By Alexander Jones – firstname.lastname@example.org
Harvard has a tradition of educating America’s elite. Indeed the cream of youth from many other countries aspires to studying in this famous University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Just recently the President of Turkey, Abdullah Gul and his wife attended their son Mehmet’s graduation on the day when George H. Bush, the former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and legendary soul singer Aretha Franklin received honorary doctorates.
It is likely that the Class of 2014 will contain many who will lead prominent lives in the years to come yet a voluntary survey of their opinions and experiences suggests that they are much the same as the rest of us. The Crimson’s annual survey seeks the thoughts of those about to leave Harvard for a career in a wide range of sectors. Many of those graduating identified similar issues that face people whose lives have never included the privilege of attending such an institution. Around half of the graduates responded and their concerns and opinions broadly reflect those of society.
Those in minority racial groups admitted to feeling marginalized at times and some 40% of all students had sought mental health advice during their time at Harvard. Their views were fairly modern, reflected well by huge support for same sex marriage. One thing was clear, despite the range of problems many had faced virtually all would happily study at Harvard if they were given their time again.
The survey wanted to know the graduates’ plans in the immediate future. The majority intended to start a career immediately with many deciding to stay on the Eastern seaboard. As a Harvard Graduate their expectations of a starting salary were higher than the average of graduates countrywide.
The US Economy of course suffered with every other after the Collateralized Debt Obligation (CDO) Crisis led to worldwide recession. While the National Economy has grown once again recent figures suggest that the first quarter of 2014 has seen the worst performance in three years. It can only partly be explained by the particularly cold weather. No one is suggesting a return to recession and subsequent signs are positive but it does mean these new graduates are going out into an environment where there is still much work to be done.
Some 30% that enter the business world choose finance and consulting as a career. It has usually been the case except for the immediate years after the CDO Crisis when many famous financial institutions were under extreme pressure. Indeed several business sectors sought fewer graduates at that time. While the number of men and women looking to go into consulting are broadly equal in most of the other business sectors there are many more men looking for careers than women. The disparity does not end there. Men are expected to earn an appreciably higher starting salary than women in similar positions.
The Survey identified that the graduates have been drawn from a diverse range of social and ethnic backgrounds. However it was far more likely that white undergraduates at Harvard had parents or relations formerly studying at Harvard than those from non white or minority groups. As previously mentioned several respondents stressed that they felt uncomfortable on campus at times for a variety of reasons, not always immediately apparent. Race however remains a factor.
Cheating and Honor
This year’s graduates have lived through the time when there have been serious questions about honesty and honor on campus. There have been instances of cheating at Harvard and 17% of those surveyed admitted to cheating in some form during their studies. That figure was around half of that from the 2013 Survey. However when students were asked whether they thought that others were cheating in some way over half thought that to be the case. A new honor code has been approved which will not affect those that have graduated. In the Survey there was a feeling that this Code would not have changed their own behavior.
University life is not all study. While respondents would not want to emphasis it on their CVs, they broadly admitted to enjoy drinking. Almost 50% said they drank twice or more a week with males and females belonging to clubs more likely to enjoy drinking regularly. Several respondents admitted that they had used marijuana but when it came to hard drugs the figure reduced to around 13%.
When questioned about sex, a fifth admitted to being virgins and only a small percentage claimed to have had more than the average one or two partners during their time at Harvard. Pornography clearly seems to be more popular with males than females; the ratio is approximately 10 to 1.
Sexual assault is an issue that was addressed. 12% of women said they had suffered some form of sexual assault though a very small minority of them actually reported the incident. Indeed it seems that 95% of incidents never reach the ears of the authorities. Only 2% of men said they had suffered a similar assault.
Mental health issues were widespread with students in any minority group far more likely to have sought help than the white heterosexual. There was far more satisfaction at the help received from someone outside the Campus than from the University Health Services incidentally.
Massachusetts votes Democrat and a high proportion of the Class of 2014 is liberal both in its politics and its attitude to modern day issues. The percentage reduces from almost 60% when the figures for those entering the financial sector are analyzed. Financiers seem to be inclined the other way with only 25% admitting an affinity to liberalism. Support for the current Administration remains far higher within the Class of 2014 than within society as a whole.
There have been a number of significant events during this Class’s time at Harvard. They include the cheating scandal, a huge renovation project and the replacement of two College Deans. The Survey asked for views on a few of these things to try to find student opinion. As individual events they probably do not tell us as much as the answers to broader issues which will figure in the student days of the Classes of 2015, 2016 and onwards.