Evelynn M. Hammonds has been in negotiations about a possible departure from her position as Dean of Harvard College and is expected not to return to the post in the fall, a person with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed Friday.
The confirmation follows six weeks of speculation about the embattled dean’s future as the head of Harvard University’s flagship school.
In an emailed statement to The Crimson on Friday, Hammonds wrote, “I have not been asked to resign as dean, nor have I offered. I am dean of Harvard College and I think speculation to the contrary is unproductive.”
Her statement did not rule out the possibility that she could depart in the near future, either through a resignation or the expiration of her contract. And in a May 3 interview with The Crimson, Hammonds declined to comment on her future as dean. She also declined to comment on whether or not she had been pressured to resign.
Ali S. Asani ’77, chair of the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department who said he had no direct knowledge of the negotiations, said Friday the email searches likely led to a “loss of trust” between members of the faculty and the Administrative Board..
“I am sure it has affected her relationship with these resident deans who are so core to the College, and under the circumstances, it would make her job very difficult,” Asani said.
Even if Hammonds departs from University Hall, Asani warned that issues of trust among faculty and students will not simply disappear.
The action comes after nearly two months of scrutiny over those email searches that were covertly executed on the accounts of resident deans last fall. The Boston Globe first reported those searches on March 9. Two days later, on March 11, Smith and Hammonds released a joint statement saying that the searches had been targeted, meta-data queries of the resident deans’ administrative email accounts.
However, that statement contained a number of incorrect details, and on April 2, Hammonds informed faculty gathered for their monthly meeting that she had personally authorized a second round of searches on a single resident dean’s administrative and faculty email accounts. Though Hammonds said she consulted with the University Office of the General Counsel, she did not get Smith’s authorization and therefore broke the faculty email policy. Taking responsibility for the second round of searches, Hammonds told faculty that she had “failed to recollect” them when making the March 11 statement.
Faust has tasked Boston attorney Michael B. Keating with investigating the searches and preparing a report that, according to Harvard Corporation member William F. Lee ’72, will be shared with the Harvard community.
Administrators have said that those email searches were intended to plug leaks of information related to another scandal that has clouded Hammonds’ tenure—cheating allegations that implicated approximately 125 students in Government 1310: “Introduction to Congress.” The unprecedented Ad Board case ultimately required roughly 70 undergraduates to withdraw from the College.
Many have criticized the handling of the Government 1310 case, which took more than six months to adjudicate and included an unprecedented review of all students enrolled in the course, including many who were not initially suspected to have cheated.
As Dean of the College, Hammonds is the head of the Ad Board. All resident deans also sit on that board alongside select faculty members.
Hammonds was named Dean of the College in June 2008, becoming the first woman and the first African American to hold the position. She has spent much of her five-year tenure overseeing Harvard’s ongoing House Renewal project and working to expand the College’s social spaces. Early in her term, she also helped implement the College’s new General Education program.
While some undergraduates have questioned Hammonds’s visibility as dean, Asani said he believes Hammonds has done a “very good job” making the College administration more responsive to the needs of students during her time in the role.
Hammonds became dean after a two-year stint as Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity. She is a tenured faculty member of both the History of Science and the African and African American Studies departments. It is likely she will return to those positions in the fall even if she leaves her role as Dean of the College this summer.
As recently as Monday, Robert D. Reischauer, senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation—the University’s highest governing body—told The Crimson he had not heard that Hammonds would be leaving her post as dean. He declined to comment on Hammonds’s future Friday afternoon.
—Staff writer Nikita Kansra contributed to the reporting of this article.
—Staff writer Nicholas P. Fandos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @npfandos.
—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @syweinstock.
In light of the controversy surrounding history professor Niall Ferguson’s recent comments about economist John Maynard Keynes’s sexuality, the Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender History—an affiliate of the American Historical Association—has called on Harvard to hire a tenure-track scholar devoted to the study of BGLTQ history.
Ferguson drew criticism after suggesting at a May 3 investors’ conference that Keynes’s economic theory derived from the fact that he was gay and childless. In a subsequent blog post, an open letter to the Harvard community, and an appearance at the Harvard College Women’s Center, Ferguson sought to apologize for and clarify his remarks.
In the Committee on LGBT History’s statement Monday, Don Romesburg, committee co-chair and associate professor at Sonoma State University, said that “the incident underscores the value of teaching and researching LGBT histories” and that it is “high time that Harvard makes a new tenure-track hire.”
Although the Faculty of Arts and Sciences has a visiting professorship in BGLTQ studies, there is no tenure-track position in history devoted specifically to the field.
The Committee’s call is not the first time attention has been drawn to the state of BGLTQ scholarship at Harvard. Last summer Harvard Kennedy School lecturer Timothy P. McCarthy ’93 raised concerns about a “queer exodus” from Harvard as seven prominent faculty members, administrators, and staff who identify as gay or lesbian left the University.
On Thursday, History Department chair David R. Armitage wrote in an email to The Crimson that prior to the recent controversy surrounding Ferguson’s comments, the department had made a request in conjunction with the Committee on Women, Gender, and Sexuality for a post dedicated to the study of the modern history of gender and sexuality. He said that the status of the request would become known later this year. Armitage added that the History Department was open to considering a specific hire in BGLTQ scholarship, but declined to make any guarantees.
According to Jennifer Brier, the other co-chair of the Committee on LGBT History and an associate professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, BGLTQ studies and gender and sexuality are “deeply related but not identical fields.”
At Harvard, Brier said, “The department does not have anyone tenured in the field, and it makes a difference.”
Brier affirmed the importance of the work that temporary faculty do to teach and engage with undergraduates, but suggested that more attention should be given to the discipline.
“People who are tenure-line faculty have a different kind of power to affect change in the institution,” Brier said.
At the same time, Brier emphasized that the creation of such a position should not “[absolve] the institution [as a whole] of thinking of the needs of LGBT people.”
Harvard Queer Students and Allies co-chair Ivel Posada ’14 affirmed this sentiment, saying that he believes the incident surrounding Ferguson’s comments could be an opportunity for the entire department to consider how it could “incorporate biographical information on sexuality in an appropriate way.”
“LGBT history is a part of history, period,” Posada said.
—Staff writer Yen H. Pham can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @yhpham.
With an inaugural group of 46 women, Harvard’s newest sorority Alpha Phi has sought to transition into the Harvard social scene in recent weeks.
When the number of women on campus rushing sororities jumped to approximately 250 in 2011 and 2012—up from about 150 in 2008—demand for an additional sorority at Harvard began to mount. This April, Alpha Phi joined Delta Gamma, Kappa Alpha Theta, and Kappa Kappa Gamma as Harvard’s fourth official sorority.
Jeanie Nguyen ’14, president of the Cambridge-Area Panhellenic Council, said that the Council welcomed the new addition to Harvard’s Greek scene.
“There’s definitely an increasingly high demand to join Greek life, and the Cambridge-Area Panhellenic Council is honored and more than happy to support an inclusive community where any girl who wants to join a sorority can do so,” Nguyen said.
This semester, the sorority held its first spring formal and has participated in philanthropic activities, including Relay for Life and volunteering at a food bank with fraternity Alpha Epsilon Pi.
Megan Bouché, director of marketing and extension for the Alpha Phi International Fraternity, wrote in an email that she feels the new Alpha Phis at Harvard have bonded well over the past semester.
“The fun, friendships, and activities Alpha Phis developed and participated in this past semester mirror those of the other three sororities,” Bouché wrote. “From sisterhood events at SkyZone to volunteering at the Greater Boston Food Bank to the chapter’s first formal, Alpha Phis were able to spend time together and build their sisterhood.”
Looking forward, Bouché wrote, the founding members of the Harvard Alpha Phi chapter will be able to draw upon the long-established network of Alpha Phi members and alumni.
“A few of the most exciting parts of being a founding member of Alpha Phi are the opportunities to help shape the character of Alpha Phi, chart its course, and create the traditions of a group that establish a lasting legacy at Harvard,” Bouché wrote.
Alpha Phi conducted its recruitment process in late February after the other established sororities to build awareness and accommodate women who had not been chosen by other sororities, had not accepted their bids, or had not participated in the first rounds of recruitment.
Alpha Phi will host its recruitment process at the same time as the other sororities next spring.
—Staff writer Laya Anasu can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @layaanasu.
—Staff writer Elizabeth S. Auritt can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @eauritt.
When she first came to Harvard last fall as a visiting student from the Federal University of São Carlos in Brazil, Lígia S. Barbosa was expecting “a pretty exciting” experience in Cambridge.
She was not, however, expecting to witness a massive cheating investigation, two University-wide closures resulting from the weather, an email search scandal, or a deadly act of terrorism.
On April 15, standing one mile away from the scene of carnage at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, Barbosa felt “a little overwhelmed” as she approached the end of a year that was peppered with dismal and unusual events for Harvard and the larger community.
Yet looking back at her year in Cambridge, Barbosa pointed to interactive classroom environments and a wealth of extracurricular opportunities as the things she will remember most about her time here.
She and others in the Visiting Undergraduate Student Program, who are now preparing to return home after one or two semesters at Harvard, say that the abnormal events of the year, while disruptive, did not spoil their overall experience.
