One thing, however, is clear: Harvard should not simply “move on” from the pandemic. Instead, we urge the College to interrogate what has worked well over the past year and to augment campus life with these new conventions moving forward. We hope that the College champions the best of the pandemic, while doing away with the worst — and, most profoundly, that it uses these trying times as a learning opportunity.
At the most basic level, CAHMS should make clear that it is here to listen to students and support them as individuals. It should stop making broad, overly simplistic statements that flatten the rich levels of difference and heterogeneity that exist among its constituents; and it should recognize that no students’ lived experiences or mental health needs deserve to be treated as monolithic. People of color experience and react to racism differently, and painting these experiences with broad strokes only serves to further alienate and isolate students.
Texas and SFFA have posited themselves as allies in identifying the wrong solutions to the right problems. If the state of Texas is truly worried about college accessibility, perhaps it should focus on improving its own internal, bleeding education system — the state ranks 43rd nationally in educational attainment — rather than hollowly casting the admissions processes of another college over a thousand miles away. And if SFFA is truly worried about racism in higher education, perhaps it should stop contributing to it.
The worst thing we can do, that Harvard and Yale can do, is stay silent and pretend that Rachael’s suicide and the mental health struggles students’ are facing, is business as usual. We need to talk about it. Undoing a culture that engenders such pervasive mental health issues requires effort on both the part of the administration and the student body.
Life on campus has always been far from perfect, and as we wrote about last spring, our return may be one of the most opportune moments to re-imagine campus life. We should conceptualize our homecoming not merely as a return to “normalcy,” but instead as a hard reset: a chance to forge ahead with a new, enhanced mode of communal and collective living.
During the pandemic, we’ve missed HUDS’s signature blend of convenience, comfort, and care. Even more so, we all miss the splendid energy that has always managed to pervade the dining halls themselves — from the warmth of the dining staff who made each big hall feel like home, to the familiarity of the tables where we made our closest friends. It’s too easy to take such small things for granted amidst the hustle and bustle of campus life. But when we all return to campus, we can’t forget how much we’ve missed these sacred spaces, made complete by the community of students and staff who connect in them.
The deaths of Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, and Yong Yue were not inevitable, and “learning” from them cannot possibly atone for the undeniable loss and horror their slaughter creates. Our inaction — our failure to combat the pervasive dehumanization of our Asian and Asian American peers — failed them. This failure sears and is irredeemable, but it doesn’t mean acting to combat further anti-Asian violence is futile.
Still, Harvard markets itself as an instrument of social mobility: a ladder that propels students to higher status post-college lives. To move forward productively, we must begin to interrogate such falsities; to be honest about how stratifications of wealth and class affect students’ capacity to wield the Harvard experience as a tool for social ascension; and to ultimately explore the modes through which we can level the playing field at Harvard.
Yet the notion that knowledge production and dissemination are separate fields stands starkly opposed to Harvard’s own presumed mission as a higher education institution. In this specific case, it’s also borderline absurd: Preceptors and other non-ladder faculty are “the bedrock” of many of our teaching programs, and deserve admiration for their crucial work. Failing to include their voices in a study of their own line of work is as counterproductive as it is disrespectful.
Our peers should get the vaccine as quickly as they are allowed — even if that means having to navigate a sometimes clunky registration system. And once they’ve mastered the system, we hope that students will take the time to educate others on how to schedule appointments. Quickly vaccinating all members of our community is crucial, and we need an all-hands-on-deck approach.
For far too long, the Peabody Museum has placed academic research and intellectual inquiry over the most basic, fundamental requisites of restorative justice and decolonization. In fact, the museum’s intellectual pursuits have become dependent upon the imprisonment of Indigenous cultural and spiritual property, with their explorations relentlessly propounding systemic depravities in the name of academia.
We support Harvard, for once, taking the stimulus funding it's been allocated, though not unconditionally. The money needs to be used thoughtfully. That means, for one, complete transparency: Our community ought to know what Uncle Sam’s money is doing for us for the sake of good-governance and allowing informed debate on the matter.
