My 30th Harvard College reunion is in October. I plan to attend to see good friends and share great memories. Harvard asked for a donation. When I did not respond, they asked for a smaller one. Finally, the alumni office asked for just $10 as a sign of support.
But I will not give $10 to Harvard and want to explain why.
The headlines from American campuses raise concern and often strain credulity. My hope on reading these stories is always that my school will set a standard to which others might repair. Recent examples prove Harvard has not.
The Harvard Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion recently distributed a â€œplacemat guide for holiday discussions on race and justice with loved onesâ€ to help students reform their parentsâ€™ bigoted views. Last week, the university extended a fellowship to a dishonorably discharged, 17-count felon and traitor to the nation. Disbelief followed by widespread indignation ensured the rescinding of the placemats and the invitation to Chelsea Manning. But astonishment lingers at the void of common sense, or mutated presumptions, necessary for them to have occurred in the first place.
The equally Orwellian Presidential Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging decided that the word â€œPuritansâ€ (Harvardâ€™s founders belonged to that sect) must be excised from the lyrics of the schoolâ€™s 181-year-old anthem. The Task Force made the 1984 analogy unmistakable by adding, â€œan endorsed alternativeâ€ would be created, â€œthe goal is to affirm what is valuable from the past while also re-inventing that past to meet and speak to the present moment.â€
In late 2015 Harvard removed the title â€œhouse masterâ€ from what are essentially residential advisers, a title that reflected Harvardâ€™s Oxford and Cambridge roots. The administration announced that although â€œwhat came before was not wrongâ€ as the â€œacademic context of the term has always been clear,â€ and even though the tradition was â€œbelovedâ€ by many alumni, the university would nevertheless abolish the title because â€œthe general feelingâ€ is that it â€œcauses discomfort.â€
Harvard joined the mania for erasing disfavored historical references, removing the Royall Crest at the Law School. Harvard also authorized its first â€œBlack Commencementâ€ in 2017. Organizers explained the event was â€œnot about segregationâ€ but â€œbuilding a community.â€ Wouldnâ€™t a single, unified graduation do that? How can anyone who abhors racial division in America see separate graduations as a step forward?
To wide alarm, the administration announced it would withhold scholarship support and prohibit students from becoming team captains or leaders of student organizations if they joined finals clubs (private organizations similar to fraternities and sororities). Harry Lewis, former dean of the college and a computer science professor, called the plans â€œdangerous new groundâ€ and â€œa frightening prospect.â€
â€œUsing â€˜nondiscriminationâ€™ as a cudgel against studentsâ€™ private associations is odiously patronizing,â€ Lewis wrote in the Washington Post. By reaching into the private associations of Harvard students and declaring some of them to be, in essence, â€˜suppressive personsâ€™ because of their nonconformity, you are, I fear, passing from creating community to molding a monoculture . . . â€
The chairman of Harvardâ€™s English Department announced earlier this year that all English majors will be required to take a course in authors â€œmarginalized for historical reasons.â€ Literature that did not â€œbenefitâ€ from â€œracism, patriarchy, and heteronormativityâ€ will be read. This is a version of what Yaleâ€™s Harold Bloom once called the School of Resentment. â€œTo read in the service of any ideology,â€ he wrote, â€œis not in my judgment to read at all..â€
A university release in April claimed to have advanced diversity based on a 6 percent reduction in the proportion of white male faculty from 2008 to 2017. But the diversity that matters at a university is diversity of thought. According to a 2015 Crimson report, however, 96 percent of Harvardâ€™s faculty recently supported Democrats. The dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences was â€œamazed at how high that number is.â€ Harvard government professor Harvey C. Mansfield observed, â€œThe only debate we get here is between the far-leftâ€¦and the liberals. It gives students a view that a very narrow spectrum of opinion is the only way to think.â€
Harvard President Drew Gilpin Faust established a faculty committee on Harvard and slavery. She championed a conference this spring at which she remarked that even though the college never owned a slave it was â€œdirectly complicitâ€ in slavery. Keynote speaker Ta-Nehisi Coates was blunter. â€œI think every single one of these universities needs to make reparations,â€ he said.â€I donâ€™t know how you get around that, I just donâ€™t. I donâ€™t know how you conduct research that shows that your very existence is rooted in a great crimeâ€¦â€ Sitting next to Faust, he added: â€œLet me be very clear about something: I do think it involves a payment of money.â€
The intent of the conference being evident, two questions arise: First, if I give, how much will go to â€œreparationsâ€ and how will that improve education? Second, did Coates consider, in his calculation of Harvardâ€™s unpaid debts for slavery, the hundreds of names of her Civil War dead on the tablets of Memorial Hall?
Heterodox Academy, a group that monitors free speech rights on campuses, ranks the University of Chicago No. 1 and Harvard No. 104. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) gave Harvard its â€œred lightâ€ (worst) rating. The Crimson reports on a â€œpolitical closetâ€ at Harvard. One undergraduate related the need â€œto fall in line with what I think is the professorâ€™s ideology.â€ Another who published a pro-life article â€œis nervous during our interviewâ€ and related social media efforts to isolate him. Yet another identifies the â€œnotion that everyone should have free thought and be open to everyoneâ€™s ideasâ€”except people who donâ€™t agree with liberals.â€ The dean of freshmen recently acknowledged the â€œdismayingâ€ results of a survey revealing â€œpolitical opinions and perspectives have not been given proper respect or appreciation on campus.â€ Is this the sole discrimination at Harvard that musters no outrage?