The Social Justice Talking Points Placemat: Harvard Finally Snaps


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.

29 thoughts on “The Social Justice Talking Points Placemat: Harvard Finally Snaps

  1. Thankfully, the college students that I will encounter at Christmas dinner are all engineering or science students. For those of you who will be dining with nascent Social Justice Warriors, I suggest that you make heavy drinking part of your holiday plans. Perhaps you could arrange a ‘safe-space’ to take them to, say, out behind the garage, where you could explain to them that being an arrogant, condescending little shit to people who have actual life experience can result in getting punched in the nose.

    • Fortunately, the one outspoken left wing drone from our family doesn’t come to family gatherings at our house anymore. Not since I called him on his insufferable sermonizig and woes.

      I had tolerated his incessant be moanings as simple partisan politics, the past six months however had seen literally 2-3 comments a day groaning about evil republicans and heartless conservatives and how right winners were absolutely hateful and destructive with their policies.

      Then the day came he said to the effect “I find it very disappointing and quite frankly telling of Republican hate that very few of my republican friends have posted condolences for Jimmy Carter’s recent cancer diagnosis”

      I called him on it- “Is there literally nothing on this planet that you can’t find offense at or at least make up something to be offended by?”

      Apparently that rather benign comment was too much for him and his wife informed us that he doesn’t like hanging out anymore.


    • Also possible: Pointing out that there are people who are spending real money to keep said little shit in the university and who could easily stop the largess. Unless the parents are also social justice warriors, in which case the best thing would be to simply walk away and remember where they live.

      I’m happy to say none of my money has ever been spent to support a university student who would participate unironically in this nonsense. Although, most of my children are far more liberal than I am they stop short of actual idiocy. I credit their being church attending Christians with a lot of this good sense. They already have a religion.

  2. How much does the director of the Harvard Office for Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion get paid?

    I mean, you could offer a bottle of whiskey per week to a homeless person who never finished middle school and get the same quality of work.

  3. I don’t think I’ve ever met a college student who owned a placemat. I remember that I offered to bring a pie to Thanksgiving or Christmas once in law school — I had to use a vodka bottle as a rolling pin. (Vodka clearly took precedence over rolling pin and placemat needs.)

  4. Honestly, that placemat is the stuff of Mickey Mouse Club merchandising. We all (well, maybe not all) know what happened to the Mickey Mouse Club. It got overexposed, over-promoted, and thereby established itself for being mocked and ultimately rejected for its peculiar conformity. A number of individual Mouseketeers moved on to success and even some fame later in life, but that was more despite their past membership than because of it.

    Bottom Line: Nobody creates an Establishment that lasts forever. I predict that the early 21st-century, American publicly-funded-schools-fed, press-fed, entertainment-anti-industrial-complex-fed “progressive” social justice “establishment” won’t last more than two generations, before doing itself in with its hypocrisies and absurd, extreme requirements for conformity. It’s what establishment that might follow it that would be most worrisome, were I to let it worry me. As rich as it is, I don’t think the English language as most of us know it today is going to last two more generations.

    • “We all (well, maybe not all) know what happened to the Mickey Mouse Club. It got overexposed, over-promoted, and thereby established itself for being mocked and ultimately rejected for its peculiar conformity. A number of individual Mouseketeers moved on to success and even some fame later in life, but that was more despite their past membership than because of it.”

      Base canard! The kids grew up, that’s all, and the audience did too, but mostly it was just a financial impasse between the network and Disney: Like “I Love Lucy,” The MMS was cancelled while still popular.You can’t say Annette the Sex Symbol, Bobby the Dancer, Sharon Baird (the midget), Johnny Crawford and Don Grady (of My Three Sons) and the rest succeeded in spite of the show: it launched them. Annette was the biggest star, and she built on it with records and movies, the early ones carefully merchandised by Uncle Walt. There were two revived versions of the show, each producing stars with staying power. The last version, in the 90’s, produced Keri Russell, Justin Timberlake, Christina Aguilara and Britney Spears….that’s a about a billion dollars worth of talent.

  5. I wonder how much money in salaries the denizens of this worthless (but politically correct) department eat up out of the school’s budget? And how much do they also get in unconstitutional federal funds to make this idiocy possible?

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