Not Your Usual Harvard Column

We complain a lot about our school and each other, but we forget that there’s a lot that we love about being here.

Sadly, around 11 out of every 12 members of the Class of 2020 did not win the housing lottery’s grand prize, and will not be beamed up to the Mathership. Some second and third prizes were bestowed upon other River East and non-Quad inductees, and I imagine the remaining contestants in the lottery will purchase bikes for themselves next year.

Regardless of some of its less-favorable outcomes, Housing Day is a day filled with color and spirit and celebration. It is perhaps one of the few days of the year where Harvard students are filled with genuine joy and happiness in the company of dear friends and comrades, and a true day of unity that excludes no one (save for those unfortunate folks whose ever-socially-conscious professors and TFs schedule a midterm that morning, and for that unfortunate blocking group that Pfoho pforgot last year).

On this day, Harvard isn’t the dreary bureaucratic behemoth oblivious to the needs of its students that every single one of us has imagined it to be at some point. On this day, we unabashedly and unashamedly celebrate being a part of Harvard without constantly looking back over our shoulders at the “privilege” that got us here. On this day, at least for a few hours, divisions and factions only exist within House colors and crests. On this day, we’re not afraid to love our school.

On many other days, though, Harvard is on the receiving end of our contempt, annoyance, and grievances. There are certainly many just causes to petition the University for, and we are right to bring forth dissent, discussion, and even demands. It is often out of love for our school and our classmates that we seek the administration’s ear. But more often than not, one of the most prestigious colleges in the world is never quite good enough for us.

The Crimson’s editorial page is perhaps uniquely reflective of much of this malcontent. From all leanings, the Harvard administration either ignores this group or that one, provides insufficient funding for another one, makes a bone-headed policy decision that might harm people, hires too many or too few professors of whatever identity marker or ideology, is a greedy capitalist extortioner or the Kremlin on the Charles, et cetera. Most of these opinions are well-reasoned and rational. But for goodness’ sake, we sure complain a lot, and we don’t seem to have many good things to say about Harvard, or each other.


Other Harvard students themselves are tragically often on the receiving end of our displeasure. We don’t publicly accost each other or condemn one another, but rather we lament that other students who don’t look like us, act like us, or think like us just don’t understand us and never will. We assume that students from this background or that one could never possibly understand what it means to be us, and therefore are not worth engaging with, or are sometimes even worth our ill will or derision. By segregating ourselves into identity groups, we necessarily create outsiders. Outsiders are generally not treated well by insiders.

Harvard and its student body aren’t perfect, and again, we justly strive to correct egregious imperfections. I’m certainly guilty of grievances against Harvard and heck, I’ve even got a Crimson column as a stump and megaphone.

But Harvard is still an amazing place to be, and I would be loath to forget it. I wrote this cycle’s column in a Widener reading room atop stories’ worth of books and knowledge and scholarship, walked down the library steps through who-knows-how-many tourists’ pictures, and strode the same paths of the Yard that presidents, generals, doctors, lawyers, and countless other history-makers have trod. How blessed I am to have met such phenomenal friends and comrades, and to have been afforded such a wealth of opportunities during my time here!

Who among the student body could forget where they were, or who they were with, or how they felt when they opened the acceptance email that would change their lives? Who could forget the stupefaction of realizing that they were to inherit such a storied legacy? To be sure, the luster of that legacy is marked with some dents and dings. Our inheritance imbues us with no small task of stewardship, and good stewards will ask difficult and challenging things of their peers and of their institution.

The nature of a university that prides itself on shaping tomorrow’s leaders, with its students bursting at the seams to get out and change the world, does not always lend itself well to gratitude or appreciation for the old alma mater. But Housing Day was a reminder that there is so much that we love about this University and about our classmates. It cannot possibly hurt us to acknowledge these things a little more often.

Harvard is not simply the other party in a transaction of education, but a part of who we are. So at least for today, unreservedly, here’s to Harvard and everything we love about it.

Grace M. Chao ’19 is an Economics concentrator living in Mather House (the best House). Her column appears on alternate Wednesdays.


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