CHEATING IN THE SPOTLIGHT
Marco C. Y. Chu, who is visiting from the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, had heard many stories about cheating rings in Hong Kong universities. Back home, these cases typically involved no more than a dozen students who were often overcommitted to extracurricular activities.
So when he first learned of Harvard’s investigation into approximately 125 cases of alleged cheating in Government 1310 at the start of the fall semester, he was taken aback.But while he called the scale of the scandal “astounding,” he said that upon further reflection, he was not surprised that it had happened at Harvard.
“Harvard students have a lot of ties [with one another],” he said. “The fact that people are so tightly linked together contributes to the possibility that more people are likely to be involved.”
Chu was one of several visiting students who downplayed the cheating scandal even as it garnered international media attention.
Daniel Themessl-Huber, a visiting student whose home institution is the University of Vienna, said the scandal had “not changed” his impression of Harvard.
“Students are sometimes under pressure, and I think it could have happened anywhere,” Themessl-Huber said.
Can M. H. Knaut, from the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland, echoed Themessl-Huber’s feelings, reflecting on the unavoidability of such incidents.
“You cannot expect a few thousands of people to have that high a moral standing, and not do that kind of things,” Knaut says. “[Students] are all human.”
Chu noted with fondness the fact that he encountered neither dishonesty nor carelessness throughout his time at Harvard in spite of the cheating scandal,
For Barbosa, the most surprising part of the scandal was not the cheating itself, but rather the administration’s severity in responding to the incident. In February, administrators indicated that roughly 70 students had been asked to temporarily withdraw from the College in connection with the scandal.
“If caught cheating in my home university, you would just get a zero in that exam. The worst thing that could happen might be getting expelled from the class,” Barbosa reflected. “I think what happened here was good. I am not used to so much strictness, but it was fair. I would like to see something like that happen in Brazil.”
TERRORISM UP CLOSE
April’s Boston Marathon bombings and subsequent manhunt, however, came as more disturbing to many of the visiting students interviewed for this article.
Chu described his experience with the bombings from the vantage point of Harvard as “more or less like getting a close taste of what terrorism is”—a terrifying episode dissimilar from anything he had seen back in Hong Kong.
“It’s shocking for me to know that a horrible incident can be found near your community, especially coming from a society as safe as that of Hong Kong,” he said.
Knaut, an enthusiastic runner, remembered sending an email to his parents back in Europe soon after the bombings to assure them, even from a distance, that he was safe and unhurt.
Chu said he was also very scared during the manhunt for the suspected bomber, which shut down the University and the larger Boston community for a full day on April 19.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but not in a good way,” Chu reflected.
During the manhunt, Themessl-Huber dared to venture onto the deserted streets of Cambridge for a few minutes with a group of friends.
“Everything was empty, only a couple of people walking around. It was actually very tragic. I had never experienced something like this,” he said.
Knaut said that though he was horrified by the bombings and their aftermath, he was happy to witness the reaction of the people of Boston and the nation more broadly.
“I felt upright solidarity, which was impressive. The way America dealt with it strengthened community at a national level,” he said.
Using similar words, Barbosa recounted being positively surprised by the surge of community spirit in the aftermath of the bombings.
“I was very touched by the American population, and by how they reacted.”
DEFINED BY OTHER THINGS
Despite the disruptions throughout the year, visiting students said that ultimately their experience at Harvard was defined more by the richness of everyday life than by a handful of abnormal days.
Themessl-Huber said he was “absolutely not disappointed” by his experience, citing “a different teaching style, closer ties to your professors, and a more intimate community” as factors that contributed to his happiness at Harvard.
“I loved my semester here. This has not changed because of things that nobody can prevent,” he said.
For his part, Knaut said that academic exploration and the opportunity to try his hands at graduate-level classes made his Harvard experience rewarding.
Chu, who said his time in Cambridge was shaped by Harvard’s interactive model of education and “vibrant” social life, struck a reflective tone in rendering judgment on the year.
“The important thing,” he concluded, “is what you do in spite of tragic or dismal events.”
—Staff writer Antonio Coppola can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @AntonioCoppolaC.
Ghassan S. Gammoh ’14 has taken Life Sciences 1a and 1b, Mathematics 1a and 1b, Statistics 104, Life Sciences 2, Physical Sciences 1, 2, and 3, a summer school class on organic chemistry, and a freshman seminar entitled “The Neurophysiology of Visual Perception” during his time at Harvard.
But when it came time for Gammoh to take the Medical College Admission Test, the exam every premedical student must take before applying to medical schools, he felt his Harvard education had left him underprepared. To fill the gaps in his knowledge, he chose to enroll in a Kaplan MCAT Advantage course prior to the exam.
Gammoh’s decision is not an unusual one for Harvard students on a premed track. Undergraduates generally say the information they learn in premed courses does not align with what is tested on the exam.
“I don’t think they’re really focused on the MCAT,” Jason A. Gandelman ’14, a neurobiology concentrator, said of Harvard courses. “Usually the classes are very focused on exploring what the professors are interested in and are not overtly helpful for the MCAT.”
Despite the disparity between material tested on the MCAT and information taught in the classroom, undergraduates say they appreciate the fact that professors do not try to teach for the test because it means students are exposed to a greater breath of material.
But with the Association of American Medical Colleges slated to introduce a new MCAT in 2015 that adds, among other things, sections on topics like psychology and sociology that are rarely touched upon in premed courses, Harvard students say that the premed track at Harvard does not adequately prepare them for the exam. And, they say, they often face prohibitively expensive costs when they turn to classes run by test preparatory companies for instruction.
THE PREMED HARVARD CLASS
Though the MCAT covers physics, general and organic chemistry, and biology topics that crop up in Harvard’s life sciences classes, students say that College classes are not particularly helpful for learning MCAT material.
Jennifer K. Cloutier ’13, a human developmental and regenerative biology concentrator, described the premed courses she has taken as not “based on what was covered on the MCAT, or vice versa.”
Students say that if anything, classes serve only as an introduction to the test material, rather than as instruction for the exam.
“When I sat down to learn the material, I had been exposed to pretty much everything that was going to be on the MCAT at least once,” Cloutier said. “But you definitely still need to study after taking the classes.”
Owen Farcy, director of pre-health programs at Kaplan Test Prep, said whatever disparity exists between class and exam material could be caused by the nature of the MCAT.
“The thing that a lot of students don’t realize about the MCAT is that it’s not a science test, but it’s a really different type of test,” Farcy said. “The test is designed to test their ability to apply their knowledge to particular situations. It’s a critical thinking and analyzation test.”
Many students said that although the material might not align, their experience in premed classes has been bettered by the fact that courses do not try to serve as test prep.
Gammoh said he appreciated that courses did not just focus on MCAT material because they provided him with an “even more deep understanding of the medical world.”
Krystle M. Leung ’15, a chemistry concentrator and premedical student, said she tries to choose classes “that are fascinating and foundational more for the material than for the MCAT itself.”
PREPPING FOR THE TEST
Students who find classes to be insufficient review often look for options outside the classroom to help them learn the material tested by the MCAT.
Gandelman described the studying he did on his own as “the most helpful” method of preparation.
Other students say courses offered by test prep companies are useful tools. Gammoh said the course he took with Kaplan was “definitely helpful in [the] sense that it provided me with a lot of resources” in the form of practice exams and other materials.
Farcy said Kaplan structures its program to provide specific details and strategies for the exam that students cannot replicate just by reviewing the material.
“We really build around the ideas of developing critical thinking skills and helping students understand the exam.... Our course is strategy-focused course, as opposed to just a review,” he said.
In 2015, the MCAT will implement changes to its format for the first time since 1991. A new section entitled “Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior” will focus on introductory psychology and sociology concepts and a new “Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills” section will involve analyzing information from humanities and social science disciplines, including ethics and cultural studies. In total, the test will also be approximately 90 minutes longer than the current MCAT exam.
Farcy said he thinks student demand for prep classes will increase with these changes.
“As the domain of the test continues to expand, expectation is that students will need more help to get ready for the exam,” Farcy said, adding that he believes changes to the test will make test prep courses more important.
But the high cost of test prep can make it inaccessible to students with limited financial resources. In Cambridge, Kaplan’s MCAT Advantage course costs $1,999 and Princeton Review’s Ultimate MCAT program comes with a $2,299 price tag.
“I think that the courses are great if you’re somebody who wants structure, but they are also...really expensive,” said Cloutier.
There are several programs currently in place to provide students with the resources to attend prep classes. The Harvard Premedical Society collaborates with test companies to auction off discounted courses and Kaplan offers several initiatives to help students with financial constraints, including a tuition assistance program that offers financial aid for the company’s graduate school prep courses.
But undergraduates say financial aid is not enough to allow everyone to take a test prep course. Gammoh supported the idea that Harvard should create a course in the style of what is offered by official companies to help its students prepare for the MCAT.
“I think it would be really helpful if Harvard did offer a class for the MCAT for students who don’t have the money to pay for a class,” Gammoh said. “The MCAT is a very specific exam and there are a lot of techniques you need to know to take it.”
