a habit of willful ignorance. I’ve heard people unabashedly profess that they have little to no knowledge of the crises, abroad and on campus, that have made headlines for months now.
Students bemoan how often they have to scroll past TikToks or click through Instagram stories to avoid anything political. I see people carefully avoid glancing at our campus’ many posters containing political messages and advertisements for advocacy-related events.
This particular form of ignorance — current events hide-and-seek — is insidious because it’s quiet. It requires intentional inaction.
We students are products of the Information Age; we grew up on Google searches that would take less than 0.5 seconds to provide us with billions of results; we spend, on average, about 1.6 hours using social media daily. Roughly three-quarters of college students get their news from these platforms.
For a generation this exposed to information, if one wants to remain huddled under the warm and comforting blanket of ignorance, one must hold it tight over their head. On this campus, especially, you have to do everything you can to avoid learning. That so many of my peers do makes a mockery of Harvard’s mission to “advance new ideas and promote enduring knowledge” — of Veritas.
Now more than ever, it is vital for us to remember that we are not just students of this school but engineers of its culture and proprietors of its mission.
This isn’t to say that all students are neglecting to acknowledge our difficult realities on campus, especially in the face of intense media scrutiny. How could we entirely avoid the controversies when we have to dodge reporters on the way to Joe’s Pizza or when the New York Times publishes more than 50 articles mentioning Harvard between November and January?
Everybody can feel the unforgiving gazes and harsh words of elected representatives, pundits, and billionaires as they band together to excoriate our college. But we cannot let the harsh light of the national stage blind us to our responsibility to our fellow members of the Harvard community.
We control how we conduct ourselves during times of crisis and injustice. We determine how these old brick walls hold up against the infernos that rage during the worst of times.
Will we cower with our hands tightly pressed over our eyes? Or will we open them, stand up, and build something better?
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to redefine the culture of an almost 400-year-old institution — a culture that can, in turn, influence the millions, if not billions, of people who tuned in to watch our Icarian fall from grace.
Is being a Harvard student breathing out a sigh, teeming with vexation, and turning up your music when you hear the chants of protestors in the Yard? Is being a Harvard student trying to avoid all conversations that have even the slightest possibility of becoming political? Is it a culture of shutting your eyes to issues that, for a privileged few, are easy to ignore?
I promise that does not have to be the case. It is not too late for this community — our waxen wings have more lift in them yet.
We can still be better to ourselves and each other — better to those who look to us, deservedly or not, as an example of everything beautiful, worthwhile, and sacred in higher education.
It starts by recognizing that hiding won’t save us. Peek your head out of that blanket and lower your hands away from your face. Issues do not become less pressing, injustices do not become less unjust, and atrocities do not become less atrocious once you stop paying attention to them.
It ends with a Harvard whose mission does not lay tattered at our feet by hypocrisy, willful ignorance, and the tacit acceptance of the worst our world has to offer.
Harvard students, we have an unshirkable duty to this community and the larger world to be people who give a damn about tomorrow and care enough to use the incredible privilege of our education to serve the world around us.
Enough of the hiding.
Sarah Rose F. Odutola ’27, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Pennypacker Hall.
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