Dear Reader, For our final issue, we chose to write about 15 places, a break from this magazine’s history of publishing end-of-year issues about 15 people. As we understand it, a place constitutes any physical space in the vicinity of Harvard, from the Weeks Bridge, to Appleton Chapel, to the Yard itself. After a year cordoned off in our bedrooms, a return to the physical space of campus demands us to look at the physical space of Harvard. What does it sound like? Where does the sunlight come in? What emotions have we attached to its places — melancholy, joy, the flat feeling of exhaustion — and how have those emotions changed in the time since we left? Of course, people have defined this return. We embraced and broke bread and danced in late August; packed into lecture halls and hunkered down in libraries as the leaves changed; and nearly forgot how much we had missed just sitting in a room, side-by-side, in December. But these interactions happened within a place, or rather, places — points on an ever-shifting map that every student charts anew, a terrain we collectively call “Harvard.” They are spaces we inhabit and traverse, in which we cry and laugh, create and demolish — alone but also, especially after the past year, together. We started this semester of Fifteen Minutes with two picnics: one for our writers in the lawn by the Cambridge Public Library, and another for our editors in the Quincy House courtyard. Something about kicking off our shoes and feeling the grass under our feet, sweating under the heat of the August sun, and hearing the commotion of Cambridge streets, was electrifying. No matter how close we’d felt over the remote spring, poring over articles late into the night over Zoom, chatting in virtual writers’ meeting, even going on distanced walks — the outright euphoria of being together, the sheer force of dozens of people showing up to hang out in the name of magazine journalism, was a sensation too textured for a computer screen to evoke. Leading Fifteen Minutes has been one of the deepest joys and greatest honors of our time in college and, frankly, our lives. As editors, it’s a bit strange to be so without words for an experience so full of wonder, so full of love, so rich in its every frustration, challenge, moment of relief. We have a habit of describing FM as “the ground we walk on and the air we breathe,” as though it is not only a single point on our “Harvard” map — 14 Plympton Street, perhaps — but something so constant and abundant it has redrawn the coordinates. Now that we’re walking onto new ground and into new air, FM will change too; under MVE and SSL, it will flourish. Place is not static; it is sought and assembled, made sweet and vibrant by the people who inhabit it. With love, OGO & MNW
Dear reader, It’s hard to believe this is our last regular issue as chairs of Fifteen Minutes — but very easy, and thrilling, to see and believe in the many future issues to come under MVE and SSL, our two new FM chairs! As you settle down for Thanksgiving break, you’ll have plenty of time to catch up on our content and dive into this final set of brilliant, weekly articles: If you’re missing campus, we’ll take you right back: MMFW spends a night awake on campus and writes a funny, moving, and witty piece about the people she met and (sometimes bizarre) experiences she had. ITM and WH talk to the creators of “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text,” an acclaimed podcast run by students at the Divinity School which discusses chapters from the series in each episode; they’re starting from scratch, now centering the political context of J.K. Rowling’s hateful social media posts. DRZ and PSR go to the Yard for a haircut and to learn about two freshmen’s successful haircutting businesses. ASG tells us about efforts to package leftover HUDS food into frozen meals to donate. YK and CY talk to Benzy Wenzelberg, a senior whose thesis consists of an opera adaptation of Ulysses from the perspective of Molly Bloom. Away from Harvard, MG looks into the history of the Framingham women’s correctional facility as debates over whether to build another women’s prison to replace it in Mass. heat up. BSH and AVM look into the upsides and risks of an effort to sequence baby genomes for life-threatening genetic diseases. SWF finally gets us access to the Bachelor universe, profiling Romeo P. Alexander ’11, who was on the Bachelorette! And in this week’s endpaper, KT writes lovingly and movingly about movie nights with her father. Rounding the issue out is another story from ITM, profiling a woman, referred to by the pseudonym “Katherine,” and her struggle to unlearn the subservience to men taught to her through the Christian faith. There’s no proper “next time” for an “until,” so enjoy your breaks and look out for our end-of-year issue, about 15 meaningful places on Harvard’s campus, in December! Love, MNW & OGO
Over the past two years, legal changes have shifted the landscape of policing in Massachusetts. But advocates have yet to see whether the reforms will be enough to disrupt the decades-old, entrenched systems of policing and surveillance they are meant to address — a system that takes for granted that certain children should be seen as threats.
