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Editorials

Dissent: Harvard Should Never Close Its Gates

By Ellie H. Ashby, Chloe A. Shawah, Eleanor V. Wikstrom, and Ivor K. Zimmerman
Dissenting Opinions: Occasionally, The Crimson Editorial Board is divided about the opinion we express in a staff editorial. In these cases, dissenting board members have the opportunity to express their opposition to staff opinion.

The University policy that has closed the Yard to the public every night from 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. this semester marks a fundamental and detrimental shift in Harvard’s traditionally open campus culture — so too detrimental is this Editorial Board’s decision to call for closed gates to be a permanent fixture of our campus.

The only rationale the University has given for this policy, which will be lifted on Oct. 11 and was first piloted last fall, is that it is meant to “support the safety and health of our student population” in the first few weeks of the academic year. We see two aspects of health and safety potentially at play here — Covid-19 transmissions and students’ personal safety at night — and neither are fixed by this policy.

Harvard’s Covid-19 precautions do not prohibit students from bringing non-Harvard affiliated visitors into their dorm buildings, much less the outdoor spaces in the Yard. Yet restricting access to the Yard to only Harvard ID-holders for 10 hours of the day undermines this guidance and creates confusion about the University’s Covid-19 policies. Further, instituting these closures in the Yard alone renders any pandemic-related rationale inconsistent across campus.

Likewise, while the importance of prioritizing students’ personal safety at night cannot be understated, closing the Yard addresses the wrong aspects of the right problem. There is nothing inherently safer about a Harvard affiliate versus a Cambridge resident. Restricting which group has access to the outdoor space of the Yard does not necessarily translate to increased personal safety. In fact, campus sexual assault is far more likely to occur during interactions with an acquaintance than a complete stranger; this is a pervasive problem that closing the gates does not fix.

Increasing gate security also necessitates more interactions between security personnel — potentially law enforcement — and Harvard students and Cambridge residents, which The Crimson’s Editorial Board explicitly opposes. The action and institution of policing, and by extension, security as a whole, is inextricably intertwined with racism, brutality, and the cycles of incarceration and poverty that have colored our nation’s history. There is no way for a call to increase security around Harvard’s gates and the Editorial Board’s precedent calling for the abolition of the Harvard University Police Department to coexist. It is hypocritical to be against policing as a lofty, progressive gesture, but then support increased security when it comes to closing the Yard at night.

By closing its gates, Harvard is signaling that not only is it somehow not a part of Cambridge, but that those without a Harvard ID represent a threat that needs to be kept out. This lack of trust and openness creates a culture of division as tangible as the closed gates that physically split the Yard from the Square. Especially when considering the huge expansions Harvard is undertaking in Allston and nearby neighborhoods, it has never been more important for Harvard to be an active and equal member of the communities it resides in.

Our campus is at its most inclusive, most alive, and most beautiful when Harvard Yard and Harvard Square seem to bleed into one. After Oct. 11, unlike the rest of The Crimson’s Editorial Board, we look forward to seeing the gate restrictions disappear: Harvard University should never close its gates.

Ellie H. Ashby ’24, a Crimson Editorial editor, lives in Adams House. Chloe A. Shawah ’22, a Crimson Editorial chair, is a Statistics concentrator in Cabot House. Eleanor V. Wikstrom ’24, a Crimson Editorial Comp Director, lives in Adams House. Ivor K. Zimmerman ’23, a Crimson Editorial editor, is a Classics concentrator in Kirkland House.

Dissenting Opinions: Occasionally, The Crimson Editorial Board is divided about the opinion we express in a staff editorial. In these cases, dissenting board members have the opportunity to express their opposition to staff opinion.

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