The past year has been one of tumult, filled with determination and false starts; redoubled efforts and hesitation; tear- and joy- filled phone and Zoom calls filling the physical and emotional gaps of this pandemic — often many hours longer than would otherwise be necessary, but never long enough; shattering loss, and grief, and outrage at the violence so many are subjected to every day, the virus stripping bare inequities from police brutality to economic precarity to plain neglect; and, in the face of that subjugation, magical moments of outrage and movement and love. So for our final issue, we have selected the theme “falter” — and everything the term carries with it: To dream, and plan, and set out. To stop, be blocked, or get lost along the way. To lose or abandon hope; and recognizing that which is false. Leaning and providing support. Reflection: A change in directions, perhaps a circling back. And, when and if possible, to recover. Or, if preferable, to reimagine.
Dear reader, It’s hard to believe this is our last regular issue of the semester — hopefully, the last regular issue we publish in a virtual production cycle (knock on wood!). Through waxing and waning energy and Zoom fatigue, our staff’s content has not wavered. This week, we are excited to bring you: Three lovely conversations: AVM talks to Donna Leet about a non-Covid-19 vaccine that may be just as exciting — potentially, for cancer. GJP talks to Pfoho building manager Mario León about his decade-plus at Harvard and now famous Instagram. DCB profiles William Tsutsui ’85, a Harvard professor and among the world’s leading Godzilla scholars. SPM and a series of other writers compile 36 absurd questions asked of students in admissions interviews at elite colleges — guess which are real, and which are not! KNR explores how so many Americans (and Canadians) idealize Canada, and the historic and ongoing power dynamics and inequities that obfuscates. And CHG, in a caring, funny, and thought-provoking endpaper, tells about her own love of cuddling and talks about cuddling with some cuddling experts (we also did not know such a thing existed before, but now we can’t get enough). Two necessary investigative pieces, both of which the writers have been working on for months now, ground this issue: In our cover story, CJC, MX, and SSL profile four Harvard workers — a project that began as a way to profile and lend a human face to those affected by a 30% pandemic-time pay cut to idled workers at the University, but evolved into a recognition that such a starting premise was false. These four stories — involving not just Harvard but baking, painting, tattoos, entrepreneurship, family, faith — need telling regardless of the pay cut, regardless of the pandemic. This magazine profiles fifteen interesting seniors each December, but these stories matter just as much. Give them the love and care they deserve. And in another scrutiny, TMB and JDRL spend weeks diving into the pervasive homelessness in Cambridge and how the pandemic has affected the lives of the unhoused. They also speak with advocates, elected officials, and many more — painting a nuanced picture of a problem the pandemic has brought into sharp focus but which always existed, and the heated and complex debates that go into trying to work out solutions. Take care these last few weeks of the semester. With love, OGO + MNW
Dear reader, We apologize for bringing you this issue a few days late. Although there were some snafus on our production end, as we near the end of a virtual semester and Zoom fatigue sets in, our staff’s content remains as strong as ever. This issue includes two thorough and fascinating retrospections: SJL and KNF tell the story of mini dioramas of Harvard that used to be in Widener and are currently under restoration, and SWF and VX tell us about huge controversies and protests over Students for a Just Peace, a group of conservative students in the 1970s that aimed to provide a platform for pro-Vietnam War perspectives. Both also have stunning archival images. We have two great features: ZL profiles HerCapital, an organization that seeks to empower female investors, and TCK talks to Alex Corey about being a non-tenure faculty member during a pandemic. A slate of inquiries and introspections to make you think, cry, and laugh: SSI tells the moving story of her relationship with her grandmother and love across language barriers. MSB writes about a friendship that fell apart. LJR takes a critical eye to Hawaii’s tourism industry. And KNR writes about the beauty assigned to ethnic and racial types, and how those perceptions affect the people scripted into those types. KNR also brings us a beautiful “Visions” piece reflecting on related experiences. As thought-provoking, but also witty and hilarious, is HRTW’s set of mock Harvard NFTs. Buy one today! Finally, grounding the issue is EDP’s incisive, personal, and intellectually powerful exploration of race and Harvard’s final clubs — not the usual take, of their racial exclusivity, but the ways in which students of color inhabit those spaces and how their existence within final clubs forces us to rethink how race, gender, status, and exclusivity function on our campus. If you’re near campus, we recommend taking a walk and keeping an eye out for the bluebells, which bloomed recently and won’t be around much longer. And regardless, take care! Until next time, MNW+OGO