Dear reader, This school year marked the start of a potentially dramatic shift in the state of policing and surveillance in Boston public schools. City and state legal reforms to the authority of both the Boston Police Department and school police officers mean a decades-old surveillance state — as well as a recent communications network between school police officers, BPD officers, and federal immigration officials — may begin to unravel. But teachers, parents, and advocates alike are unsure what, exactly, new limits set on the police mean for students, or whether a few laws can really upend such a system that has targeted Black and brown youth since its inception. This week’s cover story, by REJC, begins with the origins of policing in Boston public schools and traces its evolution to a present-day iteration in which a mysterious “gang assessment database” contains information on dozens, if not hundreds, of adolescents and young adults — many of them racial minorities and immigrants. With the future of the Boston public school surveillance state unclear, it is more important than ever to understand, as exactly as possible, the various forms it has taken in the past. The rest of the content is just as stellar: Reporting on a different sort of change to schools, MGB and DRZ tell us about how the Cambridge Public Library system has eliminated late fines and the implications that has for its openness and inclusivity. IYG and AKM bring the question of school and space closer to home, looking back at the origins of the housing lottery 25 years ago. HVK and JKW then go to a house, Kirkland, and tell us about the weirdness of its weekly “Choosening” ceremony — but we won’t spoil it. Adding to our growing line-up of profiles of student start-up apps, AMB and BWF talk to the creators of Monolog, an app that uses your words to try and understand and help your emotional state. KLS and SEW profile Mauricio S. Cunha, a stunning visual artist and longtime janitor at Harvard libraries who currently works at Widener. AKM pokes some fun at Starbucks and the temporal ordering of our universe through late-industrial capitalism. And KSG brings it home with a moving, beautifully-written introspection about “derealization,” the persistent feeling that things are not real, that space and time are distorting around you. Read on, and take care. Love, MNW & OGO
Dear reader, This week, with a full slate of stories, let’s begin at the (chronological) beginning: Four retrospections that, in fact, question what the beginning, the end, or the “ends” mean. First, KNF goes back to the turn of the 20th century and tells us about how Harvard and U.S. imperialism in Latin America intersected in the Cuban Summer School, a program run at Harvard to “educate,” i.e. “modernize,” i.e. “Americanize” (and all the colonial underpinnings of those words) Cuban teachers. Then, jumping forward to 1921, exactly a century ago, TS and NLO (with some help from MX) recount the beginnings of the desegregation of Harvard dormitories, which finally happened in a spring 1923 decision. Moving forward five decades to 1970, SSL (clarification: not our exec) and JSN recount the three-year struggle to make Harvard’s band co-educational. Finally, bringing us close to the present, AMB and KT offer a different story about Derrick Bell, one of the founders of Critical Race Theory — the story of how he refused to teach at, and eventually left, HLS because the school had no tenured Black women on its faculty in the early 1990s. And, surprise — another somewhat retrospective piece brings us to 2021. WSH talks to members of the Student Astronomers at Harvard-Radcliffe and looks at the logbooks students sign to use Harvard’s observatory, which stretch from the 70s, to painful and reflective notes from before the pandemic forced us off campus, and into the present. Rooted firmly in 2021 we have KLS and PSR reporting on the providing of free laundry in Cambridge public schools; and SSL (again, not the exec) reporting on the recently-reopened and freshly-renovated Houghton Library. There are nearly as many levities as retrospections: JFA tells you how to behave, and how not to, in a Harvard situationship; IW pokes some fun at the Adams fruit fly infestation; AHL describes Lamont as an MTV crib; and SWF tells/reports a true, hilarious, and terrifying ghost story about the Kirkland library. Finally, grounding the issue is this week’s thorough and incisive scrutiny, from KL and AKL, on a problem of national scale and life-or-death consequences — the opioid overdose crisis — in Cambridge and around Harvard. They probe different approaches to resolving this crisis, ranging from medical, to public health, to infrastructure, and more, as well as the different actors and segments of society, the University included, that need to work in concert to bring this crisis to an end. You will come away with a deeper knowledge of the crisis and a fuller understanding of the enormous task ahead of us in solving it. And, as is customary, the weather — enjoy the last few days of meager warmth before the Cambridge winter sets in, but make sure that, outdoors or inside, you have this, our second-to-last regular issue of the semester, open in your browser! With love, MNW & OGO
But the opioid overdose crisis is of course a public health problem — as well as a medical, urban planning, and legal problem. That multidimensional epidemic has only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and responding to it will require the concentrated efforts of every segment of society. Harvard is no exception.
Harvard’s Solar Geoengineering Research Program studies a climate intervention strategy that sounds straight out of a science fiction novel. In the past, scientists and politicians have written off solar geoengineering as too risky to even study. But as the planet approaches dangerous levels of warming, that calculus may be just about to change.