—Staff writer Lauren E. Claus can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @LaurenEClaus.
In the 2001 film “Legally Blonde,” Reese Witherspoon played a sorority-girl-turned-aspiring-lawyer as the world looked on and laughed. Witherspoon’s character, Elle Woods—who majored in fashion merchandising, carries a pet Chihuahua, and enrolls at Harvard Law School to win back an ex-boyfriend—undoubtedly deserves some of the skepticism she encounters when she arrives on campus. But the ease with which we laugh at Woods may betray a broader, more pernicious attitude towards women in the legal profession, no matter the color of their hair or their dog’s outfits.
Whether such an attitude is responsible for the gender disparity that exists at the Law School we cannot say. What we can say is that the disparity is glaring and troubling. Though men and women enter on equal footing, female students (despite blind assessment) soon fall behind in grades and honors. They comprise less than 20 percent of tenure-track faculty. Their representation on the prestigious Harvard Law Review is nearly as bad. School culture, characterized by cutthroat competition and the Socratic method, may also take a greater toll on women than on men, as was suggested by the “Shatter the Ceiling” coalition, founded to address systemic gender disparities at the Law School.
“The law leaves much room for interpretation, but very little for self-doubt,” Woods’s professor warns her class. When the truth is ambiguous, masculine volume and confidence can sound a lot like well-reasoned argument. The spike in women’s marks following the Law School’s introduction of a blind-grading policy is evidence that some critics will hold the same quality of work in lower regard when they know it was produced by a woman. Even when women deserve respect, subtle issues of perception—even in the absence of outright discrimination—mean that they are less likely to get it.
History is also a problem—HLS did not admit women until the 1950s; they did not make up a significant portion of the student body until recently. The disadvantages we observe may be in part the legacy of an old boys’ club.
But social psychology and history are explanations, not justifications, for the gender disparity. The more difficult and pressing question is: What can be done to address the inequity?
We hesitate to encourage the Law School to discard the Socratic method, a remedy endorsed by the Shatter coalition. It does women an extreme disservice to suggest that they are incapable of learning under a particular pedagogy. The Socratic method may be harsh, but we believe it prepares lawyers for a profession that requires rigorous and sometimes rapid analysis.
Prominent women like U.S. Supreme Court Justice and former Law School Dean Elena Kagan, former Law School professor and sitting U.S. Senator Elizabeth A. Warren, and current Dean Martha L. Minow inspire confidence. But their efficacy as role models for ambitious female law students is limited if their successes are viewed as the exception and not the rule. More work should be done to even out representation on the HLS faculty. Even if the same could not be said 20 years ago, we doubt very seriously that there are fewer qualified up-and-coming female attorneys than there are males.
Moreover, solutions to complex problems are rarely aided by a lack of transparency. We believe HLS, at the very least, should release data on grades, something it has not done since the implementation of its honors, pass/fail system. We would also encourage students and professors to reflect on personal biases. If the disparity is in part the result of underlying social and perceptual problems, it cannot be fixed overnight. But incremental changes will likely precede systemic ones.
Hopefully, if there is a 2021 movie about a woman attending Harvard Law, the audience won’t be laughing.
I’m a skeptical person. So I was apprehensive when Yesh Atid won 19 mandates in the Israeli parliament this January. The mood was too euphoric. Yair Lapid was too slick. The promises were too expansive. When my friend and fellow Crimson columnist Joshua B. Lipson ’14 wrote a piece in the Harvard Political Review praising the night’s victors I thought he had drunk some Kool-Aid. Or Arak. I was wrong. Two months into the new government, the new political party is revivifying the Zionist enterprise.
This isn’t Theodor Herzl’s Zionism. The father of Jewish nationalism thought Jewishness should serve as an ethnic base for an atheistic polity. Though Lapid is an avowed secularist, he has not demanded the abolition of the rabbinate, a state body, now controlled by the ultra-Orthodox, which regulates Jewish marriages, conversions, and burials and oversees kosher certifications. Yesh Atid’s Knesset membership is drawn from a wide range of Jewish traditions. Dov Lipman is an ultra-Orthodox rabbi from the United States who made his name fighting religious extremism in Beit Shemesh. Ruth Calderon is the founder of a progressive, egalitarian beit midrash. Shai Piron is a religious Zionist and headmaster of a yeshiva.
Yesh Atid supports the central planks of the secular agenda. Lapid has endorsed civil marriage, military service for the Haredi, and the right of non-Orthodox Jews to pray as they choose at holy sites. With his new government portfolio as finance minister, he has reduced funding for Haredi schools, places where zealotry is encouraged and math is treated like goyishe nakhes. He has also proven himself an adroit foe of Israel’s kibitzing theocrats, forcefully rebuking Knesset members from religious parties who chided him for using social media on the Sabbath.
What distinguishes Yesh Atid from previous secular parties, however—including the one Lapid’s father headed up—is that it is unafraid to speak in the language of Jewish tradition and refuses to concede Judaism as the demesne of Haredim.
Citing Torah and Talmud, national epic and personal narrative, Calderon gave an inaugural speech to the Knesset that called for “the creation of a new Hebrew culture in Israel,” reconciling secular and religious, past and future. Shortly after, she attended a conference of religious Zionists and clarified just exactly what that message meant. Calderon assailed rabbinical injunctions prohibiting property sales or rentals to Arabs as a form of racism. She denounced homophobia and transphobia as “bigotry, injustice, and a profanation of God’s name.” Briefly interrupted by a pisher’s heckling, she corrected his Hebrew. “All people,” Calderon affirmed, “non-religious and religious, women and men, homosexuals and heterosexuals, Jews and non-Jews, all were created in the image of God.”
That universalist appeal is usually associated with liberal theology, but it also has deep roots in general Jewish religious thought. Consciously or not, Calderon channeled Yitzhak Halevi Herzog, the first chief rabbi of Israel and a prominent advocate of a halakhic state. Claimed as an idol by rabid Arab-haters, he actually condemned discrimination on the basis of race, ethnicity, and sex.
Whether One Nation Jewishness is an answer to the Palestine question remains to be seen. Yesh Atid’s record is mixed thus far. During the campaign, Lapid committed to good-faith negotiations with Palestinians, and backed a limited settlement freeze. His party recently scotched a bill that would have required a settlement be approved in a nation-wide referendum. Yet he has pledged to keep all of Jerusalem in Jewish hands, a considerable stumbling block for Palestinians who want the eastern half of the city as their capital.
While Yesh Atid desires a less corrupt, less divided, and more prosperous Israel, this is, after all, a vision of Israel. Many party voters are cozily ensconced in the Tel Aviv bubble. They don’t read the papers, and, if they do, they skip over news from the West Bank. This year, they went to the polls because the price of cottage cheese was prohibitive and the rent was too damn high. The denizens of Tel Aviv and Ramallah inhabit different species of time: one good, another bordering on inhuman.
After a visit to the West Bank, Adi Kol, a Yesh Atid MK from Tel Aviv, recounted how jarring the experience was, writing on Facebook about the humiliation she faced at checkpoints and the abject poverty she saw along the road. “I am afraid, afraid that we will continue to live this way, afraid of the fear,” Kol confessed.
I am afraid, too. But I am less afraid than I was last year. There is a future.
Daniel J. Solomon ’16 is a Crimson editorial writer in Matthews Hall. His column appears on alternate Tuesdays. Follow him on Twitter @danieljsolomon.
Harvard University owns companies around the world and is a controlling stakeholder—that is, a majority shareholder, majority owner, or full owner—of over 100 companies. As a center of higher education and a leader of the community, Harvard holds itself to principles of environmental sustainability, non-discrimination, and labor rights. Its pledges to reduce emissions and to pay its workers a living wage are just a few examples. Our commitment to transparency, fairness, sustainability, and human dignity should not end at Harvard’s gates. Harvard must be a responsible owner of all its investments, particularly of the companies in which it owns a controlling stake. It has special ability, and special responsibility, to work with these companies to improve their practices.
There are numerous inconsistencies between Harvard’s policies on campus and those of its companies. Last year, food service workers at Harvard Law School asked the University for a fair process to unionize. Harvard agreed, remaining neutral in their unionization process and respecting the majority of workers’ request to form a union. However, at the DoubleTree Hotel in Allston, also owned—but not managed—by Harvard, workers have not been granted a fair process to create and join a union without intimidation or interference from managers, despite repeated requests. In fact, workers at the DoubleTree even filed suit with the National Labor Relations Board in April 2013, alleging that management illegally interfered with their unionization process. Why should the workers at a hotel directly owned by Harvard be treated any differently than workers on this campus?
Harvard directly owns at least 11 companies in Chile. One, Agrícola Brinzal, is currently being sued by CONAF, the National Forestry Corporation of the Ministry of Agriculture of Chile, for multiple violations of Chilean law against deforestation. Another Chilean company owned by Harvard, Agrícola Duramen Limitada, was fined by Chilean courts for similar activity. A company owned entirely by Harvard should not be engaging in alleged illegal logging practices.
As members of the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition, we ask that Harvard University and Harvard Management Company be responsible owners with all funds and companies in which it holds a controlling stake—that is, in which it is a majority shareholder, majority owner, or full owner. We demand that Harvard act to ensure that the policies of these companies comply with basic standards of responsibility.
