You will note that I have effectively resisted the temptation to excessively mock Yale for its embarrassing anti-free speech assaults, racial spoils games and political correctness bullying outbreak. Princeton, Dartmouth and Brown have also been disgraced by their students, faculty and administrators of late, but among the Ivies, my family’s favorite university (my parents even met and fell in love in The Yaahd) has pretty much avoided major humiliation, though the Law School had a silly dust-up over its seal and there is an ongoing controversy over black tape. I knew that if their other elite institutional colleagues were going nuts, it was only a matter of time before Harvard joined the loony parade, and sure enough, Harvard has a float.
In some ways, it’s worse than anything its rivals have come up with yet.
This sounds like an Onion parody, or maybe a stunt by the Harvard Lampoon. I’m still hoping it is: the Lampoon of old would do things like this. Harvard’s Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (Wait: Harvard really has such an office? ARRRRRGHH!) distributed what it calls “Holiday Placemats for Social Justice” (How can anyone say that with a straight face? PLEASE let this be a Lampoon hoax!) to the freshman dining hall and a few upper class dining rooms to guide students through political and social policy conversations when they return home for Christmas break. (Does this remind you of the Obama administration’s directives to good little progressives about pushing Obamacare over the holidays? This is now the progressive way.)
The placemat presents talking points ( I still can’t believe I’m writing this) for students having discussions about controversial topics such as “Black Murders in the Street,” “House Master Title,” and “Islamophobia/Refugees.”
You know, when I was student, I guarantee such an insulting attempt at indoctrination would lead to a bonfire.
To try to rehabilitate my alma mater a bit, let me now defer to a student essayist in the Harvard Crimson who did an admirable job explaining all the things wrong with the “Holiday Placemats for Social Justice.” His name is Idrees M. Kahloon.
Idrees notes that the placemat is plagiarized…
More than half of the College’s poster is taken word-for-word from a similar, credited poster created by the group Showing Up for Racial Justice, a rather fitting reflection of the thoughtlessness it seeks to impose on students. That organization’s professed aim is to move “white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability.” To gain some perspective on their viewpoint, examine a recent article on their site that claimed, “we know that racist vigilantes and the police force have a long, collaborative history with one another.”
That’s an embarrassing ethics breach in itself: Harvard’s Office for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion can’t write its own politically correct blather? What else does it have to do? Then the Crimson writer deconstructs the placemat’s recommended argument when someone with their mouth full of goose ridicules Harvard’s elimination of the term “House Master” for faculty members in charge of resident student complexes because black students thought the term “master” was offensive. (I wrote about this idiocy here):
There was one area where the handout did not lazily lift from its predecessor: on the recent renaming of House masters to something supposedly less offensive—at least for now. There, the questioner correctly points out “Why did they change the name? What does a housemaster have to do with slavery? It’s not related to that at all.”
That doesn’t matter, the handout replies. Even though the word is “no longer actively associated with its historical antecedents”—and notice here the incorrect suggestion that the two were related, which is presented as fact—it is still offensive “for some.” Therefore, “it doesn’t seem onerous to change it.”
One can take that line of logic and run wild. Any professed claim of oppressive etymology should become actionable by the College on the grounds that it isn’t “too onerous.” Damn the facts, full steam ahead! That’s more than just revising history—that’s making a mockery of it.
The verdict on the placemat as a whole:
Even if we concede that the office should be in the business of promulgating its views on diversity issues relevant on Harvard, it should be doing so in a less shallow and simplistic manner…The handout shamefully parallels a similar tendency among activists to conflate well-meaning people who have the audacity to hold contrary opinions with racists and demagogues. Either you toe the party line, or your justifications don’t matter because you are too white, too male, or too privileged in some other way….Even for those of us who agree with the handout on all its issues, this is an area for concern. There must be debate on these issues, at Harvard’s tables and in our homes. Presenting unglorified talking points not only wrongly attempts to stifle debate, but also stands in stark contradiction to the mission of the College to transform students “with exposure to new ideas, new ways of understanding, and new ways of knowing.”
The placemats violate not just Harvard’s values and mission, but those of higher education. This is indoctrination. This is a university announcing and promulgating official positions, and abusing its authority by instructing students to adopt them and spread them far and wide. This is insulting, telling students that they don’t have the wit and knowledge to devise their own arguments, when in truth the arguments presented are neither persuasive, thoughtful or incisive.
Now I wish I was giving money to Harvard, so I could stop.