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Harvard’s Dreamers have their say

Posted: 08 Feb 2018 03:17 PM PST

It was hardly the first time that undocumented students at Harvard stood in the spotlight, explaining their cause, but on Wednesday they took the stage to tell a more nuanced story of the immigrant experience than has been portrayed in the media.

Five students spoke at a brown-bag lunch at Robinson Hall on being "Undocumented at Harvard: Navigating Elite Academic Spaces." Three students from Mexico, one from Thailand, and one from South Korea talked candidly about the prevalence of narratives portraying "Dreamers" as both perfect immigrants and unwilling victims of circumstances — which in essence, they said, sets them apart from their parents, other relatives, and neighbors, who are sometimes depicted as "criminals."

Unlawful presence in the United States is not a crime but a violation of federal immigration law, and thus is punishable by civil penalties, such as deportation. But because of the high stakes and high emotions surrounding this issue, the Gazette decided to withhold the names of students taking part in the panel.

Dreamers are students who have been protected from deportation under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which was begun under the Obama administration and will be technically rescinded by the Trump administration on March 5, as sporadic negotiations debate what should happen next.

"The public tends to see the Dreamer as the poster child and neglect to see what's behind the wall," said one student, who was born in Mexico and raised in Texas, and is now a Ph.D. candidate at the Graduate School of Education (GSE). "Dreamers exist because of our parents' hard work and perseverance. We need to expand the conversation and include our family and community members. We need to make the table bigger so everybody can have a seat."

"The Dreamer narrative is that the young immigrant has to be perfect and a high achiever," said a Mexican-born student who grew up in California and is pursuing a master's degree at GSE. "I'm conscious we're perpetuating that idea by our being at Harvard, but there are other immigrants out there who deserve legal protection too, not only Dreamers."

"The story line is, 'Look at us, our parents brought us here,' so that people go, 'Poor you … We really want you here,'" said a College sophomore, a government concentrator who was also born in Mexico and raised in California. "We're seen as victims, and they victimize you the most to provoke empathy."

Kirsten Weld, one of the organizers of the DACA seminar and the John L. Loeb Associate Professor of the Social Sciences in the History Department, said the panel was an opportunity for undocumented students to tell their stories, in all their complexity, without media filters.

Buttons with 3.5.18
DACA will be technically rescinded by the Trump administration on March 5. Rose Lincoln/Harvard Staff Photographer

"Too often, the narrative around dreamers or DACA recipients is that they're spectacularly hardworking, but that story is told in isolation from the experiences of their parents," said Weld. "And actually, the successes and the hard work of these students is a testament to the work of their parents and their families."

The panel was organized by the DACA Seminar, a series of events on campus aimed at sparking conversation about the future of immigration policy and raising awareness about DACA. Currently there are 11 million illegal immigrants living in the United States, nearly 800,000 of whom have benefited from DACA.

As the deadline to rescind the program closes in, Democrats and Republicans have quarreled in Congress, unable to find a compromise. Democrats continue to support DACA, but Republicans have said they'll do so only if Democrats agree to immigration security protections, including funding a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.

On Wednesday the students said the uncertainty is taking a toll. Four of them are registered students under DACA, and one is not. DACA students cannot be deported and are allowed to obtain work permits and drivers' licenses.

"Every day is a roller-coaster," one student said. Another said she constantly worries about her parents, who live in fear. A third said he thinks about deportation all the time.

"I'm ready to go if I have to go," said the first-year Ph.D. student. "But I'm still here, and I'm still fighting."

The seminar was sponsored by the Harvard Graduate School of Education, the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, the Harvard Inequality in America Initiative, Harvard College Act on a Dream, and the Committee for Ethnicity, Migration, Rights.

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Brooms at the ready, Harvard’s curling team takes to the ice

Posted: 08 Feb 2018 12:13 PM PST

To understand the sport, picture a combination of darts, croquet, and bowling. Only there are brooms instead of mallets, and special nonslip shoes, and dart stand-ins that are finely polished granite stones weighing 40 pounds apiece, and they're slid along a long narrow strip of ice called a sheet to a bullseye that's called the house.

Got that? Good. You're ready for curling season.

Friday marks the opening of the Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, where one of the winter competition's quirkier events will again attract viewers who often start off unsure what to make of it, and end up fans. Many who give it a try are instantly hooked. Just ask Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis or Harvard junior Neekon Vafa, president of the Harvard University Curling Team.

Vafa paid little attention to the sport during the Winter Olympics in Russia in 2014, but when he connected with Harvard's team his sophomore year to cross curling off the bucket list he drafted in high school, he caught the bug and "has been doing it ever since."

The Harvard curling team sets up during practice.

Credit: Kai-Jae Wang/Harvard Staff

Step on the ice and experience curling in a 360-degree video on Facebook.


"It's a game of inches," and similar to any sport that requires accuracy, precision, and repetition, said Vafa, a joint concentrator in math and computer science who loves the tactics involved in the game some call "chess on ice."

"You've really got to think through what exactly the best shot is given the likelihood the [other team] can make certain shots and the strategy that they might have."

Whichever team gets more of its stones closer to the center of the target on the ice, wins.

Harvard's team travels to New York and Maine for tournaments, or bonspiels. They practice and play their home events at the Broomstones Curling Club in Wayland. The Crimson curling program is small, in part because most people arrive on campus with little or no experience in it. "The interest in general for curling isn't necessarily too high. That's something we're definitely trying to change," said Vafa.