First, Harvard’s companies must comply with all local, national, and international laws and treaties in all areas where the company is operating, whether or not these laws are rigorously enforced by local authorities.
Second, Harvard must ensure that its companies are acting as sustainably as possible, as Harvard has committed to do on campus. The University’s website states, “Harvard University believes universities have an accountability to the future—a special role and a special responsibility to address global challenges as large as climate change and environmental sustainability.” Harvard’s Sustainability Principles note, “The University has an affirmative record of responsible compliance with environmental and safety regulations and a proven effective system of environmental management accountability.” Harvard’s companies should embody these principles too.
Third, Harvard’s companies must recognize workers’ right to collective bargaining and union representation, as well as promise neutrality and a fair process for unionization, even if these rights are not enshrined in local legislation. They must also guarantee parity in wages and benefits between directly hired and sub-contracted employees.
Fourth, Harvard’s companies must respect land rights, including the rights of small farmers and indigenous people. They must not infringe on any legitimate land tenure rights, including where such rights are not formally recorded, and they must seek to prevent all violent conflict over land tenure rights.
Fifth, Harvard’s companies must adhere to Harvard’s hiring and employment policies. The University’s own published non-discrimination policy states that “Any form of discrimination based on race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, religion, age, national or ethnic origin, political beliefs, veteran status, or disability unrelated to course requirements is contrary to the, principles and policies of Harvard University.” The same policy must apply for all of Harvard’s companies.
Finally, Harvard’s companies must be transparent and accountable. They must produce and publish online annual reports disclosing all political contributions, lobbying activities, the position and compensation of the top 10 highest-compensated employees, and conflicts of interest.
We have laid out these principles—and a way for Harvard to enforce and remain accountable for them—on the website of the Responsible Investment at Harvard Coalition. We demand that Harvard become a responsible owner now, by working toward a fair unionization process for the workers at the DoubleTree, by rectifying any alleged illegal deforestation in Chile, and by adopting our proposed Standards for Responsible Ownership for all of its companies.
Harvard’s companies should not be harming the environment, their workers, or the world. Harvard has the ability to bring about change in the companies it controls, and the moral obligation to do so.
Kevin S. Wang ’16 lives in Stoughton Hall. Alexi White, MPP '13, is a student at the Harvard Kennedy School. Caroline T. Zhang ’16, a Crimson news writer, lives in Wigglesworth Hall.
Two days ago as I travelled from the airport to my house after completing sophomore year, my mom and I made a pit stop at Panera to grab a late dinner. Inevitably we ran into a slight acquaintance who didn’t realize that I had gone to Harvard for the past two years. After maneuvering through the “Where do you go to school?” question and the “in Boston” response, which is always followed by “Oh, what school in Boston?” I hesitatingly answered, after an internal expletive, “Harvard.” We all know what happens after this. Dropping the H-bomb even when coerced into it can produce a variety of reactions, but there is always a strong one. This time it was the questions. “Harvard, huh, do you like it?” “It must be really difficult, but you must be really smart, right?” “How much does it cost?” “How’d you get in?” “What’s it like there?” “What were your SAT scores?” “What do you do there?”
The list goes on and on and on. From the inappropriate SAT and family financial status questions to the unanswerable “How did you get in?” (wouldn’t I like to know) question to the much more normal college experience questions, we get these a lot. Just ask my teammate, who, during our tournament, was literally followed around a Goodwill store between games by members of a certain men’s club basketball team who wanted desperately to know her SAT score (and probably her number, but that’s a different story). However, this time what really struck me about her questions was the never asked, but very much underlying question, “What is Harvard?”
This is a doozy of a question—one with a plethora of possible answers depending on the context, your experiences, and even your mood. Two days ago, though, it hit me that the responses to another popular question could provide a pretty accurate answer to “What is Harvard?” It’s a question that has been part of every Harvard conversation recently: “What are you doing this summer?”
In the summer, Harvard comes alive. During the year, Harvard students certainly do incredible things. The classes we have to take, the assignments we must do, and even our extracurricular commitments, regulate our lives. Even though we each have unique classes and activities, our ultimate schedules stay fairly similar. In the summer, though, our true interests and passions emerge. We travel to the Middle East, work at summer camps that promote peace between students in Israel and Palestine, raise HIV/AIDS awareness in Tanzania, dedicate ourselves to start-ups, or work long hours in internships to try to figure out where our futures lie. Simply, we do everything in pursuit of our passions.
How does this define Harvard, though? Our summers define Harvard because our summers are what we came to Harvard for. Ultimately, we chose to go to Harvard because we wanted to have to opportunity to find and pursue our passions. During the year, we prepare for our futures and expand our minds, but though Harvard may grant us an opportunity for a better education, students at any other university attend classes for the same reason. However, in the summer Harvard students’ paths diverge from those of other students. Harvard gives us not only the opportunity to pursue our passions, but also the opportunity to see and change the world in a way that is very unique.
So what is Harvard? On the verge of the end of school for the year, Harvard is anything and everything. Harvard is internships. Harvard is globetrotting. Harvard is service projects and start-ups. Harvard is having the chance to do something truly incredible for three months. So take that. Make use of the opportunities that Harvard gives you and run. Change the world, discover yourself or maybe just have a ton of fun. We only get three college summers, so take advantage of them. Harvard grants us a wonderful chance to truly be ourselves and do what we want to do during the summer, so do it. Have a great summer!
Tessa A.C. Wiegand ’15 is an engineering sciences concentrator in Mather House. Her column appears on alternate Mondays.
“Your record is appalling. For much of your short life you have behaved like a thug.”
With these unpromising words the grave voice of the judge sums up the case of Scotsman Robbie (Paul Brannigan). In court again for charges of violent assault, after months of peace with a girlfriend (Siobhan Reilly) who will be due with their first child soon, Robbie looks to be caught again in the rough life he has tried to amend. This is a dark premise, but “The Angels’ Share,” the latest so-called social realist film by celebrated English director Ken Loach, turns out to be a by turns rude, heartening, and exquisite comedy.
Robbie’s fellow accused have been summoned prior to his case, one by one, for their crimes against humanity. There is Albert (Gary Maitland), a bald, bespectacled man accused of disrupting public transportation by accidentally falling off the platform before a coming train, who is unlike Robbie in that he only constitutes a threat to civilized society by virtue of his “profound stupidity.” There is Mo (Jasmin Riggins), a female kleptomaniac accused of making off with a pet shop animal and calling her arresting officer a “grumpy twat,” and Rhino (William Ruane), who has urinated on and variously defaced the statues of public dignitaries. Robbie, the endnote to this train of miscreants, is sentenced to community service instead of jail time and given a final chance.
From here, the plot becomes implausible and undercooked. On a trip to a distillery, the group learns of the famous Malt Mill cask, which houses the rarest, most expensive whiskey in the world. A certain amount is expected to simply evaporate from a sealed whisky cask—the angels’ share, said to be for the guardian spirits that watched over the aging mix. Robbie, who has conveniently just discovered his world-class gift for discerning whisky flavors, sets out with his convict friends to claim an angels’ share, an indiscernible amount, of the Malt Mill. Selling even one bottle would give them all enough money to start new lives. Never mind that Robbie’s got a neighborhood thug stalking him with death threats—halfway through the movie, after Robbie puts a knife to his throat and tells him to stop ruining his life, the film’s only villain politely complies and speeds away on a motorcycle, taunting him like a schoolboy. That was easy! As far as “social messages” go, this film is standard feel-good: good guys win because the cream always rises to the top, never mind how inexplicably.
What is most important about the film’s structure in this case is not how well it holds together—it doesn't—but rather how it presents scenarios to let its actors shine. The excellent acting in this production is especially impressive given that, for many of the cast members, it is their breakout piece. Brannigan’s small, expressive face, a long scar trailing down the left cheek, displays an impressive range of emotions in the film: he looks lovingly at his newborn son, he rages, he talks charmingly, he says nothing at all and looks pensively out the bus window through the miles of Scotland countryside. Gary Maitland’s baudy character, Albert, is delightfully obscene and frequently gives some of the funniest (if most offensive) lines: when he gets on a bus full of nuns, a startled Albert says, “Fuck me, ‘Sound of Music’!” Ruane and Riggins are both lively and fun as supporting actors. Another standout performance was that of John Henshaw as the rugged overseer of the cleaning convicts, whose almost paternal concern for Robbie is the most moving of the human relationships in the film.
The cinematography is a real treat for the eyes, a visual whiskey tasting of colors, textures, and terrains. As you can expect in any Loach film, there is no shortage of vividly rendered scenery. En route to the Malt Mill, the gang coasts on a bus through the watery Scottish landscape with its quaint European road signs. The cold, pale blues of the earlier settings are succeeded by the warm, earthy tones in the wine distillery and the wood of the casks and the deep pungent greens of the wet grass in the highway, a transition that reflects Robbie’s brightening prospects. Glowing images, from the elaborate swollen pipes in the distillery to the crisp cobblestones in the street, are in themselves inspiring reminders of the rich comedy and promise of life.
