The University of Harvard has announced plans to change the last line of its 181-year-old “Fair Harvard” hymn because some people feel it is insufficiently inclusive.
The “Fair Harvard” anthem, which has been sung since the mid-1800s, is used by all incoming and leaving students of Harvard at commencements and other major events. It’s known sometimes to bring its performers arm-in-arm in a show of solidarity.
On Wednesday, however, it was announced that the anthem will undergo a 21st century update to change its last line,”Till the stock of the Puritans die”, in order to reflect the modern times.
“We are looking for the best poetic expression that the Harvard community can offer,” Danielle S. Allen, a professor in the department of government, told the Boston Globe. “The only thing that is changing is that line.”
Professor Allen criticized the line, claiming that while the whole point of the song is to highlight the commitment to the pursuit of truth, the pay off suggests such a goal is linked only to one group rather than everybody.
“The last few lines of the final verse do a wonderful job of connecting the student journey to the school’s mission,” she said. “But in fact, the pursuit of truth is for everybody.”
Currently the final verse, in full, is sung as follows:
Farewell! be thy destinies onward and bright!
To thy children the lesson still give,
With freedom to think, and with patience to bear,
And for Right ever bravely to live.
Let not moss-covered Error moor thee at its side,
As the world on Truth’s current glides by,
Be the herald of Light, and the bearer of Love,
Till the stock of the Puritans die.
The decision to update the song was mentioned last Wednesday during “The Afternoon of Engagement on Inclusion and Belonging,” according to the Harvard Crimson.
The university-sponsored gathering was part of a series of events conducted by the Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging aimed at finding out the causes of academic, professional and social isolation, and then enacting changes.
According to the statement on the website announcing the competition to change the lyric, it claims it’s “time for a change.”
“The Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging launched this competition to affirm that Harvard’s motto, Veritas, speaks to and on behalf of all members of our community, regardless of background, identity, religious affiliation, or viewpoint,” the statement added.