Most importantly, across differences in location, circumstance, and momentary grief or relief, all freshmen were able to feel out, for the first time, their place within a time-tested Harvard ecosystem; embodying the celebrations and lamentations of those before them.
Targeting what might at worst be politically overzealous students presents an internal coherence issue. If AFA is truly committed to upholding free speech, it must do so even when it proves inconvenient. Activist critics of academia can be uncomfortable for professors, but their perspective isn’t any less worthy of protection — even if they sometimes voice opinions critical of AFA affiliates themselves. The AFA cannot quash student voices on its quest to contribute to a free academic environment.
Blum has made a career out of arm twisting judges into eroding the rights of African Americans under the premise that racism has no bearing on the workings of modern institutions. But the justices on the Supreme Court must not allow SFFA to add affirmative action to the list of civil rights laws slashed in an effort to trivialize the omnipresence of racism in American society. Instead, for the sake of truly fair admissions, students’ most fundamental civil protections must be preserved.
Harvard is stressful. When “normal” life resumes, this will remain true. Mental health resources are vital to our community, and bulking them up in an empathetic, situationally-aware manner has to be an essential part of the University’s mission, pandemic or otherwise.
New developments ought to groundbreaking — both literally and figuratively. This means that all decisions must be filtered through the lenses of equity and environmental sustainability. We are excited to see Harvard prioritizing this approach with the new campus, but will be holding our breath until these promises are made concrete.
Years of memories, experiences, and relationships were prematurely truncated last March, weeks before they arrived at their natural conclusion. We were never given enough time to fully process the extent of our loss; the calendar flipped from spring to summer to fall, even though our worlds had halted. The pressure to stay positive and to not think about the milestones we were missing was relentless. Now, a year later, we have to be honest with ourselves.
That Tuesday, we lost an entire reality. We lost our rooms and our friends and our city — some even lost our country. We lost the certainty of knowing where we would find ourselves in the days to come. We bid farewell to the safety and comfort of our youth. Every last inch of our college experience — both what it was and all that we hoped it could be — was replaced by a strange virtual landscape and new lives we were expected to navigate.
In isolation, what does “in Extension Studies'' mean? This description only tells one small piece of a much larger story — and, without deeper context, the work of Extension School students threatens to become markedly devalued, trivialized, and flagrantly misunderstood.
The Harvard name lends validity to whatever claim it becomes attached to. This is the stunning, reality-shaping power Harvard academics yield. Using this credibility to dismiss the very real harm done to sexual assault survivors is a violent abdication of responsibility that implicates both Ramseyer and Harvard. Because Harvard’s professors rely on the prestige of the Harvard name, Harvard is complicit in the damage these professors do to our intellectual culture.
The University’s decision is a profound loss. West has the presence of a rockstar, the deep wisdom of a prophet, and the warmth of a friend. His capacity to hold a room captive — to speak directly to the souls, minds, and hearts of every student he interacts with — is unrivaled, and our campus would be dimmed without his light. This plain reality, paired with the absence of any concrete explanation from the University, leaves us baffled, unable to connect the dots that led to this decision — a decision that will inevitably deplete the nature of academic life at Harvard.
Perhaps that's the main takeaway from the commencement debacle: It’s bittersweet. Our university makes the right call in postponing the ceremony but offers no specifics or details to encourage our understandably let down seniors. It invites a brilliant, forward-thinking speaker, yet does not follow her example in its own backyard. Harvard cannot let these gestures be empty promises.
Harvard must be political, and the spending practices of an institution are inherently political. The institutions and people that the University chooses to take its donations from, spend its money on, or invest its savings in, matter and mean much. But throwing Harvard money around Capitol Hill is not always our most effective advocacy strategy.
This intoxicating step towards decriminalization, in all earnestness, is a move that we wholeheartedly support. Amongst our nation’s most disgraceful injustices is our unmatched rate of incarceration. With dozens of states imprisoning more individuals than entire countries, the need to implement swift, sweeping reforms — to pacify this raging war — is both burning and imperative.