None of its lazy plotting ultimately prevents “The Angels’ Share” from being a cheering tale of redemption, provided the audience is willing to suspend its disbelief and just have a good time. Its fine flavor of comic experience, riotous in its acting and subdued in its camerawork, more than compensate for the rest.
—Staff writer Victoria Zhuang can be reached at email@example.com.
An international ambassador for Harvard, a trailblazing judge and policymaker, and a seasoned College administrator will receive the 2013 Harvard Medal for “extraordinary service” to the University, the Harvard Alumni Association announced Wednesday.
University President Drew G. Faust will award the medals to James V. Baker ’68, William T. Coleman, Jr., and Georgene B. Herschbach at HAA’s annual meeting during Commencement on May 30, the organization wrote in a press release.
The press release stated that the Harvard Medal, awarded for the first time in 1981, recognizes contributions to the University in a variety of forms, including administration, fundraising, or volunteer work.
Baker, a graduate of the Business School who spent his career at Goldman Sachs, was the first international president of HAA and a former president of the Harvard Club of the United Kingdom. He has also worked as HAA’s regional director for Europe, where, according to the press release, he organized a European Leadership Conference that included clubs from 13 countries. Since, the event has become an annual occurrence, and its format has been adopted by Harvard Clubs on other continents.
“He has always maintained an eye toward strengthening Harvard’s relationship with international alumni,” HAA wrote in its announcement.
Coleman also brings a distinguished record to the list of Harvard Medal winners. After graduating first in his class at the Law School, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review, Coleman went on to clerk for U.S. Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter, making Coleman the first African-American to clerk at the nation’s highest court. After working with Thurgood Marshall to help write the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, Coleman served as president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund and secretary of transportation under President Gerald Ford, making him the second African-American member of a presidential cabinet. In addition, Coleman received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1995.
Coleman has also stayed connected to Harvard, serving as a member of the Board of Overseers, the University’s second highest governing body. He currently sits on the Law School Dean’s Advisory Board.
The third Harvard medalist, Herschbach, has served in a number of administrative roles at Harvard, including Co-Master of Currier House, registrar of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and dean of administration.
With a background in chemistry, Herschbach also co-founded the Harvard College Program for Research in Science and Engineering, which allows undergraduates to collaborate with faculty on scientific research during the summer.
In an email, Herschbach wrote that winning the medal was an “enormous surprise” and a “great honor,” and that she was grateful to have served in fulfilling positions at Harvard that allowed her to work with skilled and passionate colleagues. She wrote that the founding of PRISE was likely her most rewarding contribution to Harvard.
“In my experience as a woman scientist I witnessed and personally experienced quite negative attitudes toward women in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] fields,” Herschbach wrote. “But the PRISE program, which offers Harvard undergraduates the opportunity to work with faculty on projects at the frontiers of science, is welcoming to students of all backgrounds.”
Herschbach added that female students have made up about half of PRISE’s enrollment since its founding in 2006, with minorities being represented in high numbers as well.
She also wrote that her background in science was conducive to using data in administrative roles like FAS registrar.
“As a trained scientist I naturally turned to data to help understand patterns in student life in Harvard College, and to inform administrative decisions in many different areas,” Herschbach wrote.
—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @syweinstock.
People are going to make fun of Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby.” The movie—which is the fifth film adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic novel—is almost pure spectacle, with tinsel, bare legs, champagne fountains, and, of course, fast cars dominating nearly every frame of the two-and-a-half-hour event. Luhrmann’s piece seems constantly aware of its own decadence, compounding extravagance with extravagance as the film continues to its crescendo. In fact, the film is packed so full of confetti and sex that there seems to be little room for one key element: the source text. This makes for an entertaining film, perhaps, but not for a successful adaptation of one of the great American novels.
The earliest and most egregious misstep in the film is the rewriting of Nick Carraway’s story. We find him in the winter after the summer of Gatsby, staring ponderously out of snow-frosted windows, speaking even more ponderously about his binge-drinking habits and general sense of malaise. It becomes clear that he is being treated at some sort of swanky sanatorium—taking time to decompress from all he witnessed. This setup leads to his doctor telling him to write it all down, even if no one will read what he produces. It is difficult to parse whether this order is based on a premonition that the ensuing book will be a great work of literature, or on a deep and utterly understandable desire to stop listening to Tobey Maguire’s listless narration as Carraway. On the occasions when the film does directly quote the novel, the timbre of Maguire’s voice has a kind of grating insistence to it that does considerable damage to Fitzgerald’s original prose. In fact, the novel seems largely at odds with the film, something not at all mitigated by the uncomfortably heavy-handed insertion of floating text during especially poignant moments, the letters of which dissolve into snowflakes more often than not.
It’s not all bad, though. In fact, it’s often dazzling and affecting, especially during the more intimate moments of character development. Carey Mulligan’s Daisy feels slightly too human for the role, rarely reaching the heights of cold vapidity that the character does in the book. However, her chemistry with both her husband Tom(Joel Edgerton) and of course Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio), is easily the cause of some of the best moments in the film. The infamously ambiguous shirt scene between Daisy and Gatsby has a resonance to it that transcends melodrama, and the final scenes between Daisy and Tom have almost palpable force thrumming beneath them.
The choice of DiCaprio for Gatsby feels almost too easy: the middle-aged star is easily the most bankable of available options for the tricky-to-cast role. However, though the choice seemed inevitable, DiCaprio certainly gives it his best effort. He truly shines in the moments when Gatsby is off-balance or vulnerable, seeming manic with the possibility of defeat, while always maintaining an iron sense of control. His characterization of Gatsby is not necessarily moving, but then again, Gatsby is not a pitiful character, and DiCaprio’s performance is true to this, erring on the side of giving the character distance instead of revealing him at his basest state.
The strong acting—though it holds the film together—is far from the focal point of the piece. The camera work seems committed in many parts of the film to turning debauchery and murder into a theme-park ride. The pans back and forth between the East and West Egg neighborhoods are unnerving and even nauseating in 3D as the camera skims the surface of the water. The party scenes at Gatsby’s are astonishing, replete with fireworks and mechanical Charleston dance moves.
The real problem at the core of the movie seems to be restraint: Luhrmann has none. When the aesthetics that marked the early party scenes carry over to the final, gory moments of the film, they feel plastic and hurried. There is no moment when the story breaks open to reveal its rotten core—even a concluding funeral scene has an impenetrable gloss over it. It seems apparent that Luhrmann is entranced with the first half of the story but confounded by the finale, and the film stumbles as it tries to explain why we should care about all this in the first place. While entertaining and visually magnificent, “The Great Gatsby” misses it mark for the sequins in its eyes.
—Staff writer Sorrel L. Nielsen can be reached at email@example.com
History of science professor Anne Harrington ’82 and her husband John R. Durant have been appointed as the new Masters of Pforzheimer House, resident dean Lisa Boes announced in an email to the Pfoho community Thursday morning.
Harrington is the director of undergraduate studies in the History of Science Department, and Durant, an adjunct professor at MIT, serves as the director of the MIT Museum. Harrington and Durant also lead a Harvard Summer School program in Cambridge, England.
The couple will move into Pfoho at the beginning of the fall semester with their eight-year-old son Jamie, taking on the role currently held by House Masters Nicholas A. Christakis and Erika L. Christakis ’86, who will be leaving to take on new positions at Yale this summer.
“We cannot wait to get started, and are very excited,” Harrington said in a phone interview Thursday morning. “We think Pfoho is a House with tremendous spirit—already a thriving community, which we are looking forward to joining.”
Harrington said her son Jamie was “thrilled” that he soon would be living alongside the college students that the family had met in a May 3 visit to Pfoho.
She added that as House Master she hopes to further strengthen a tight-knit community.
“We would like to build off of existing traditions, but also introduce some new programs and new traditions of our own,” she said.
—Check TheCrimson.com for updates.
—Staff writer Antonio Coppola can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @AntonioCoppolaC.
Faust's Earnings in 2011 Much Lower Than Those of Other University Presidents and Top Harvard Employees
University President Drew G. Faust received $899,734 in salary and benefits during fiscal year 2011, according to a recent filing with the Internal Revenue Service.
While that figure is about the same as last year’s, Harvard’s chief investment manager, who is paid far more than most administrators, saw a 52 percent increase in her earnings.
Faust’s compensation package includes $729,106 in reportable compensation, and the rest refers to benefits including her residence at 33 Elmwood, the Cambridge mansion that Harvard presidents have occupied since the early 1970’s.
In fiscal year 2010, Faust’s total compensation equaled $875,331. Faust’s earnings are still significantly lower than those of many other University presidents, some of whom make well over a million dollars per year. The highest-paid University president in 2010 was J. Robert Kerrey of the New School, who made $3 million that year, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Its review of executive compensation found that 36 presidents of private colleges made more than a million dollars in 2010.
But Faust’s pay is much lower than that of other top Harvard employees. The compensations of officials at the Harvard Management Company, which oversees the University’s $30 billion endowment as well as its other investments, as usual far outpaced those of any administrators involved directly in the University.
