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The Citizen

Advice for the Modern HKS Student

Thank you for sending us your questions! Gagan Vaseer, The Citizen’s advice columnist, answers your questions with some lighthearted advice.

Question 1:

Gagan, I know you’re from India. I have heard that they keep elephants as pets there. Is it true?

Dear Student – You’re clearly a globally minded thought partner. It’s inquisitive questions that like this one that make me want to write this column. 

To answer your question, yes! In fact, Indian law requires that there be 2.4 elephants per person, and that every family have at least one elephant per child. As you can imagine, elephants require a lot of space and snacks, and the typical large family structure necessitated too many elephants. This proved to be too financially burdensome for many families, and is the reason India has seen a decline in fertility rates (by nearly 60% in the last 50 year). So now, we have fewer elephants as pets, as well as fewer children, in India. Knowledge is power.

Question 2:

Dear Gagan,
I was copied on an email (by mistake) sent between teaching staff that had a private complaint about a course. Is it unethical for me to share that information with a friend or two? 

An MPP student

Dear MPP – This is a real conundrum! Knowledge is power, and you seem to have knowledge that wasn’t meant to be yours. I recommend thinking back to all the useful things you learned in “The Responsibilities of Public Action” (i.e. Ethics) last year, and ask yourself: what would Kim Davis do? Now I’m no Kim Davis (I’m more a Kim Possible), but I would delete the email and not share the information with others. This information was sent to you inadvertently, and it would be distasteful to pass it along, no matter how juicy. We’ve all accidently sent emails or texts to the wrong person, and hoped that the wrongful recipient wouldn’t forward it. You should do the same. Being a gossip is not a good look on anyone, especially in the Boston winters when there are perhaps cuter looks out there.

Question 3:

I struggle with finding time to spend with my family. It gets too much: school work, part time jobs, thinking about life and career. How should I do create this balance in my life?

Dear Reader – It’s so unfortunate you don’t know how to manage your time – I fortunately cannot relate as I have perfected work life balance. Yet, for those who are not me (which includes you), I suggest looking back at why you chose to come to HKS? What were you hoping to get from your time here and, based on your current commitments, are you getting that? For many students the answer is clear no. HKS is all consuming, and it’s so easy to get involved in things that may not be relevant to your life (for me, it’s this advice column). So, before you also end up committing to write an advice column that no one except your roommate reads, stop and re-evaluate. Do you really need to do all the readings? Are your part time jobs getting you something you truly need (aside from money, of course)? Are you missing key family moments that you will regret? Work-life balance is a myth so don’t chase after that. Rather, determine your priorities, and let go of commitments that aren’t moving you to your personal or professional goals.

Question 4:
Is it true that there is free coffee at the student lounge or is it a myth?

Great question (and one that keeps many people awake). The rumors about the “free coffee” are in fact a myth so I suggest you cease your search for this elusive treasure, and switch to a more attainable beverage (unicorn tears make a wholesome beverage). But if you’re keen on procuring coffee, venture over to the Innovation Lab at the Business School. There you’ll find free coffee (we well as hot chocolate, soda, and snacks), and you can sign-up to help a few start-ups while you’re there. I’ve also heard the Law Library has free coffee late nights (and weekends) on the 4th floor.  However, may I suggest water instead? It’s this clear liquid that not enough people drink, but is readily available on campus.


Thanks you for sending us your questions. Please keep them coming at