Their record at last year's national competition may have helped boost their numbers. The team finished fourth in the country at the 2017 USA College Championships.

The upcoming Olympics could help, too. This year, Vafa said, there's more interest in the team, "and we are excited for what could happen." 

On Friday, the U.S. mixed-doubles Olympics curling team takes on Switzerland.

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Smith Campus Center renovation on track as food vendors are named

Posted: 08 Feb 2018 10:58 AM PST

A diverse array of food options will populate the first floor of the newly renovated Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center (SCC), which remains on track for its grand opening later this year.

Pavement Coffeehouse, Swissbäkers, Bon Me, Whole Heart Provisions, Blackbird Doughnuts, Saloniki, and Oggi Gourmet will all open for business in the early fall.

"Food and drink play a central role in bringing people together, and I am pleased that members of the Harvard — and Harvard Square — community will have so many options when the Smith Campus Center reopens," said Harvard President Drew Faust. "It is exciting to imagine the kinds of conversations and collaborations that will be sparked in the new venues, and I am grateful to the many, many people who provided input and made this important project possible."


Topping off Smith Campus Center

Traditional building ceremony highlights midpoint of construction project

Smith Campus Center, re-envisioned

Public views first designs for creating central University gathering spaces

Plans for Smith Campus Center

Designers hope to add common spaces, eating options, roof terrace

During the past several years, planners have met with hundreds of people — including multiple groups of students, faculty, staff, and community members — to hear suggestions and develop guiding principles for the types of amenities that should be included in the project. An overwhelming consensus emerged: potential vendors must be simultaneously sustainable, local, healthy, and diverse, and have significant experience running successful food venues.

The criteria gave the project's planners a clarity of mission.

"When we were developing the food program for the Smith Campus Center we sought to engage and work with food operators who were excited by the idea of partnering with Harvard in a way that was more than just signing a lease," said Meredith Weenick, vice president for campus services. "The selected vendors are as committed as we are to the bigger picture, and their goals align with ours — goals of being sustainable, welcoming, and an integral part of the wider Harvard community."

The University required that the restaurants sign green-building leases, ensuring that their practices align with the standards outlined in Harvard's Sustainability Plan.

The focus groups also requested that the atmosphere of the new space be casual and comfortable. With hearty, "feel-good" fare throughout the day, and more than 800 indoor and outdoor seats, the new space will meet that criteria.

"We're excited to be part of the Harvard community and Harvard Square as a whole," said Eric Papachristos, owner of Saloniki. "We feel the diversity of the neighborhood, young and old, residents and tourists, students and professors … it's the perfect cross-section of what is going on in today's world — and we are honored to be able to feed this community

"We believe that our focus on culture, service, and integrity of our food will be a great addition to what is already happening in the Square," he added.

Layout of the new eateries in the renovated Smith Campus Center.

Credit: Hopkins Architects

The owners of Blackbird Doughnuts agreed.

"As a home-grown, Boston-based artisanal doughnut shop, Blackbird's focus has been in Boston proper. When presented with the opportunity to open in the Smith Campus Center and iconic Harvard Square, we jumped," said owner Rebecca Roth Gullo. "The Smith Campus Center will be the crown jewel of Harvard Square and we are thrilled that Blackbird will be smack in the center of it. The area has so much going on — diversity, history, national exposure, and we are so excited to be part of the recent growth."

Bon Me has operated a food truck on Harvard's campus since 2013 and co-owner Patrick Lynch is "thrilled" to be among the first-floor vendors. "This project is exactly the type of dynamic and vibrant space that we love to be a part of, and our healthy and unique Asian food should be a great addition to the campus and Harvard Square," he said.

Harvard has finalized lease negotiations with all of the food operators, and vendors have received the necessary zoning approvals.

Denise Jillson, executive director of the Harvard Square Business Association, said the renovated center "will significantly add to the diverse and exciting character that exists throughout Harvard Square. We appreciate Harvard's willingness to shape that project in a way that reflects the extensive dialogue and input from all community partners."

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Randi Griffin ’10 joins unified women’s hockey team at Olympics

Posted: 08 Feb 2018 10:27 AM PST

Former Harvard women's hockey player Randi Griffin '10 will play for the unified Korean women's ice hockey team at the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, according to Harvard Athletics.

Griffin is a dual citizen of the United States and South Korea and was a four-year letter winner for the Crimson 2006‒10. In 125 career games, the Apex, N.C., native collected 21 goals and 18 assists for 39 points. During her senior season, Griffin was a finalist for the ECAC Hockey Student-Athlete of the Year Award; led the Crimson in power-play goals and tied for 10th in the nation (with seven); ranked fourth on the team with 21 points; and scored a power-play goal in the 2010 NCAA quarterfinals against Cornell.

Following the decision to have a unified North and South Korean hockey team, the expectations were that a contingent of North Korean players would join the 23-member South Korean roster. The South Korean national team is currently ranked 22nd in the world by the International Ice Hockey Federation and is coached by Sarah Murray, who played for the University of Minnesota-Duluth from 2006‒2010.

The two Koreas will march together in the Olympics opening ceremonies on Friday. The unified women's ice hockey team will play a preliminary round against Switzerland on Saturday and play Sweden on Sunday. The Pyeongchang Olympics run from Saturday through Feb. 25.

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