Dear reader, We wish you well and hope you and your loved ones are taking care in ways that don’t involve ancestors or orientalist tea ceremonies (unfortunately a very real reference, not an April Fool’s joke). This week we have a strong slate of content (as always): Three conversations this week: MX profiles Kelly Yang, HLS alum and author of “Parachutes,” about her experiences with sexual assault and Title IX at the Law School and how those have changed her conceptions of law and justice. AL and HNL talk to the brilliant and controversial George Church and his attempts to revive the woolly mammoth. And GJP and EHS profile Regina Schouten, a philosopher whose work focuses on the gendered division of labor. We also bring you not one, but two much-needed levities: A lambasting of Harvard’s (un?)wellness day scheme from CSB and a brilliant poem about one of our lesser-known presidents, Chester A. Arthur from SWF. And two hard-hitting scrutinies! First up, AVM and SSI (or should we say MVP, coming out with her second scrut in three weeks?!) profile the experiences of Harvard graduate students, often believed to belong to an academic privileged elite, with acute food insecurity both before and during the pandemic, asking how we can balance short term mutual aid with longer term transformations to housing and food systems. Meanwhile, JSA goes “into the weeds” of the budding recreational cannabis industry in Cambridge, mapping a complex web of dynamics between large and small businesses and various government actors to probe questions about how to locate equity in a competition and scarcity driven market in gorgeous structure and style that would make the New Yorker jealous. And, in the wake of the shootings in Atlanta and sharp rise in anti-Asian hatred of the past several months, SSL explores her own and other students’ relationships to the coronavirus pandemic, the ungraspable notion of “Asian America,” racial hatred, and how one can even begin to consider, let alone tell or unravel, these stories. It is required reading. Finally, check out the next episode of MNW and OGO’s podcast, about the 1980 Study of Race Relations at Harvard College — one of the first Harvard diversity reviews — which MNW has been pitching as a story for over two years. Until next week, and with love, MNW + OGO
Dear Reader: With the arrival of spring — and with it, the increase of vaccinations each day, inching towards herd immunity — comes hope for a future that looks much brighter than this past year. This week, the first non-white, non-male person was made Mayor of Boston, Kim Janey, heralding a new era of Boston city politics. And, in November, Boston will elect its next mayor, from a list of contenders dominated by women and people of color. One frontrunner is City Councillor Michelle Wu ’07, who brings with her an outsider’s vision for the city, and an ambitious Green New Deal. In our cover story this week, MVE tells the story of Wu’s Green New Deal, and the history of environmental injustice in Boston that it attempts to reckon with. The story is an intimate look at the qualities that shape Wu as a person and politician; it’s also a portrait of a city charging into the future. Looking toward the future requires, too, a deepened relationship with the past. In his scrutiny this week, SJL explores the legacy of the Ku Klux Klan at Harvard, and its absence from current explorations of Harvard’s relationship to slavery and racism. The piece attempts to fill this gap in our knowledge of Harvard’s history, and ponder why the gap exists at all. But, at the same time, one can reach a point with study and research and reflection that stymies action. In the podcast “Under Review,” MNW and OGO — yes, hosted by your very chairs! — explore how Harvard responds to racism at the University: with a diversity review. In our first episode, out today, we explore an incident of police violence at 2018 Yardfest and its implications on diversity, inclusion, and policing at Harvard. You can listen to the podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts. Our reported and introspective pieces this week are also truly delightful. CHG writes of World Puppetry Day and the unconventional life path of a Harvard-grown puppeteer. GJP and KIS profile Nina Skov Jensen, an incoming Harvard student who has painted portraits of Danish royalty and is a prominent advocate for autistic people. In his Inquiry, HRTW draws an interesting connection between finance TV personality Jim Kramer and the mistrust that fueled the Gamestop stock controversy. In the third installment of her column (wow!), SNT, contemplates self-deprecating humor and deflection. ZBRG writes an Introspection about the irony of being an English major who doesn’t usually read for fun. And in her Endpaper, NIP describes the experience of belonging and not belonging in the community from which she comes. Read this issue, contemplate the pulls to the past and toward the future — the tensions of hope and loss that define this moment — and then go outside and watch the flowers bloom. With love, OGO + MNW