To friends and strangers alike: We often begin this letter by remarking on the weather. At the start of the semester, we wrote of campus sunshine. Then, the coming of fall. Now, a drop in temperature and the falling of dead leaves. But the cover story this week deals with weather in an entirely different way: through the story of solar geoengineering research at Harvard, which could stifle the climate crisis, and with it the rising of the seas and temperatures. But the research isn’t a simple fix. MVE and SSI explore the questions of power, governance, and ethics undergirding this interventionist research. Some reject it, critiques ranging from the feasibility of its science, to the “moral hazard” of foreclosing radical social change, to the fear that wealthy countries could decide the future of the planet. All agree, however, that the question is urgent and the stakes are unbelievably high. From ITM and MG, an exploration of the location of Muslim and Hindu prayer spaces in the basement of Canaday Hall. CJK covers the effort to protect tenants in Boston amid the COVID-19 pandemic. IYG follows up on her story on the departure of Harvard Beijing Academy from the Beijing Language and Culture University. DCB and MGB profile the delightful Society of Harvard-Undergraduate Magicians and their surprising contributions to Harvard’s theater scene. TCK’s endpaper concludes the issue with her touching reflection on sisterhood, growing up, and “My Neighbor Totoro.” (It may have brought tears to MNW’s eyes.) Have a lovely week and happy November. Expect another FM issue soon. With adoration, OGO & MNW
Dear reader, The leaves are finally turning to autumn colors, the Cambridge cold is setting in, and hopefully midterms are wrapping up — perfect because, as the weather necessitates spending more time cozying up indoors and there’s some increased leisure on our hands, we bring you an issue full of stellar content to fill those hours. We have a trove of well-reported, hard-hitting Scoops and Around Towns. AZW and JSM talk to students protesting ableism and inaccessibility across campus, probing questions about space and the power different people wield in it. KJG and BSH talk to freshmen about the experience of viewing their admissions files. CJK and KEH tell us about a municipally-funded partnership between the Harvard Square Homeless Shelter and Square restaurants to help feed people experiencing homelessness and give local businesses much-needed revenue during the pandemic. KT and KLS talk to Rus Gant about the Virtual Harvard Project, an initiative to create hyper-detailed 3D models of the 200-plus buildings around the University. They just keep coming: SEW and SWF attend a performance of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” in which one of the actors is totally drunk, i.e. “shit-faced Shakespeare.” IYG and SD profile a new social media app based on facial recognition technology whose creator aims to be “better than Zuck” and look into all the associated privacy concerns. EAG and KEH go to the “Soulfully Textured” event and ruminate on the racist standards of respectability politics that constrain hair and beauty standards for Black women. MGB profiles Maya Jasanoff, a Harvard professor who was recently chosen to judge the prestigious Booker Prize. NLO and SEW talk to the team behind the Out of Eden Walk, a virtual pilgrimage tracing the path humans took to populate the world. We also have two great retrospections. The first is comedic, in which DRZ and MMFW explore a poem written about the Harvard bedmaker and sweeper from the early eighteenth century. The second more serious, in which SWF and SD tell the story of Mildred Fay Jefferson, the first Black woman to graduate from Harvard Medical School and a vigorous anti-abortion advocate. Finally, two relatable levities: In-person classes have brought back the experience of “section kid,” and YK interviews one of the most notorious section kids of all. And WSH and JKW follow up about the car that crashed into the semi-secret Sorrento Square social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine. You may notice there is no scrutiny or endpaper this week, but this slate of content more than makes up for it. Until next time, when there will be a slightly more normal composition. Love, MNW and OGO
This past year, Harvard refused to even consider Cornel R. West '74 — a towering Black intellectual figure who had been tenured at Harvard nearly 30 years before — for tenure. West's 50-year relationship with the University forces us to ask what, exactly, constitutes the “True Harvard”: prestige, endowment returns, a sprawling administration — or those who seek earnest dialogue and speak truth to power, the so-called “undisciplinables”?
Dear reader, The pandemic ceased not only printing but also in-person reporting. If we’ve been slowly working our way back, then this issue announces an emphatic return: JSA and HRTW, two of our executives, took the Amtrak from Boston to New York City to interview West, accompanied by SJL, who took original photographs for the piece. Their conversation lasted for over three hours and lays the foundation for an incisive and fastidiously-reported story that investigates why Harvard would not even consider a towering Black intellectual figure and activist for tenure when West already held that status nearly 30 years ago. The story asks what and who, exactly, constitute the “True Harvard”: prestige, endowment returns, a sprawling administration — or those who seek earnest dialogue and speak truth to power, the so-called “undisciplines”? (And their story is the cover of the first physical issue of Fifteen Minutes in nearly two years — last time we printed West was still at Harvard — coming to dining halls next week!) The issue contains a plethora of other content: in this week’s endpaper HNL gives us a moving, beautifully-written endpaper, one we both needed some time to sit with after reading, about hypochondria, blood tests, disease, and collective and individual responses to them. AHL and ASG go behind the scenes of the labs making Harvard’s Covid-19 high-frequency testing regimen possible. BWF reports on a march on Indigenous People’s day this past week. SWF and AKM tell us about the Harvard Project on the Socialist System, a project during the Cold War to interview Soviet refugees. Other stories explore different types and levels of access at Harvard’s campus, to physical space and community and spirituality; different student entrepreneurial endeavors and social media apps; and more. Read on, and if you’re lucky enough to be on Harvard’s campus (lucky not because being near Harvard is inherently good so much as because you’ll get to hold a physical copy of FM soon), look out for our October 2021 glossy in your dining hall! Love OGO and MNW