Let’s Check Our Privilege



Acknowledge the immense indulgence that Harvard affords us already.

Having multiple friends run for UC presidency comes with its perks (read: costs). Meals have lately been swamped with discourse concerning the UC’s precise place in the axis of student life. Of particular interest have been the initiatives that the UC can and should take place as a way of sustaining (or building) its relevance within the student community. Rabbits have been pulled out of magic hats; the most creative (and platform-worthy) projects have been strategized in the course of a single meal. But in the course of these intrepid conversations, there is an aspect that has made its absence felt like one big sore thumb — an aspect that we, as students and as individuals need to ask: do we really need most of these projects?

‘Check your privilege’ is a trump card bandied all too often in a campus as invisibly divided along the fracture points of race and class as ours. It’s application assumes varying contexts: for the most part, with good reason; for just as many times, as a lazy one way street out of an argument. However, rarely do we ever question our own dispensations as members of the larger Harvard community; never do we pause to say, “Let’s check our own collective privilege.”

As students at the world’s most affluent university, we enjoy a range of facilities across and are coddled with freedoms that would be unimaginable in any university across the world. Having spent all my life in a third world country, I do grant that my perspective on things might be a tad skewed. For my defense, however, I have travelled extensively, and acquainted students in major countries across their world. It irks me, therefore, when I hear friends and fellow students griping about their repulsively Harvard-world concerns.

Some of these egregious concerns that I would like to call out include the lack of nap rooms on campus, the lack of fresh fruit at breakfast, the lack of funding for more a extracurricular and so on. We already have libraries in the yard with furnishings that would beat 99 out of every 100 libraries in the world; the said libraries already contain the requisite apparatus for rejuvenation. But privilege only breeds privilege, and we find our selves requiring an actual room with actual beds. Given that college is supposed to be a form of segue to the world beyond, should we not be training to live life the way it would be lived outside our beloved Ivy? Rarely have I heard of workplaces having nap places. You work, and you go back — just as you should study, and go back.

Many of these concerns stem understandably from the obsession with the incredibly privileged viewpoint that college is more an experience than it is an academic journey; an extended experience that needs to be made as painless as possible with little frills and cheap thrills. Therefore, we ask ourselves pleading the administration for 250K to allot to more extracurricular activities on top of the existing pipeline of funding they receive — do we even need more than half of these groups? I’ve had multiple friends ‘found’ new groups purely with the intentions of padding their resumes for law and/or medical schools. There is also a general obsession with extracurriculars on our campus that needs to be checked; it was Harvard’s reputation as an academic utopia that impelled me into applying, and ultimately attending this place. I have, however, observed that most students barely breeze through their academics to accommodate for their extracurriculars; rather than adjusting their extracurriculars to accommodate for their academics, which should always come out top. We should be content with the present levels of official funding that extracurricular activities receive, which by itself is gregariously appalling; in an ideal world (or in the real world and in the world outside Harvard and the Ivies) such activities receive as minimum of a funding as possible; if enough people are passionate about it, they will always find ways to raise money for it.

That being said, the UC serves the will of its constituents — the students, and will naturally demand more when the students demand more. So the next time we make a demand, whether in a grumble to a friend or in an editorial in the Crimson, let us place things in perspective, and be thankful for everything this beautiful place has already given us and continues to give us.

Aditya Agrawal, ‘17 ([email protected]) is asking everyone to check themselves.