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.
There are three chapters in the evolving relationship between academic institutions and Jeffrey Epstein. In the first, before his conviction in 2008, everyone loves Epstein. In the third, after the 2018 article in the Miami Herald detailing his depravity, everyone hates Epstein. But in the second, there is an ambiguous dance between this generous funder and universities that recognize complexity in taking his money.
This pandemic has shaped us, for better or for worse, and we cannot escape the influence it has had on our characters and the way we view the world. So while we mourn its losses, let us also embrace the transformations it has brought. After all, these transformations have become an inescapable part of who we are.
Your status as a Harvard student should have no bearing on your ability to love yourself. Yet, in the virtual world, I have found that the reflection you see on Zoom can distract from mental and physical health and make it much harder to appreciate the parts of yourself that aren’t on display.
There will always be those who don’t listen, but we must strive to curb the trend of polarization. As Harvard students, we sometimes fall into this trap, forming our own echo chamber and not giving opposing views a place. Listening shouldn’t come at the expense of one’s mental health or well-being, and not everyone is open to discussion. But, if conceivable, instead of pushing a differing opinion away, we should try to spend some time understanding where the speaker is coming from and respectfully offer our own opinion as well.
What we need is to find a way to see the tension of difference not as a threat to be eliminated or avoided, but as a tool for revision and a source of creation. To do so, we must turn to those who have spent their entire lives learning to navigate and grow in the often-shunned space beyond rigid dichotomy. We must turn to the mixed community.
Black students cannot be the designated race experts anymore. I have been one of those students. J. Max Bond Jr. was one of those students. It is not our job to educate the University and its affiliates on how to address its historic oppression of people of color. If Harvard wants to strengthen their new initiative for more diversity and institutional accountability, Black students alone can’t fuel it.
The confidence that comes naturally to many of our peers — the noble assertiveness that many of us were taught to suppress — is an object of my envy. But I choose not to dwell on that envy; instead, I will act on it. I will become fluent in Harvard Speak, and transform what has long rusted into gold.
For this class of ’61 student of history, whose years now almost quadruple the age of the most recent Harvard alums, the call of Harvard Forward is not unprecedented. The goal of achieving a socially-progressive Board of Overseers evokes the long history of courageous Harvard students and graduates of the past who were committed to addressing and solving the urgent issues of their times that threatened the survival and advancement of the highest potential of humankind.
No longer can we endure these massacres. We must demand our representatives ignore the NRA’s corrupt interests and fight for our lives. We must pressure them to intervene against the long-standing discrimination and racism within U.S. policing. Decades of inaction show that change must start with us, the generation that has never known a time without mass shootings.
When I think of the voices that have come out from Harvard, I am proud and convinced that a motto of our country, “E Pluribus Unum,” was engraved in the Harvard spirit. That spirit urges people to act when there are injustices, even if they are in far-flung corners of the forgotten world — and this deserves my gratitude.
As we trek, navigating a world that makes us doubt our names, remember, your name is your power. Your name is one of the first things given to you, and with it, the history and legacy of all those who came before you. Its melodious syllables are yours to fill with stories of triumph and tragedy alike, as you continue to write and define your name and who you are. It represents all that you were, are, and will be.
It is deeply destructive when communities are denied the right to belong in America, only finding comfort in their familiar cultural roots — cultural roots that are actively being exploited by authoritarian regimes committing relentless, heinous crimes. We cannot unify America by treating Chinese Americans as enemies of the state. Rather we must recognize all hyphenated Americans for what we are: Americans.
The concept of the dead viscerally disturbs me. I speed-walk past flowers on bridges and gated graveyards while others stop to pay their respects. When I think of the dead, I see myself among them. I would trade my life for my Asian American siblings, if given the chance. There are so many people who could do more with a life than I. But I am never given the chance. I keep living. It’s not fair.
I am also sure no one means to offend when they implicitly treat Asian Americans as one uniform coalition in the wake of these attacks. However, the desire for simplicity and neat categorization which motivates both of these phenomena can contribute to the same cycle of ignorance.
The discussion I would like to have with Professor West has to do with where he chooses to cast suspicion and place blame for his own situation. To be clear, my issue with Professor West at this moment is not his personal view on the Israeli-Palestinian situation, although some have used his allegation as an occasion to make a popular student petition on his behalf a vehicle for broadly demonizing rhetoric about Israel.
We know the story does not begin with the shootings that took place on Tuesday. The fears and anxieties of this year are, for so many, intensifications of feelings that have been with you for much longer because of precarious circumstances of family, labor, rural and urban geographies, class, gender, and race that might seem unspeakable at Harvard.
To the writers and journalists and filmmakers of the world: Words matter, and how we tell Asian and Asian American stories matters. Spell names correctly. Do research. Challenge the model minority myth. Hire people to tell their own stories. Call out racism for what it is, and do not mince words. Think about the repercussions of what you put out into the world because — as Tuesday’s events have made abundantly clear — the consequences can be life or death.
This inherent contradiction of listening to marginalized voices when it is beneficial to us and ignoring them when it makes us uncomfortable is not anti-racist. It’s engaging in the ignorant and ingrained societal habit of moral licensing — checking the box of being “not racist” in one category and then refusing to change your behavior in any other instance.
When Prince Harvard bestowed upon me a fateful kiss, I’d hoped that I could slay the villains that had robbed me of the fantastical dreams of Black princessdom. But the truth is, both inside and outside of this white castle, that this little Black girl cannot want to be a princess, mostly because she knows the world would never let her be one.
Yet, these unprecedented times don’t feel so unprecedented anymore. They have become our new normal. We’ve become content with Zoom calls and no personal time for rest as our new daily schedule. I’ve fallen into the trap of assuming life will simply be like this for another couple of weeks, months, or years. But no more. I refuse to continue working, studying, and living as if we were in a normal situation. The present bizarre situation deserves bizarre, eccentric, and odd actions to accompany it.
Academic freedom comes with responsibility and professionalism, especially for those who have the weight of authority as a professor at Harvard Law School.
The production of Black-centered knowledge is not a priority for Harvard because it promises to deconstruct the very white supremacist tables at which they have denied us a seat. By centering decolonization and the deconstruction of power, West invited us to pursue a “veritas'' that transcended academia’s pervasive and intentional whiteness and neoliberalism. Offering West tenure would equate to Harvard consenting to the dismantling of its own structural racism.