Julie Hartman, a senior at Harvard, wrote an editorial for The Wall Street Journal torching the university’s “irrational pandemic restrictions,” and her fellow students’ inability “to question or oppose these irrational bureaucratic excesses.” She writes:
Harvard has required students to get vaccinated and boosted and test for Covid twice a week, hectored us to wear masks nearly everywhere, and banned students from several communal spaces, including dining halls at one point, and from having informal campus gatherings indoors with more than 10 people. Most of my classmates lost nearly a third of their time on campus. The aggregate burden of these measures over two years—combined with the discouraging realization that many of them do little to protect public health—has diminished our college experience.
More concerning than the administration’s heavy-handedness has been the zombielike response of the student body. I ask my friends, “Why do young, fully vaccinated students continue to tolerate these irrational Covid restrictions?” While many of my peers acknowledge the excess, they shrug it off. The prevailing mood on campus is resignation, learned helplessness and reluctance to dissent.
The administration has managed to implement all these measures without serious objection because of this hard truth: For most Harvard undergrads, our lives during Covid aren’t that different from the way they have always been.
To get into this university, we chose to detach ourselves from normal human experiences, neglecting our interests, hobbies, robust social lives—anything that couldn’t appear on a college application or be touted in an interview. Almost everything in life was subordinate to whatever was necessary to get into college. Once we arrived on campus, we certainly had more fun than we did in high school, but our tendency to conform hasn’t gone away, especially as we pursue our next goal, whether at Goldman Sachs or in graduate school. There is little difference between mask compliance and the grueling sports practices and marathon study sessions we did in high school. Covid restrictions are simply requirements we tolerate to attain the next credential.
For many of us, the Covid decrees over the past two years have been a relief. They have given us an excuse to retreat to our phones and computers, write papers and study for our GMATs. They allow us to avoid asking hard questions: Am I living the life I want to live? Have I put myself out there enough, taken enough risks, had enough fun?
Our life’s mission has been to please those who can grant or withhold approval: parents, teachers, coaches, admissions officers and job interviewers. As a result, many of us don’t know what we believe or what matters to us.
There is a smaller group at Harvard that apparently find pleasure in these restrictions. These students will chastise you for not wearing a mask correctly and called one of my brave peers who publicly denounced Harvard’s Covid restrictions a “eugenicist” because he supposedly showed insufficient sensitivity to immunocompromised people. They love Covid for the moral high ground it gives them to condescend to and control others.
My peers and I are often told that we are the future leaders of America. We may be the future decision makers, but most of us aren’t leaders. Our principal concern is becoming members of the American elite, with whatever compromises, concessions and conformity that requires. The inability of Harvard students to question or oppose these irrational bureaucratic excesses bodes ill for our ability to meet future challenges.
Action Line: Hartman’s stance against irrational restrictions is one that freedom-loving Americans can admire. If you’re serious about freedom, you can move away from politicians demanding the same sorts of irrational restrictions as Harvard University. Move instead to one of my Super States. If you need help getting motivated, click here to sign up for my free monthly Survive & Thrive letter. I’ll push you to get moving and to live your life of freedom. But only if you’re serious.
E.J. Smith - Your Survival Guy
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