HMC President and CEO Jane L. Mendillo took home $5,323,753 in the 2011 calendar year, according to a press release Wednesday, while the company’s Head of Alternative Assets Andrew G. Wiltshire received $6,608,581 in total compensation, making him the top earner at HMC that year. HMC’s Head of Public Markets Stephen Blyth, who is also a statistics professor, made $6,161,489.
Those figures are significantly higher than their compensation in calendar year 2010, when Mendillo received $3.5 million and Wilshire, $5.5 million.
Still, they are far lower than those in the more distant past. In the early 2000s, some HMC investment managers earned more than $25 million per year, but those salaries fell following outcry from students and alumni.
The press release noted that more than 90 percent of the HMC officials’ compensation is variable and based on the performance of investments in a given year.
“This compensation system is designed to closely align the interests of the University with its investment professionals,” said James F. Rothenberg ’68, who is the University’s treasurer and chairman of HMC’s Board of Directors, in the announcement. “HMC’s market-beating performance in the reporting period once again added value to the resources upon which Harvard depends to fulfill its teaching and research mission.”
In addition to Faust, Harvard’s recent tax filing details the compensation of several other administrators in fiscal year 2011. Provost Alan M. Garber ’76, who took office in September of 2011, received $432,808 in salary and benefits from Harvard that year, while Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp made a total of $620,534.
Including benefits, Dean of the Business School Nitin Nohria was the highest-paid school dean with a total compensation package worth $662,054, followed by Medical School Dean Jeffrey S. Flier at $621,373 and Public Health School Dean Julio Frenk at $606,612. Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith received a total of $509,613 in salary and benefits.
—Staff writer Samuel Y. Weinstock can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @syweinstock.
When Peter D. Davis ’12 found a Cambridge Public Library book at his front door, wrapped in a bow, he knew who might have left it: Joanna Y. Li ’12.
Davis said that he had been going through a difficult time, and his friend had hoped to cheer him up with a quirky gift—a library book about a topic that interested him.
“She was deeply empathetic in a real way,” he said.
Li, a Kirkland House resident and neurobiology concentrator who had been on leave from the College since last spring semester, died in her Somerville apartment on May 7. She was 22. In an email to the Harvard community last Thursday morning, Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds wrote that Li had lived off-campus since first taking time off from Harvard in February 2012. Hammonds wrote that medical examiners have not yet determined the cause of Li’s death, but that they do not believe foul play was involved.
Classmates and advisers remembered Li as a kind and discerning friend who often went out of her way to help out those around her with a well-timed gift, a meaningful conversation, or a ukulele serenade. Li applied her characteristic thoughtfulness to all aspects of her life, excelling in a number of academic fields and extracurricular activities while consistently downplaying her own accomplishments, they said.
Richard J. Sima ’12, who dated Li for approximately two-and-a-half years after the two met at the beginning of their freshman year, said that when one of his friends took a leave of absence during their junior year, Li found a unique way to cheer him up—she decided to cut out a picture of the missing friend’s face, paste it to a pillow, and snap photos of the dummy “hanging out” with his friends.
“She was the kindest, most compassionate, most thoughtful person I knew,” Sima said.
Friends said that Li’s interest in other people carried over into everyday life as well.
Amy Guan ’12, a former Crimson news editor who shared summer housing with Li after their freshman and junior years, said that Li could have “long conversations about other people’s problems” without seeming overbearing or judgmental.
“I remember how great of a conversationalist she was,” Davis said. “If you were excited about something, she always had a new fact about it.”
Many acquaintances remarked on Li’s broad interests and general curiosity, which led her into a number of fields and activities during her seven semesters at Harvard.
In her freshman year, she took home a prize for a paper she wrote in her Expository Writing course—an essay that some students currently enrolled in the class are now assigned to read as a model of good writing.
“I always told her she should be a writer,” said Sima, who recalled Li’s interest in philosophy and poetry.
In the classroom, Li incorporated her varied interests into her primary field of study of neuroscience, often dabbling in bioethics and computer science.
“Those areas are difficult to integrate and very few students even attempt it,” said Ryan W. Draft, assistant director of undergraduate studies for the neurobiology concentration. “It was a promising academic trajectory.”
Draft said that Li often went out of her way to help out fellow students by attending advising events and serving as a teaching fellow in the courses Molecular and Cellular Biology 80 and Computer Science 50. She also worked for Harvard Brain, an on-campus neuroscience journal.
“She had a pretty big presence in the concentration when she was on campus,” he said. “I felt like our relationship with her was a little bit more substantial than it is with most students.”
Other friends remembered that Li, who volunteered at the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and worked with the Elizabeth Warren campaign, cared deeply about social problems.
“She didn’t just care on paper; she cared with her whole heart on these issues,” said Davis.
And in each of these pursuits, friends said, Li exhibited grace and humility without fail.
“She was never showy with all her talents and she probably didn’t give herself as much credit as anyone else who knew her would,” Sima said.
Guan said that Li often checked up on friends, generally steering the conversation away from her own successes or struggles.
“I really think she underestimated herself,” Guan said. “I just really hope she was able to realize how much people loved her.”
—Staff writer Jared T. Lucky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @jared_lucky.
Last week, Massachusetts Senator and former Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren introduced her first piece of legislation, a bill that would require the Federal Reserve to allow students to take out student loans at the same interest rate as banks. The bill addresses the important affordability issue facing higher education, but it fails to do so with sound economics.
In her unveiling of the bill, Warren pointed out that it “isn’t right” that the Fed charges banks an interest rate of .75 percent, while the unsubsidized Federal Stafford Loan program charges students 6.75 percent. There are, however, many right reasons why the rates are different. The .75 percent discount rate is for overnight loans, which are loans only available to banks in good financial condition and which provide collateral for their loans. It is also not a day-to-day financing option for banks, but rather a last resort to ensure financial stability during events such as the September 11 attack. Student loans, on the other hand, are mostly risky long-term loans to individuals without credit history and collateral. Banks are very unlikely to default on their overnight loans, while 17.3 percent of student loans which originated in 2009 are expected to default over their lifetime. The suggestion that banks and students should have the same interest rate may be politically popular, but it shows Warren’s lack of understanding of debt and finance.
Senator Warren’s legislation aims to give young Americans access to artificially cheap financing options, but it could end up hurting the same people she is trying to help. The federal student loan programs make it easier to finance higher education, which increases the demand for higher education. The laws of economics predict that higher demand would increase both the price and enrollment of higher education. Indeed, between 2000 and 2010, college enrollment increased by 37 percent, while tuition increased by 71 percent. Tuition hikes cause students to borrow even more for their education, as student debt soared nearly 500 percent to $900 billion during the same period. The supply of artificially cheap loans has caused an arms race between tuition rates and increase of individual debt, and yet Senator Warren’s solution is to make student loans even cheaper.
One does not need to look far to find a historical metaphor for the student debt crisis. In many ways, the growing student debt is looking increasingly like the subprime mortgage bubble that plunged America into a recession. Both home-ownership and college education are part of the American Dream, the crux of the once-prosperous American middle class. In both cases, the government supported the expansion of credit to low-income communities. The political aura of equality and gauzy temptation of the American Dream disguised both bubbles as infallible "investments" that cannot possibly go wrong while ignoring the less promising economic reality.
Unfortunately, if the subprime bubble is any lesson, the student debt bubble will eventually pull down those who try to climb the increasingly steep economic ladder. Students who are encouraged by the government to make bad financial decisions at 18 may be excluded from future economic opportunities due to their poor credit histories. As more young people face an economically incapacitated life, the economy also suffers, as a generation of home buyers, consumers, and entrepreneurs are indentured to their student loans. The graduates’ ability to manage their debt is further deterred by persistent structural unemployment and global competition. A recent meeting between the Federal Reserve and an advisory body highlighted the macro-economic risks of high student debt, as the total student debt surpassed credit card debt and automobile mortgages. Given these grim signs, passing Senator Warren's bill would not be dissimilar to providing government-backed 0.75 percent home mortgages to everyone in the home-buying age at the brink of the subprime crisis. In the unlikely event that this bill becomes law, the bill’s poor timing and cavalier language will almost certainly make Senator Warren an easy target for political blame for a mess that she did not create but to which she merely added the final straw.
Given the poor economics of the bill, I can only hope that Senator Warren’s real intention is to garner publicity and popularity rather than actually implementing her policies. Senator Warren could, however, tone down her rhetoric and propose more realistic solutions. First, most student loans have notoriously inflexible terms. Making financing options more flexible will give graduates more financial autonomy on their existing debt. A floating rate on student loans can also allow new applicants to enjoy the current low interest rate. An ideal student loan system should also be more market-oriented. Students with different majors and who attend different types of colleges should have different risk profiles, and their loan rates should reflect these differences. Differentiating student loans would also encourage students to make more prudent educational and financial choices.
During her successful Senate campaign, Senator Warren established herself as a hardline liberal. However, as the subprime mortgage crisis and debt ceiling debate have shown, simple-minded rhetoric does not create good policies on complicated economic issues. It is perhaps time that Senator Warren puts more economic reasoning and less political point scoring behind her future bills.
Jonathan Z. Zhou ’14 is an applied mathematics concentrator in Eliot House. His column appears on alternate Wednesdays.
