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Op Eds

What Wasn’t in my Harvard Acceptance Letter

By Nicole B. Alexander, Crimson Opinion Writer
Nicole B. Alexander ’24, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Kirkland House.

To My Harvard Admissions Letter,

Once upon a time, you were everything I wanted. You landed in my unsuspecting arms — or inbox rather — at a time when I needed you most.

You were the only thing I could hold close while the world sat six feet apart. You gave me a vision of what the next four years would look like when I couldn’t even anticipate what would happen the next day. You handed me a sliver of hope in a hopeless time, so I took that hope and ran with it.

I began to spend my days with stars in my eyes — dreaming of what life would look like with you, my own golden ticket, by my side.

It was the opportunity of a lifetime: a chance at receiving a top-tier education. A brand new community. An expansive alumni network. An abundance of library resources. Access to more classes than I could ever imagine. A new set of traditions. A new way of thinking. A new place to call home.

And I hoped that that would be enough. That the perfect image I had of you would hold true. But as I begin my sophomore year, I no longer see you through the lens of an eager high school senior on Ivy Day. After taking a closer look, I can see that there are cracks under your perfect, lustrous finish.

Time and time again, Harvard has released statements emphasizing their support for their community members of color and the importance of maintaining a diverse group of faculty members — yet their actions tell a different story.

It was the second month of my first semester when the first crack appeared. We were outraged when the news broke that David Kane, an instructor in the Government department, had allegedly authored racist blog posts and was inviting Charles Murray — a highly controversial political scientist — to speak to his Government 50: “Data” class. Shortly after, students began circulating a petition for the University to re-evaluate his role in the department. I was confident that Harvard would listen and our voices would be heard, but I was wrong.

After a brief two-week break, the University allowed David Kane to resume teaching that fall, failing to acknowledge the harm that his statements imposed on students of color. Kane taught again in the spring semester.

I hoped that this would be the last time. The last time that the University would ignore students’ voices. The last time they would fail to uphold their promise to support their community members of color. The last time that their actions would form cracks in the perfect image that you, my admissions letter, presented to me when I saw you for the first time.

But I was left disappointed.

Seven months later, students began circulating a new petition in support of Professor Cornel R. West ’74 following his threat to depart from the University after it denied his request for tenure consideration — a denial that called Harvard’s “support” of their Black scholars into question.

Professor West was many things to many people, but to Black students, he was a beacon of hope. An amplified Black voice in a world where our voices are constantly silenced and a prominent scholar who commanded the attention of everyone in the room. While I was a freshman at the time, I never had the opportunity to be a student in one of those rooms, and now that Professor West has left the University, I never will.

Another crack had appeared, and I can only expect that more will keep appearing.

At the end of the day, you, my admissions letter, are simply a bunch of words on a piece of paper, and Harvard has since taught me that words alone mean nothing.

While I still acknowledge how privileged I am to attend this institution, I cannot ignore its flaws. It is my responsibility as a member of the Harvard community to acknowledge its shortfalls. To continue to speak up and use my voice. To admit that, today, I can see the cracks within your perfect exterior.

Nicole B. Alexander ’24, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Kirkland House.

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