Coronavirus has tremendous global implications. But as a slate gray sky moved over campus this morning, a pre-apocalyptic frenzy waxed introspective. As many continue to sort out the details of their departures, intimate and existential questions replace outright panic.
How do we make sense of an experience which will fundamentally alter the fabric of our lives and the institution of which we are a part?
What happens when everything you believe makes school meaningful gets packed away? What happens when the micro-moments — the unnecessary but essential intimacies — evaporate into the cloud? How do you deal with the indefinites — the postponements and cancelations, the maybe-soons and who-knows-whens, the let’s-grab-a-meals and how-’bout-this-weekends? What is college without the all-for-naughts of coffee-coma typing storms, the hallway nods to halfway friends — the touched and touching moments of life here together?
At a time when statistics and headlines seem to mediate our collective experience, and after we have taken the opportunity to highlight the obligations of our University and the vulnerability of so many, we think it’s worth pausing to stitch together the stories, emotions, and questions that have characterized these past few days — these days where life has stood still, the surreal intersection of history and college life suddenly undone.
Harvard’s Kuumba singers have spent months preparing for the organization’s now postponed 50th-anniversary celebrations. The men’s basketball team was denied a chance to enter the postseason on a hot streak. And even commencement itself seems in doubt. It’s not as if anyone has given up, but so much will just be left suspended, half-done — a petri dish of forced neglect.
We are forced to reckon with what it means to pursue a process without an outcome — whether we value the experience of creating, of working hard, of working together, as much as the end result of a grade, a performance, or a graduation ceremony. Harvard is not truly Harvard when completed online.
This sudden displacement forces us to confront who we have become in our time at Harvard and what it means for us to be that person elsewhere — at home for some, in more unfamiliar places for others. What privileges are we reminded of? And how do we return here again with generosity and selflessness?
Despite the palpable presence of nihilism in the air — after all, what is Harvard without those with whom we live it — these past few days have also been marked by a tremendous showing of kindness, support, and love. When the University initially failed to provide our community’s most vulnerable members — those experiencing homelessness, from low-income backgrounds, and from outside of the United States — the support they needed, their peers began opening their homes, sending out “Emergency Housing Spreadsheets” through email lists and crowdfunding.
Students paused to check in with one another. Student organizations are reaching out to their members, offering support and love in a time of shared distress. Some professors have offered them a place to store their belongings. Where the work of our everyday lives has been abandoned, a mythic human-ness — a transcendent camaraderie — has taken its place.
We hope this spirit hangs on through the six long months ahead.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.