Dear Members of the Class of 2023,
This is it — the moment you, your family, and all of us have been waiting for — move-in day. The excitement has been building throughout the Yard and across campus this past week as we prepare for your arrival. We are delighted to welcome you home to Harvard.
As you navigate these next few days, you will have many new experiences. The transition to college can be exciting but also stressful, and it is important to take good care of yourself as you get acclimated to Harvard. If you are worried about something, or if you have questions about the College or your experiences here, we encourage you to talk to your proctor, resident dean, academic advisor, or peer advising fellow. We are all here to support you, and we hope that you will all support each other.
At Harvard, you will be joining a lively intellectual community where debate is an important part of learning. Hearing each other’s points of view, having our own assumptions challenged, and interrogating our own values are experiences central to Harvard’s liberal arts and sciences education. When we gather to address difficult questions, we may disagree, and we may encounter ideas that make us uncomfortable. The temptation to drown out those ideas can be strong. At the same time, we need to be open to different ways of knowing and understanding, and to the possibility that our perspective will change when we encounter new evidence and better arguments. And we must remember that even in difficult moments, we are deserving of each other’s respect and compassion.
With that in mind, I want to bring to your attention the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences guidelines on free speech, which I think provide a useful framework for thinking about how we exchange ideas on this campus. These guidelines acknowledge the tension between maintaining a civil and respectful campus and remaining open to a wide range of views, and discuss both individual rights and responsibilities in our context. Allowing someone to speak does not mean we condone what they are saying, and it does not absolve that person or group from consequences. At the same time, we all share the responsibility for creating a community in which we interact with respect, integrity, and compassion — and with an openness to the possibility of changing our minds. As you prepare to join our diverse community, I ask you to remember these values.
Each of us can take an active role in shaping the community we would like to see at Harvard and beyond. I cannot wait to meet you and to begin our conversations as the fall term begins.
Danoff Dean of Harvard College