Dear reader, The past few days have been extremely difficult, marred by the murders in Atlanta that are only the latest in a devastating wave of anti-Asian violence. We wish you all the best amidst the awful violence and much of the horrendous rhetoric surrounding it. We also find hope in the outpouring of support for AAPI people and communities. We cannot allow racism, sexism, or hatred in any form. If you have the time, energy, and will, we have an excellent slate of stories this week. Written before Tuesday’s shootings, LJR writes a moving piece on the dissonance between anti-Asian racism and recognition of Asian American media. MX launches a thorough investigation into the safety and regulatory backdrop that led to the recent death of two utility workers — and also closes the issue with a heart-wrenching endpaper on her uncle’s cancer diagnosis. On the lighter side, FJH and AL write a sweet introspection on the 25th anniversary of Pokémon that will hearten fans everywhere. We have a few great Conversations pieces: KIS talks to Ted Kaptchuk, a Harvard professor and leading researcher on the placebo effect. GJP and RNWO profile Allanah R.J. Rolph ’23-’24 and her upcoming book, “Radical Redneck.” And DCB and KNJ profile Peter Kerre, an activist, DJ, and extension school student leading incredible efforts in NYC. HRTW, bringing strong levity content as usual, has some fun with the Economics department t-shirt slogans. Two powerful scrutinies ground this week’s issue, both delving into Harvard’s troubled past. GWO and MHM take a new approach to Tamara K. Lanier’s struggle with Harvard over ownership of daguerreotypes of her ancestor, Renty. The court case, Lanier v. Harvard, has the potential to set a momentous precedent in the case for reparations for American slavery, what civil rights attorney believes may be the most important civil rights case since Brown v. Board. More than just a legal exploration, their article tells the human story of the Laniers in a way that has not been done before. And SSI, in a related piece, writes a powerful and revealing retrospective scrutiny about Louis Agassiz, the Harvard biologist responsible for taking the daguerreotypes of Renty against his will and who is infamous for promoting racist theories of polygenism. Diving deep into Agassiz’s life and psychology, and all the people and circumstances that influenced him, she debunks and complicates the “great man” myth that has come to surround his legacy. Again, please take care. We send all of our love to our readers, their friends, their family. We send support to all of our AAPI friends, family, and communities. Until next week, MNW+OGO
Dear Reader, It’s been a year since we left campus. A long, hectic, semi-miserable year — and a year in which we grew nonetheless. In this special issue, our writers tell us where they’ve been and what they’ve felt in this year like no other. Along with the content of our special issue, we have some excellent reported pieces. From TCK, we’ve got a look into the work of Dr. Staci Gruber on the merits of CBD. FYH and OGW spoke to a graduate student whose way of life bears striking similarity to “Nomadland.” EMB tells us how, every week, the Harvard Knitting Circle comes together and builds community via fiber arts. For those critical of competitive debate, SLL takes a look at what Ethics Bowl is doing differently. And in her inquiry, TMB explores the YouTuber “Classically Abby,” and her convoluted image of womanhood, Jewishness, and conservatism. Central to this issue is the varied perspectives of Crimson writers on the past year, which range from introspective writing, to fiction (FM’s first ever?!), to photographs. TMB slows us down to the pace of her newest roommates: a pair of kittens. VTP writes on why our favorite (slightly embarrassing) films feel so comforting in this time of uncertainty. HRTW hits us with a truly funny – and surprisingly poignant — piece about none other than the 2006 MIT Integration Bee. FYH describes a shift in her appreciation for classical music, conveying the way this year has pushed us to reassess and appreciate the old in a new light. HL revisits her tendency for existential crises; LJR explores the way her sense of her own femininity has been reshaped by stress and solitude. In a series of vivid, strangely sanitized photographs, JEI captures something ineffable about the early days of quarantine. ZBRG goes where no FM writer has gone before, and imagines the perspective of an elementary schooler in the era of COVID-19. OGO writes about a stint in dishwashing at a time when sanitation is the name of the game. And IBC captures the longing of a freshman who has yet to experience college on campus. We’d like to imagine this issue as a kind of time capsule, one which we’ll dig up in years to come, and marvel at the world it represents. Another year will pass — where will we be? Until next week, OGO + MNW
One year has passed since Harvard closed its campus due to the coronavirus, sending Fifteen Minutes writers across the globe. In this special collection of essays and creative pieces, FM staff reflects on the past 12 months — at once dreamlike, all-too-real, and everything in between.