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A Halloween Message from Dean Khurana

Rakesh Khurana, seen here waiting for people to show up to his birthday party, is the Dean of Harvard College.

Dear Harvard College students,

Like all of you, I have been anticipating the end of October with a combination of excitement and apprehension. As we all know, on the 31st of this month people around the world will be celebrating Halloween, and the coming of hordes of prepubescent trick-or-treaters has prompted me to reflect on the scary things in life. And while there are certainly many frightening things this Halloween season—Ebola, clowns, people with disproportionately long limbs—I’d like to suggest that there’s only one thing that should truly terrify you: the haunting specter of an empty life.

Like a ghost hovering above your bed, you are faced with the possibility that, because of the misguided decisions you make here in college, you will find yourself twenty years later, wandering through the streets of the Big City like so many anonymous souls, a stranger to yourself and to all around you. You will look in the mirror, and the reflection shows a shadowy figure is peering at you from behind your shoulder: its name is Regret. On a stormy night, the noise of the branches of the tree knocking against your window will keep you awake into the wee hours, but when you turn around to face the window a flash of lightning will allow you to glimpse, not the innocuously swaying trees, but rather the leering visage of what Might Have Been.

But there is a way to avoid this fate.

At this year’s Convocation, I mentioned the difference between a transactional education and a transformational education. A transactional education is characterized by adding lines to your resume, accepting the status quo, and, in the process, skimming the surface of what a Harvard education has to offer. On the other hand, a transformational education is when your classes and extracurricular activities cause you to metamorphose into a new, meaningful entity, like a public health worker or a salamander.

I urge you to choose this path, especially now, during the reflective season of Halloween. I have also organized a focus group, which I invite you to join. I haven’t really decided what we’re going to talk about yet, but it should be fun.



Dean Khurana

© 2014