The recent adoption of new examination policies comes as welcome news in the midst of this academic year’s own finals period. The proposal, put forth by the Committee on Undergraduate Education and recently approved by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, represents a meaningful effort on the part of administration to alleviate the sometimes overwhelming pileup of assignments that can occur at the end of semester. This attention to student experience is commendable. However, there is no clear indication that the changes by themselves will significantly improve the workload problems that can accompany reading and finals period.
Certainly, some of the reforms are quite refreshing. We are glad to see that regular classes are no longer allowed to take place during reading period. This mainly affects language courses, which previously would often continue to meet and cover new material during reading period. This change better reflects the spirit of reading period as a time for study. Under the new policy, it is clear that reading period is a time for review of the past semester’s content in preparation for a culminating assessment, as opposed to simply another week for more content to be squeezed in before finals.
Other issues are left ambiguous. The language of the new finals period, now officially titled “Final Examination and Project Period,” specifies exams “up to three hours in length.” Currently, classes holding exams are required to schedule a three-hour test. This model is unreasonable for all classes, especially those that also include other forms of final assessment like a project. In some circumstances, a one- or two- hour exam could suffice to assess students’ knowledge of relevant material. Briefer and more concise exams would certainly benefit students, freeing up time and reducing the stress of lengthy testing. As such, we hope that the new phrasing in the exam policy translates into increased flexibility for professors in constructing exams.
But the revised plan also leaves untouched several fundamental problems with reading and exams periods. Under the new policy, final assessments such as papers or projects must be due “no earlier than the fourth day of Reading Period” but before a class’s assigned examination date. While modifying the formally permissible range in which these assignments could be given, in all likelihood this will not meaningfully change students’ schedules. Papers and projects can still be due during reading period at professors’ discretion, and students can still easily be left facing multiple major assignments with closely coinciding due dates. In addition, by shortening reading period and extending finals period, the new plan simply recategorizes the time in which papers and projects can be due. While under the new plan assignments would be due during “finals” period, it is not clear that this would be substantially different in practice from the status quo.
FAS’s new reading and exam period policy brings much-deserved attention to the stress involved in finals period. Though a small step forward, this change is far from sufficient.
It was not until I left China for Cambridge that I realized how much political and economic issues dominate Western representations of China. At that time, I also began to realize how much these issues had dominated the domestic discourses in China. Renowned writer Saul Bellow once lamented the fact that political and economic discussions in the U.S. had replaced humanistic and philosophical concern for human wellbeing. Now, I think he could say the same about China. Although it is understandable that China must use economic opportunities to attract foreign interests, the emphasis on China as an economic power has dehumanized China, making it easy to forget that it is a nation made of people. The Chinese Dream that President Xi Jinping promised when he took office cannot be just about the material wellbeing of the people. To make China a strong and impactful nation, China must take human and character development into its agenda.
The overemphasis of China as an economic powerhouse, both at home and abroad, has drastic implications. For one, it suggests that China can only influence the world through economic power rather than through the power of its culture. Second, the Chinese may become indifferent to the characteristics of the individual, thus diminishing the personal responsibilities that good citizens should have for their country and society as a whole.
We have repeatedly seen the impersonal, obedient representations of China and Chinese people in international media. Economic figures, mass labor, pollution, violation of human rights, and IT hacks are some examples of how China is seen through the Western lens. Due to market incentives, Hollywood movies often add a scene in Shanghai or Hong Kong and throw in a few minor Chinese characters. These representations are often faceless, mysterious, and uninteresting business or political men or women. Recent controversy on a Chinese edition of Iron Man 3, the only version that includes Chinese actors, exemplifies how the representations of individual Chinese characters are of marginal importance to the rest of the world; these characters are included in movies because of Chinese market demand rather than any sort of international appeal. We must chide the movie producer for selectively excluding these characters and thereby perpetuating the representation of their insignificance.
However, some Chinese people also have to take partial blame for the marginalization of their countrymen. In recent years, some Chinese people have not made a good name of themselves. From Hong Kong to the U.S., Chinese tourists are increasingly characterized by their buying power and their unsocial and disrespectful behaviors. They are welcomed largely as an economic necessity.
The marginalization of the Chinese as individual persons is partially caused by the focus on development that can be measured in numerical scales. Since Deng Xiaoping opened up China’s markets to the outside world, we have seen economic development and political reform at an impressive pace. Some of what people say is true: Chinese people are diligent, hardworking, and oftentimes put the group before the individual. But the modern Chinese also often focus more on things that can be measured, like achievements and gains, rather than on personal growth and development, which is naturally more ambiguous and difficult to measure.
Great nations leave a legacy to the rest of the world. Economic benefits come and go, but crafts, actions, and beliefs are passed on to the rest of the world for centuries to come. The U.S. has many problems with its democratic system, from an inability to carry out meaningful policies to chaotic congressional discussions. However, one thing the U.S. does have is its resilience. Despite its many past mistakes, including the recent failure to pass background checks on weapons, its people have shown instances where they are willing and able to "run again." So I must ask: What is China's legacy and character as a nation and as a people?
China must take human and character development as an important building block to fulfilling the "Chinese Dream." Besides offering its citizens the opportunity to own a car and a house, China must take on something more substantial and long lasting. It needs more than ephemeral wealth to characterize and glue its people together. Culture and personality will be the key. Only through a realization of human and character development can China truly offer more than what the misleading, dull representations suggest. From an economic lens, this type of development would enhance innovation and creativity. From a humanistic lens, the Chinese people would maintain a higher level of happiness through community, in spite of economic fluctuations, and offer their rich and historical array of cultural and spiritual ideas to the rest of the world.
Representations of Chinese by both themselves and the West do not present a full picture. I have known many Chinese friends who have equal potential for empathy and creative thinking as the entrepreneurs and humanitarian workers we see in mainstream media. These people, who could truly contribute to the wellbeing of their fellow man, have yet to be able to exert themselves as a representation of the Chinese character. China has the ability to offer its own citizens and the rest of the world much more than material progress.
Daniel J. Dong ’16 is a Crimson editorial writer in Matthews Hall.
In less than a month, I will be graduating from Harvard University. I will spend the rest of my life hiding the fact that I bleed Crimson—while subconsciously finding any opportunity to show off the alma mater to which I worked so hard to gain acceptance—and make jokes about Harvard Time to people who don’t care or understand (i.e., everyone). Since the gravitas associated with my termination as a Harvard student somewhat outweighs that of my time as a Crimson columnist, I will use this last piece as a final goodbye to an institution that has given me so much over the past four years.
Reflecting on my time here, there is nothing I would rather do than thank Harvard for all that it has done, and how better to thank an academic institution than to list all that it has taught me. So Harvard, a sincere thank you for teaching me the following:
How to deal with failure. I am a strong proponent of the maxim that hard work can take you anywhere. But at Harvard, trying your best does not always lead to success. I have been rejected from several job offers, scholarship awards, and even extracurricular activities. A proud person in a similar situation would have called it quits. But these failures built in me a resilience I could not obtain any other way. As many of my peers can probably identify with, I was not used to failure at my public high school, where I accomplished whatever I set my mind to. Ask me during high school about failure, and I would have stated it was not an option. Now, perhaps drunken from senioritis, I understand failures are a part of life. There will be people better than me, and working hard might not be enough to compete against them—but that’s okay. Failure doesn’t mean the end; it just means you have to find a more interesting route to get what you want.
How to relax. Perhaps an addendum to the last item, in which I learned that everything tends to work out in the end as long as you keep trying. Harvard has taught me the importance of relaxation. To paint a picture of how nerdy I was before coming to Harvard, I was the girl who chose to attend a Future Problem Solvers competition during Harvard’s pre-frosh weekend. I never relaxed in high school, and so I didn’t enjoy what I was doing as much as I could have. From Harvard, I take away the term “brain break” and will apply it to my everyday schedule.
But also how to not relax too much. I remember how relieved I felt after my five o’clock moment—humbled beyond belief, but also glad that my life seemed set. I was going to a great institution and there was no way I could end up failing after graduating from there. What I didn’t realize until coming here, however, is that Harvard does a great job of ensuring greatness from its students, but these countless opportunities need to be sought after. So underclassmen, shamelessly take advantage of these opportunities! Take a class from a Nobel laureate, experiment at Harvard’s Innovation Lab, and go to that next talk by a Supreme Court Justice. Because you will never get opportunities like this anywhere else, let alone for free.
How to seize the day. A friend once joked with me about how she flashes her Harvard ID at museums hoping to gain free admission. Riffing from the previous point, take advantage of what Harvard has to offer and use it for your benefit. Materialistically, this means getting any free merchandise that comes your way—I have more water bottles than could possibly be useful. But Harvard’s “carpe diem” extends to other opportunities that might add more to your intellectual and personal wealth, like taking challenging classes and talking with professors who are leaders in their fields.
How to be appreciative and thankful. It is easy to complain about Harvard, but when we stop to really think about how much Harvard has shaped us and helped us with our future plans, we should sheepishly accept that these complaints are meaningless compared to what Harvard offers us. If you’re still skeptical, take a minute to think of all the great things you’ve done at Harvard that would not be possible anywhere else.
