What is Harvard University really doing for their minority and low-income students?

Placing a Magnifying Glass on Harvard

Once again, institutions like Harvard never fail to show us that amid crises like COVID-19, the poor will not be taken care of efficiently. It is the rich that are afforded the privilege of returning to the comforts of their home whilst the low-income groups are evicted from student housing and immediately, and disproportionately displaced. 

This is not a direct Harvard issue but more so a deeply rooted institutional issue existing in many universities, with Harvard being the main example to be looked at in this article. Light needs to be shed on this issue since many are unaware of what this dorm eviction truly means to those in need, those from low-income backgrounds, those from minorities and marginalized groups and those who rely on campus life to provide them with a safe and secure environment to perpetuate their learning. 

A Disequalized Campus 

The first piece of news that most found quite shocking was the abrupt notice of eviction: 5 days. Within these 5 short days, the students in residence had the hugely difficult and stressful task of gathering their belongings, finding transport and the manpower to pack and move these belongings to a new place of residence, whilst also locating accommodation that will accept them in this short time frame, and one that they can simultaneously afford. This was a tall order. 5 days was surely not enough allotted time. And if able to manage this, dorm students were treated as an aforementioned thought by the university, the question remained how would these displaced students maintain their GPA and overall continue education properly? If institutions had given the appropriate due consideration they would have come to see that many do not have access to the required resources such as internet services. In a country such as the United States where the economic disparities are so high, especially between ethnic groups and genders, it can be easy for many from privileged spheres to forget that the internet is not as easily accessible to many. Personal internet can be costly in regards to internet subscriptions, purchasing wireless routers, etc. With many libraries, coffee shops, and other public spaces closed, the accessibility to the internet narrows even further. 

Delving deeper into the labours of the disproportionately affected, you find that many students also relied on the university for student jobs. Without income from this employment, that coinciding with the general hiring freeze, and the tumultuous breaking down of the market economy, covering expenses for their new accommodations, food, and overall living expenses becomes a huge financial crisis. This partnered with the struggles of online classes fosters an anti-learning and misanthropic mindset among those negatively affected students. There are also the obvious issues that all students could face such as mental health issues, lack of access to healthcare (healthcare more often than not linked to employment status, and many students rely on campus healthcare and clinic services), increased risk of domestic violence; all in cahoots with the financial issues, therefore, leading to a low student resolve. 

Harvard’s Response

Whereas Harvard did attempt to combat some of these issues, many felt they did not do enough. They allowed certain extreme cases of international students to stay on campus, the university also reimbursed travel costs to students that were on financial aid, provided up to 200$ to students for shipping of belongings and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences extended academic due dates by a week. With all this in mind, Harvard did not take into account the handling of disenfranchised students efficiently. They also received an endowment of over $49 billion in 2019 and the help they provided is arguably not enough. 

Those Who Oppose

Another area of concern is how many have made the argument that attending prestigious universities and college programs like Harvard require students to have made financial arrangements for a rainy day, there have been comments surfacing online of some saying that they are in similar predicaments and if they themselves can handle it then others should be able to as well, that if others cannot afford internet they should have considered that before entering the elite educational hemisphere. 

What these spectators fail to encompass is empathetic understanding. What they fail to ask themselves is, in a society considered to be built upon the foundation of meritocracy, one that prides itself on the eradication of archaic socio-economic class hierarchies, one where anyone can achieve the so-called American dream, do students’ really need to compromise on the level of quality in education due to their financial backgrounds? Is this really the American dream, or is it simply a case of class-warfare?

Final Thoughts

Eventually, we will all be taking some part in institutional decision making so the last thought this article wishes to instil upon you today is to consider the circumstances of all, especially those who do not live under an umbrella of financial privilege.