The Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging has announced three finalists in the competition to revise the final line of Harvard’s alma mater. The finalists were selected out of a pool of 20 longlisted entries by a panel of distinguished judges, including Professor of English Stephanie Burt ’94, Broadway conductor and director Kurt Crowley ’06, Black List founder Franklin Leonard ’00, Professor of African and African American Studies Marcyliena Morgan, and Professor of Music Carol J. Oja.
The University will determine which of the three final entries will become an official part of the alma mater. The winning choice will be announced at the start of spring semester.
The Task Force launched the competition to affirm that Harvard’s motto, Veritas, speaks to and on behalf of all members of the Harvard community, regardless of background, identity, religious affiliation, or viewpoint. The University’s alma mater is a powerful element in its repertoire of rituals, anchoring its culture and values and framing each student’s Harvard experience: It is a living symbol used to welcome each incoming Harvard College class, and to celebrate the conclusion of each class’ journey at Commencement.
The three entries work within the constraints of the rhymes, rhythm, and sense of the existing alma mater lyrics to convey the accessibility and value of the pursuit of truth to people from all backgrounds and to affirm the University’s commitment to inclusive excellence.
The line to be replaced reads, “Till the stock of the Puritans die.” The metaphor of the final line fails in its own aspiration to project a valuable Puritan commitment to education into the future. The line reduces human experience to biology with the word “stock,” and ties the commitment to education to ethnic lineage and to the rise and fall of racial groupings.
This is not the first time the alma mater has been altered. In 1998, the lyrics were adapted, also through a community competition, to achieve gender inclusivity. The campus community also no longer employs the middle verses of the alma mater, and has not done so for many years.