Occupy Humanity

If doors are getting repeatedly and literally slammed in your face, odds are you’re either selling Girl Scout cookies in an anorexic neighborhood, or trying to find a bathroom in Harvard University’s Lamont library. I’m a bit old for girl-scouting so it isn’t hard to deduce which of these activities I just endeavored.

Harvard's Lamont Library
Harvard’s Lamont library. Not as pretentious on the outside as on the in. Image courtesy of wikimediacommons.org
 

Not only do Harvard students fail to fulfill the common courtesy of holding the door for the person passing through behind, they seemingly go out of their way to open the door just enough to squeeze themselves through, practically pulling it closed before you can take advantage of it’s openness and all-the-while dodging your eyes to evade any possible human interaction.

The bathrooms themselves try to intimidate.

They’re double-doored, with a claustrophobic vestibule pigeonholing those who don’t belong by extracting momentary bewilderment at the prospect of going through a second, redundant door before reaching the relief of a porcelain throne.

The entire ten-minute adventure was unnerving. The only human to risk eye-contact was the janitor, and her expression was more confused than kind in response to my extended arm propping the door open for her to pass behind me.

Perhaps I prostrated myself into the position of submissive lesser-being, but I think the reality is that, in the Mecca of educational hipsterdom, everyone is always better than you. But, in this sea of MacBooks, thick-rimmed glasses, ugly crocheted vests and cowboy boots, there swim some of the greatest minds of our generation’s future. Leaders of nations, changers of worlds, uncoverers of undiscovered needs, they are all here, within the red-bricked courtyards and ivy-covered walls of Harvard University. No facetiousness here, that’s the honest truth.

But with great power comes great responsibility. Either Benjamin Franklin, or Uncle Ben from Spiderman said so. Or maybe it was Voltaire. Regardless, whoever said it most definitely does not claim Harvard as his Alma Mater. If he did, the quote would read instead “with great power comes great pomp and pretense.”

My boyfriend is going into his third semester at Harvard, and told me last fall about something interesting that seems to prove my point that Harvard students are the epitome of douchebaggery. The Dean of Freshman, Thomas Dingman– whose name is almost as silly as his ideas– proposed that the students entering the college this past fall sign some ridiculous pledge to be kind, civil and inclusive to one another. Basically, he wanted them to agree to treat each other like human beings.

Since these kids were entering the 2015 graduating class at Harvard College, I assume they at one point all also graduated from kindergarten. Apparently, they spent the interim years filling their brains with such an amalgam of knowledge that their sharing-and-caring basics now eluded them. Wonder if he had them sign a pledge of potty-training, as well? It would at least explain the condescension my bathroom-quest incited.

(Minor digression: Considering themselves kind enough already, the freshman class gave Dingman  an old-fashioned Harvard “shove it” and refused to sign.)

I know that I am appalled in part because I feel inadequate on this campus. I am a bright girl, yes, but the chances of me becoming one of the brilliant, accomplished and influential people are quite slim compared to my likelihood to instead focus my energy on ridiculing them. And sure, I went to state college, which doesn’t open nearly as many doors as the Ivy League. But it also doesn’t slam as many in your face.

And anyhow, Harvard could open all the doors in the corridor to its graduates, but the university isn’t going to breach the thresholds for them. They’ve got the power, but lack Uncle Ben’s responsibility. Approaching passersby with the assumption of superiority may just trigger a wave of inefficacy on-campus, but outside Harvard yard it will get your iPad stolen, or punched in the jaw.

In Tarantino’s True RomanceBrad Pitt said it best. “Don’t condescend me, I’ll fucking kill you.”

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