With Radcliffe College, once Harvard’s sister school, gone, the institute remains the sole institutional flag-bearer of a name that still represents, for a great many, the long and continuing struggle for parity. The rebranding is particularly baffling — and galling — because the wound has been self-inflicted, imposed by the institute itself. At a stroke, it diminishes the legacy of women’s history at Harvard, hard-fought since the late 19th century.
Had the effort ever lapsed in the face of official scorn, Harvard would still be in league with Exxon, trying to make a little more money off the collapse of the planet. I remember most vividly Harvard Heat Week, in April of 2015. Some of those memories are uncomfortable — sleeping one night in the shrubbery outside Massachusetts Hall, and the next in the occupied alumni office.
When faced with exponential spread, any delay is almost incomprehensibly severe. And the thing being risked — the death or incapacitation of someone who may have had no choice in being here — is clearly grave. In comparison, the potential harm of not releasing such criteria — the whiplash of being suddenly sent home — seems utterly unimportant.
If we speak up, we will restore shopping week. Administrators might call our concerns “unnecessary” but our professors will make the final decision on shopping week and their opinions may still be undecided. That means that we can change minds, and the outcome of any faculty votes, if we show our professors how much students care about shopping week.
After 9/11, we rallied around our democracy, but now a corrosive drift toward polarized politics has emerged. We must learn from 9/11 as we consider the fragility of our future. Previous generations have survived assaults on U.S. democracy because a government of the people supported it, strong institutions sustained it, and a powerful military protected it. But U.S. democracy isn’t immune. As we have seen, without a rock-solid foundation, democracy fails quickly.
Shopping week is indispensable to Harvard’s mission of providing “exposure to new ideas, new ways of understanding, and new ways of knowing,” and of propelling students to “embark on a journey of intellectual transformation.” Writing as members of different segments of the Harvard community — a current undergraduate and a graduate student teaching fellow — we wish to share our thoughts on the contributions shopping week has made to our educational experiences at Harvard, and on what the community stands to lose if this integral component of the semester is curtailed.
The question of course offerings on Tagalog and the Philippines — or, more accurately, the lack thereof — is not whether Harvard has a duty to help its minority “ethnic” students learn about their own culture. It’s about what institutional silences signal about our reckoning with national history and complicity in the narratives that maintain oppression, a conversation that implicates us all.
As much as we claim to be above such superficiality, people will always be making snap judgments on each other based on appearances. Someone somewhere will always hate what you have on right now. If people everywhere are always judging your look in different directions, why do you care what they think? You can’t control how other people interpret your fits. You can only control how you feel in them.
The shame that comes from spending money I don’t have, or eating in the dining hall alone at night, serves to remind me that just because we attend the same university, study the same subjects, and walk along the same roads, the Harvard poster child and I are not equal.
I am a Black woman who — like anyone else — has moments of strength and moments when I’ve lost my voice. Too often, though, has the world convinced me that my value is fixed in my ability to defend myself incessantly, to fight for others intensely, and to maintain the perfect pitch as my larynx swells.
At this time, it is easy to blame politicians for the Afghan disaster and let this pass by as another political failure. But we challenge what we can do, as Americans, and academics more precisely, to aid Afghans and welcome refugees. From donating to advocacy to research, there is much we can do. Our collective consciousness depends on it.
Our time in Cambridge is a unique opportunity to be lost. Wandering, even though it doesn’t sound that impressive, is a privilege. We shouldn’t have to calculate every move and interaction in the frantic scramble for personal gain. We shouldn’t feel the need to wield our skills like weapons and shield ourselves from insecurity or uncertainty. Most of all, we shouldn’t have to reduce ourselves to our ability to market ourselves because of the looming threat of social disqualification.
Harvard’s choice to abandon its contractual responsibilities is a concern not only for members of HUCTW but for all workers and students at the University. All people have a right — a legal right — to go to work or school without the worry of harassment or discrimination. HUCTW’s contract provides limited protections not only against sexual harassment but also against discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and other identities. By disrespecting the procedure for sexual harassment, Harvard is putting all of these protections in question.
As the new semester begins, we challenge Harvard students and staff to think critically about the role every STEM space occupies within empire, from classrooms to labs to internships. How can we, in our daily actions in and outside of STEM academia, move towards a world where our skill sets aren’t exploited by the military-industrial complex?
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.