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Things We Don’t Understand About Harvard

A light-hearted exploration of those issues we just can’t wrap our heads around

By Tessa A.C. Wiegand

This column explores Harvard student life and its implications. Throughout the semester I have tried to address some of the important or pressing issues that exist on campus for students. However, in light of the last couple of weeks, the issues Harvard faces seem cursory in comparison to how fortunate we are as a whole. With this in mind, I decided to address several much more lighthearted topics. I spent the week asking my classmates, friends, and random people in the dining hall for input. I’ve compiled some of their ideas into the following list of “Things We Just Can’t Understand About Harvard.”

1. When is the grass cut?

Have you ever seen or heard a lawn mower at Harvard? Ever? My window looks out on Mather courtyard, and though I have seen and heard our stellar maintenance staff doing everything from shoveling snow to raking leaves to reseeding grass (all of which seems to take place at 6 AM) I have never caught sight of a lawn mower. The Yard, the Quad, the Tercentenary Theatre and the courtyards of Harvard always look pristine, but I have never seen someone trimming grass, which leads me to one of three conclusions: One—Harvard grass is lab-generated and genetically mutated to stay short forever (like the huskies that are always puppy-sized). Two—like Harvard students, Harvard grass is perfectionist and strongly believes that growth is a “mind over matter” thing. As long as he (or she?) thinks hard enough about it, he will stay A+ length. Three—House elves cut the grass every night. Frankly, the last seems most plausible.

2.Why is Dunster not on Dunster Street, and so many more?

Kirkland is on Dunster Street, while Kirkland Street and Quincy Street intersect behind Annenberg, which is nowhere near Quincy or Kirkland (or Dunster for that matter). Harvard Street merges into Mass Ave before it gets to Harvard. On that note, Yenching Auditorium isn’t in the Harvard-Yenching Institute, and Mather Hall is not in Mather House, but is actually in Old Quincy. It’s no wonder that Harvard operates on Harvard time, because clearly seven minutes (or more) is used to figure out the lay of the land. While those poor students are wandering through Lowell, and possibly the Owl, in search of their UHS appointment, maybe they’ll run into thousands of tourists who have been lurking on Harvard St. for some years now, insisting that Harvard must be around here someplace. (Note that this contingent is mostly men, because their female relatives asked for directions about three years ago and have since taken approximately 1763 selfies with the John Harvard Statue.) When you think about it, Dewolfe is the only building actually on its respective street—and who wants to be there on time anyway?

3. What is with acronyms and all the funny words?

“I was a bit confused about blocking, but I didn’t know where the APO was, so I asked my PAF, who referred me to my proctor. She looked at the OSL website and told me I should actually go to drop-in office hours at the FDO. I missed office hours though, because my linkmate was trying to find out about summer study abroad and went to the OIE, but actually needed to go to the OCS, and then got hit by bus while crossing the street between them, and had to go to UHS. My friends got mad at me for missing office hours and kicked me out of our blocking group, but—even worse—I missed a meeting with my TF, so I still don’t know the difference between OEB, HEB, and MCB, and probably will have to become a VES concentrator instead.”

Say what? I know Harvard is “innovative,” but was a whole new language necessary? Wouldn’t my Harvard degree still be legitimate if a TA ran my sections and I majored in engineering? Maybe that’s just me. On a side note, what is the difference between OEB, HEB, and MCB? That’s something about Harvard I’ll definitely never understand.

4. How do the freshman football players know to sit at the front table of Annenberg?

Throughout my two years here I’ve heard various explanations for how the football players know to occupy the front tables at Annenberg, but none convince me. Yes, the football team reaches campus early, but until freshman move-in the team eats in Dunster. Then, until upperclassman move-in, the older football players still eat in Dunster, while the frosh players start to sit at the front tables of Annenberg.  How do they know? Is it in their letter of intent? “You will not do drugs. You will graduate from high school. You will sit at the front table.” Or maybe they find out the first day of practice. “Welcome to the team. Here are your pads. Here is your locker. Here is where you sit in Annenberg.”

Maybe “not understanding” is a dominant characteristic of Harvard. From Annenberg tables to my classes, there is plenty that I don’t understand. Maybe it’s all part of the experience. Whatever the reason, if anyone finds a house elf mowing the lawn let me know. The tourists on Harvard St. send their love.

Tessa A.C. Wiegand ’15 is an engineering sciences concentrator in Mather House. Her column appears on alternate Mondays.

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