Being vocally, unabashedly, look-at-me-once-and-it’s-so-obvious queer is important to me. (Once a girl at a party asked me if I was, verbatim, “not straight,” and I rode that elation for a solid week afterward). It’s my way of saying I am here and I have gone through so much strife, internal and external, to be here and so conspicuously queer in front of you, and I’ll do it again.
I am the oldest child of two moms in a progressive town once dubbed “Lesbianville, USA,” which boasts a women’s college, a 35,000-participant annual gay pride parade, and a population of two-mom families over five times the national average. My moms, my younger twin sisters, and I are blissfully normal here. But when I tell people outside of my hometown — at Harvard, at my summer internships, near my grandparents’ house, when I travel — that I have two moms, they have a lot of questions.
We must organize behind the cause of Palestinian liberation until equal rights are guaranteed for all citizens in Israel and Palestine. It is worth all of us considering how the funding channeled to Israel is being used. It is equally vital to assess to what extent America’s support for Israel’s “right to defend itself” is encroaching on Palestinians’ right to exist.
We maintain that Israel, like all countries, has numerous problems. And, like other democracies, it addresses those problems through its legal system, its commitment to open discussion, and with a populace that has always been willing to seek peace and change for the better. We understand that some well-intentioned BDS supporters are frustrated with the conditions in Gaza and what they see as a lack of progress in implementing a two-state solution. However, BDS is no remedy to these problems.
Harvard has a clear choice: It can either stand with Palestinians in their struggle for freedom or it can persist in siding with their oppressors. The physical safety and emotional wellbeing of Palestinian Harvard students, alumni, and their families lie in the balance.
Our time as college student organizers may now be drawing to a close, but the need for fossil fuel divestment is more urgent than ever. For Harvard to serve its country and humankind, it must disentangle itself from fossil fuels and embrace a just and stable future. But it won’t do so without pressure. That’s why we are pledging to withhold any donations to Harvard until the University announces a commitment to fully divest from the fossil fuel industry.
The Harvard Class of 2021 now prepares to receive its degrees and set forth into a world so startlingly different from 2017, when they arrived in Cambridge. It might therefore be appropriate to pause and give a salute to its centennial forbear — the extraordinary class of 1921 — and reflect upon some startling similarities, as well as differences, between their times and challenges. Both the 1921 and 2021 classes arrived at Harvard as epic events were unfolding that would forever alter the students’ lives, the University, the nation, and the world.
For those who benefit from a repressive system, be brave enough to reckon with a system that imposes violence and perpetual suffering unto others. The questions are clear and ready to be asked (For example, why are Black and third-world peoples suffering? What must be done to liberate them?). We must do everything we can to solve them. Lives are, quite literally, at stake.
Harvard must, first, expand and integrate halal dining. Second, hire more Muslim therapists. Third, provide larger prayer and social spaces for Muslims. And fourth give significant resources to educate Harvard students and faculty about Islamophobia. Throughout this process, Harvard should provide transparency and accessible and consistent avenues for feedback.
Seemingly harmless jokes can hurt more than you’d think. Whether within student groups or in our day-to-day interactions, let’s all be a little more careful and a little more compassionate.
Most students and staff leave the IOP with the skills and network necessary for finding success in politics and public service. But I want us to leave the IOP with the practical expertise that comes from recognizing our Institute’s own shortcomings and hypocrisy and then rebuilding the Institute to be a community where all people feel valued, respected, and a sense of belonging.
For a plan to have any chance at “ending” racism, it must reach out further than this strictly two-pronged approach. Another important system demanding attention is Boston Public Schools.
No matter how many donors back us or irrelevant advertisements sandwich themselves between our words — at the end of the day, we are a school newspaper composed of undergraduates. Irrespective of our potential futures in journalism (which I worry about), we are students today. And the community we report on, the people we interview and photograph, they are our peers — we owe them ethical reporting of their stories with grace and decency.
We all have months of connection-building to make up for, and I think we will need to give ourselves permission to get to it. Just make conversation. There’s a good chance that the person you met in the Zoom square next to you was always hoping that you would.
The interdisciplinary era of Renaissance minds is out of fashion, and visual art is one of the first fields to fade as society embraces specialization over breadth. We have to recognize visual art for the benefits it offers our minds, particularly if our brains are accustomed to finishing problem sets all day or lab work all night. Art requires science, and science requires art.
As citizens, we would benefit from the same mindset shift: from an idealistic politics of truth, collaboration, and middle-paths to a politics of power. We should embrace polarization and the new attitudes and political strategies that come with it. If we are engaging with the right politically, it is to bring them to our side. Can you get your relative in a swing state to change their vote? Encourage a friend to understand their hidden biases and confront them? Get your friend to shut up about the pitfalls of polarization?
We need to cultivate a culture that shows people their vote matters at every level, and these policies would definitely help achieve that goal. No matter if it’s for the president or a city council member, every vote matters. Once we can collectively accept this reality, the country will truly improve.
Instead of spending so much time and attention (ineffectively) attempting to embarrass rule-breakers into good behavior, we should ask for more from our government officials in regards to vaccine distribution, Covid guidelines, and financial support. We must stop taking cheap shots at anti-maskers and turn to those who are responsible for the current situation and are actually in a position to affect change. Moving towards real progress means moving past Covid shaming for our own benefit.
President Bacow, we call on you to institutionalize Democracy Day in 2022 and beyond. For one day of the academic calendar, Harvard should commit itself to taking the civic lessons taught inside its classrooms and applying them towards civic action to benefit the community. Only then can Harvard make good on its mission “to educate citizens and citizen leaders.”
But now, watching a Black man’s character being assassinated — as his actual assassin nonchalantly sits in the same room — I am exhausted. What I have learned from this past year is that after Black people die, after we are brutalized and harassed, we’re the ones on trial.
Regardless of what the next three years hold, I’m excited. I don’t need to be the main character or have a glow up; a normal day in the life with meals in dining halls and classes in person would be plenty. It’s been hard to have hope this year, but I can’t help but get excited for the in-person fall. Until then — never have I ever had a normal college semester.
To the incoming Class of 2025, I hope that you allow yourself to confront your losses without guilt and properly make peace with them. With mass vaccination rollouts already underway and the official announcement that Harvard is planning for a full return to campus, we have a lot to look forward to. I hope that you feel all the excitement that you deserve to feel before starting college. I hope you find yourself part of a community that you can call home for the next four years.