This list could extend for pages, but these top five items are the ones for which I am most thankful. Harvard, it’s been a great four years, and I wouldn’t take back any of it for a second. Thank you for making me the person that I am today, a more relaxed, more confident Harvard graduate, ready to pursue my dreams without abandon.
Gina Yu ’13, a Crimson editorial writer, is a biomedical engineering concentrator in Dunster House. Her column appears on alternate Thursdays.
Every Harvard student who founds a start-up does not become the next billionaire under 30.
Instead, they are faced with a new set of obstacles, such as finding funding and developing management skills. And upon leaving, these former students must also find housing and often form an entirely new social circle.
The Chronicle of Higher Education reports a 97.4 percent six-year graduation rate from Harvard, which translates to more than 40 students per entering class not receiving a diploma in that time.
According to Jeff Neal, a spokesperson for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, 682 students are currently on leave from the College, including students who left as long ago as the 1970s.
Those who start a business in the middle of their time at Harvard are certainly taking the road less traveled.
A TIME FOR EVERYTHING
“In the beginning, there were a lot questions and uncertainties,” said John V. Capodilupo, a former member of the class of 2014.
In his sophomore spring, Capodilupo began wondering whether a computer science concentration was right for him.
But when an offer came to work on Bobo Analytics, Inc., a company that designs a wristband that continuously collects heart-rate data and aims to replace the classic chest strap heart monitor, Capodilupo took the summer position.
For Capodilupo, an offer from a start-up seemed like the best way to find his calling.
Anand S. Gupta, however, had already found a project he cared about several months before taking his leave and tried to balance a full course load for the semester prior to leaving.
“At the end of my sophomore year, the amount of homework I was getting done proportional to the amount of project work I was getting done, that ratio was very much skewed in one way [towards the project],” said Gupta, a former member of the class of 2014.
“If you’re going to be at Harvard... don’t screw around.” Gupta said.
Splitting his time between Cambridge and Boston, Gupta is currently developing software to aid pathologists searching through digitized images of cancer-affected tissue.
Similarly, Merrill H. Lutsky and Erik C. Schluntz, both former members of the class of 2015, found themselves without enough hours to work on a project they co-founded.
“I had to take a midterm for my psych course, and then I literally had to leave that, get in a taxi, and leave for the airport to fly out for the interview.” said Lutsky, referring to an interview with Y Combinator, a selective for-profit start-up incubator that provides start-up founders with seed money and mentorship.
Lutsky and Schluntz were accepted into the 2013 YC “winter class” for their start-up, Posmetrics. Originally inspired by their Computer Science 50 final project, Posmetrics provides a mobile application for giving real time feedback of hotels and restaurants. According to its website, the app could increase feedback rates over 100-fold compared to current survey methods.
A DAY IN THE LIFE
“Working on a start up company sort of consumes your entire life. I find myself constantly thinking about how we could be growing faster than we are,” Lutsky said. “If you can’t really sustain that high pace of innovation and progress and growth within your company all the way from day one to [initial public offer], you’re likely to be outrun by competition.”
Lutsky said founders of a start-up need to be adaptable and capable of covering all the bases while their start-up is in its initial stage before developing their team.
Coming from technical backgrounds, Lutsky and Schluntz had to reinvent themselves as “sales guys.”
“Having to train ourselves to fulfill that role was one of the more interesting personal challenges of starting a company,” Lutsky said.
“You think your college life is kind of a roller coaster. Like, ‘Oh, this week I’ve got psets, like I’ve got three psets due tomorrow and two midterms to turn in the morning after,” Gupta said, moving his finger up and down in front of his face. “For [a start-up], the roller coaster highs and lows are much bigger.”
Besides running a business, leaving Harvard means having to start a life on your own, which comes with all the difficulties that some would gloss over.
“Housing is a pain in the ass and ridiculously hard to find,” said Ben M. Yu, a former member of the Class of 2014. “I lived in a garage for a good while. A bunch of the [Thiel] fellows had this awesome ‘mansion.’... They needed someone to take a temporary lease on it until the end of April.... They had two rooms available, one of them was a garage and the other was the pool house.”
Because the pool house was 8 feet long, Yu opted for the garage, where he found new value in heated blankets.
Yu became a Thiel Fellow in 2011, leaving Harvard after his freshman fall semester. He initially planned to work on Pricemash, a tool designed to compare prices for online items fitted with the ability to consider online deals from outside providers, such as Groupon.
But when Pricemash failed, Yu started work on Sprayable Energy, a topical caffeine spray, which delivers a more even energized feeling when compared to the energy spike from caffeinated drinks. Launch has been delayed for some time because of the health requirements that Sprayable Energy has to meet.
THE “TROUGH OF SORROW”
“It’s extremely difficult to work on something by yourself,” Yu said. “Inevitably, every start-up goes through a ‘trough of sorrow’ and everything is going to shit and everything looks like it’ll never succeed.”
Yu learned from his experience at Pricemash that he was not cut-out for a management position and belonged closer to the technical side of a business. He believes his decision to manage his company was a hasty one.
“I misconstrued that as, ‘I need to work with what I have,’ rather than ‘I need to build the skills that I want to have,’” Yu said.
Lutsky remembers the difficulties he and Schluntz had getting off the ground upon moving to California.
“It was pretty much me and my co-founder running around San Francisco all day going to various hotels and businesses, getting kicked out of various hotels and businesses,” Lutsky said. “Going from sort of a Harvard lifestyle to the depths of being kicked out of hotels was an abrupt transition. There were very hectic days of not much sleep, getting phones hung up on us [while] talking to more professional clients.”
“I’m trying to think of some juicy ugly stories...but I can’t think of anything. I’ve had a wonderful time so far,” said Connor N. Zwick, a former member of the class of 2015.
Zwick left Harvard after his freshman year to work on his “coco controller” after becoming a Thiel Fellow. The slide-on “coco” cell phone case features an analog stick and tactile buttons, which allow users to play games on their phones the same way they would play on hand-held consoles.
Zwick and co-founder Colton T. Gyulay, another former member of the class of 2015, put up their Kickstarter website to crowdsource funds for their company in August 2012. They took the page down after less than three days when they decided to redesign the case to accommodate the iPhone 5, and consequently raised over $26,000 in the process. They plan to relaunch sometime this year.
Like Zwick, other former students had similarly positive comments regarding their choices to take leaves of absence.
“The greater danger at the time was in not leaving, the regret we would’ve had had somebody else pursued this kind of thing and been successful in the space [while] the two of us had been sitting around in class,” Lutsky said. “Even if everything were to fall apart tomorrow, I still think I would have made the same decision.”
“I actually don’t regret it at all. And I think I would have regretted it if—well, one, if the business failed—but more importantly if we were away from Boston,” Capodilupo said. “The biggest drawback I experienced was just being away from all the relationships I’d built,...not having that daily interaction of going to a party Friday night with everybody. It’s a dramatic difference that I didn’t think was going to be as stark.”
Yu echoed similar sentiment.
“Do I regret taking my leave? No, not at all,” Yu said. “The only downside is that I’m still technically a freshman.”
IN THE SHADOW OF “THE SOCIAL NETWORK”
After the 2010 film was released and since the Thiel Fellowship has gained so much publicity, dropping out of college to make millions of dollars almost seems trendy.
Beyond putting budding entrepreneurs in the public eye, however, the “dropout fad” has also changed the tone within the start-up sphere.
“I think obviously that there’s a danger in overly romanticizing this kind of lifestyle,” Lutsky said. “The reality is that it’s very difficult work. If you come out here to work on a company...that is pretty much all me and my co-founder do.”
As college students see an increasing number of their peers leave academia to start businesses, the reality of the situation is often warped.
A March article in “The Atlantic” mentions research on Chicago Public School students, saying that students often do not apply to selective colleges because of the misconceptions they have about opportunities outside of higher education.
“I think this was not the best time to start because it’s marked with a lot of idealism, and not so much realistic, pragmatic expectations,” Yu said, reflecting on his entrance into entrepreneurship.
“It’s not like I’m dropping out forever,” Zwick said with an emphasis on “forever.” “It’s more like I’m taking a few gap years.”
Each of the former students mentioned stated that Harvard’s policy on leaves of absence is generous. The policy allows any student to take a five-year leave once they’ve been enrolled at the college for a semester. None of them ruled out the possibility of returning completely.
“I talked to a lot of entrepreneurs from other universities in Boston where you can’t take more than a term of light course load or else you have to decide to permanently leave,” Lutsky said.
And, of course, the term “dropout” often comes with a stigma that many would choose to steer away from.
“I don’t like the word ‘dropout’ because I didn’t drop out,” Capodilupo said. “It’s got a lot of funny connotations to it. Some people are like, ‘You’re too good for school?’ and other people get angry when you say it, like, ‘Oh, how could you possibly drop out of Harvard?’”
Gupta also avoided the term ‘dropout.’
“In the grand scheme of things I will be back in academia,” he said. “Whether it’s now or 10 years from now, it will happen.”
—Staff Writer Manny I. Fox Morone can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @mannyfoxmorone.