The Crimson Editorial Board
Harvard, which prides itself as the place where America’s future leaders are created, should allow its affiliates to tangibly partake in democracy without having to balance University-related obligations for one, crucial day. Engaging in civic and community action is important, and breaking from the Harvard bubble to serve communities in Cambridge and Boston is valuable. The Democracy Day proposal, which students have put thought and labor into crafting, facilitates both. All Harvard has to do is say yes.
We urge our peers and Cambridge neighbors in pursuit of vaccinations to carefully research the communities that they are entering; to vigilantly consider whose vaccine slots they may be taking up; and, most profoundly, to be mindful in their actions, understanding that vaccine retrieval — while broadly beneficial — can have countervailing effects if not pursued responsibly.
Our university’s history is more than top-notch research, billionaire dropouts, and obscenely wealthy donors. The terror endured by Black students at Harvard — the emotional scars Harvard Klansmen and their flaming cross made — shouldn’t be forgotten. Its inclusion within our broader historical record might be embarrassing or disturbing, and rightly so. But it will also offer a fuller, more truthful account of what campus was truly like; one that allows students to place themselves within a nuanced and expansive continuum. A true history of our complex past — including the good, the bad, and the depressingly ugly — urgently needs writing.
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.