With today’s editorial, the Board seems to have missed the punchline. As a long, important train of our precedents emphasizes, student well-being matters deeply and merits firm institutional support across a host of issues far more serious than a few sweltering evenings. But Harvard neither can nor should be a palace. Manageable, non-life-threatening adversity is an entirely reasonable burden to expect us to bear.
Given this oversight, we are glad that Kane is no longer teaching for the foreseeable future — a measure which is rightfully owed to the Simmons students who spoke out to protect their campus community and to deny someone with allegedly racist views a platform and authority as an instructor on campus. To the students who tipped the Simmons Voice, protested, and confronted Kane during class: We commend and applaud you for your hard work and courage.
Harvard should use its reputation amongst universities to remove rot as soon as it’s discovered. The longer it fails to do so, the deeper the blight of misconduct will fester and spread. Students, for want of a Google search, will continue to suffer.
Even as Harvard takes comprehensive steps to purge its collections of misappropriated remains, it should be clear that much work remains. This report’s release does not mark the end of the University’s role in reckoning with slavery and settler colonialism. It does not negate the years of harm done to so many individuals and vulnerable groups. The epistemic scars of race science — built, in part, on the pseudoscientific analysis of remains in Harvard’s collections — remain. Harvard’s task is just beginning.
We find little reason to believe that a more even distribution of faculty along a conservative-liberal binary would increase productive disagreement in any meaningful way. In fact, boiling down ideological and intellectual diversity to such limited labels strikes us as downright reductive.
Statistics of any sort cannot provide a full and reliable picture of the quality of an educational experience. Statistics can be a useful aid — students need help narrowing down their choices, and average class size or graduation rates are useful proxies. But the tail is now wagging the dog, and the culture of American education is in desperate need of reform.
Our new, in-person term has not escaped the now familiar pitfalls of online quarrels. Last week, an event for the rather controversial Harvard College Faith and Action was publicized on Lowell House’s unmoderated email list. The queer community, at Harvard and everywhere else, should not have to alienate themselves from their queerness in order to feel comfortable and included within organizations and spaces.
It cannot be overstated how troubling it is that students, especially women, may not feel safe and comfortable within the classroom or even Harvard as a whole now that Comaroff has returned. No student should have to split their attention in the classroom between pursuits to satiate intellectual curiosity and fears for their physical and emotional safety.
There’s an absurdist joy in seeing the freshmen enjoy opening days as their stereotypical lanyard-wearing and pack-traveling selves, partaking in the debauchery of river parties and Tasty Basement ragers with no regard for the desperate times that spurred these pandemic-era innovations into existence.
That kind of decisive adherence to certain ideals, even ideals we don’t necessarily profess in the same terms — like his strict, purist understanding of free speech or his gradual approach to change — is rare and worth praising. It represents a sort of remarkable ideological coherence that we might, someday, come to miss.
If the College makes clearer the basic selection criteria for faculty deans and better utilizes student input in finding candidates who meet them, crises of confidence in our house leadership will become far less common.
Of course, all of the above are only palliative measures. We cannot offer true respite to those grieving Rodrigo — nothing barring a prompt and transparent investigation into his death will. But we also cannot stand idly by in the wake of Rodrigo’s death. Be it through public protests, financial support, or active lobbying, Harvard’s pursuit of Veritas should continue to include Ventocilla.