Harvard Most Values Success, 2014 Says

Harvard values success above all else.

At least that’s how members of the Class of 2014 see it. In last spring’s freshman survey, respondents ranked “success” as the value that Harvard most stands for, choosing from a list of about a dozen options that included compassion and honesty.

The 90 percent of the class responding to the survey ranked hard work, honesty, respect, and compassion as their top four personal values.

Asked to do the same for Harvard, they ranked success first, followed by hard work, respect, and community.

According to Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67 students ranked compassion near the bottom of the list of Harvard’s attributes, despite naming it as one of the top values they personally held.


The results of the survey were discussed in a training session for Peer Advising Fellows—the Advising Programs Office’s entryway mentors for first-year students—in relation to the introduction of the “Class of 2015 Pledge.”

The pledge, which was signed by current freshmen before Tuesday’s convocation ceremony, asks students to help make Harvard an institution where “the exercise of kindness holds a place on par with intellectual attainment.”

According to Dingman, the decision to ask incoming students to sign a formalized statement of values occurred before the results of the survey came back.

However, PAFs present at the meeting said that the survey results were presented as a justification for issuing the pledge.

Dingman said that the survey’s results reiterated that the pledge was a step in the right direction.

“We felt that compassion contributes to the well-being of the community and students didn’t see this as a value that Harvard stood for,” Dingman said. “That’s unfortunate.”

The survey results also indicated that, while students place power and wealth at the bottom of their own values, they ranked them in the middle of the pack among the values of Harvard.

Dingman pointed out that although students did not think that Harvard embodied compassion, the fact that they ranked positive values like respect and community towards the top was “very heartening.”

—Staff writer Stephanie B. Garlock can be reached at

—Staff writer Hana N. Rouse can be reached at