Harvard Rejects A Convicted Child Killer: What’s Going On Here?

I have few answers, only questions and observations, regarding this story.

Michelle Jones, a Ph.D. candidate at N.Y.U., was released from prison in August after serving 20 years in an Indiana prison for the murder of her 4-year-old son. She very nearly was accepted into Harvard’s graduate program. In a sympathetic story in the New York Times, we learn that she rejected at the last minute.

Jones,  45, became a published scholar of American history while she was serving her time and led a team of inmates that  produced what was judged to be the Indiana Historical Society’s best research project last year.Jones also wrote several dance compositions and historical plays, one of which is slated to open at an Indianapolis theater in December.

Jones was chosen to be one of  18 successful applicants to Harvard University’s history graduate program. However, Harvard’s administration overturned Jones’s admission after some professors raised concerns that she had minimized the murder of her son in the application process. I wouldn’t be surprised; it’s an ugly story.

After. Jones got pregnant at 14, her mother beat her in the stomach with a 2×4. In a statement accompanying her Harvard application, Jones said she suffered a breakdown after years of abandonment and domestic violence, causing her to abuse her own son, Brandon Sims. The boy died in 1992, and his body was never found.  Jones admitted that she had secretly buried him, never notifying the police or Brandon’s father that he had died. At her murder trial,. Jones’ friend testified that she confessed to beating Brandon then leaving him alone for days in their apartment, until he died. Sentenced to 50 years in prison, Jones was released thirty years early based on her good behavior and scholarship.

John Stauffer, one of the two American studies professors who flagged and objected to Jones’ admission, said, “We didn’t have some preconceived idea about crucifying Michelle. But frankly, we knew that anyone could just punch her crime into Google, and Fox News would probably say that P.C. liberal Harvard gave 200 grand of funding to a child murderer, who also happened to be a minority. I mean, c’mon.” Apparently the Harvard leadership agreed. E-mails and interviews show that Harvard’s president, Drew Faust, its provost, and the deans of the graduate school vetoed the positive disposition of Jones’ application over fears of criticism by rejected applicants, conservative news outlets and parents.

Observations and Questions:

1 From the Times: “Elizabeth Hinton, one of the Harvard historians who backed Ms. Jones, called her’“one of the strongest candidates in the country last year, period.’ The case ‘throws into relief,’ she added, the question of ‘how much do we really believe in the possibility of human redemption?’”

Hmmm. Wouldn’t you think that by definition a convicted child murderer couldn’t possibly be one of the strongest candidates for anything, other than a Lifetime movie? Two strong candidates, one of whom murdered her little boy, and the other didn’t. Which to choose? Such a dilemma…

And can’t we believe in redemption without holding that lifetime burdens for particularly horrible conduct are not just appropriate, but necessary?

2. If Harvard believed that Michelle deserved to be admitted, why was fear of criticism from others a factor at all?

I know that institutions also have a duty to protect their images and reputations, but not having the integrity and fortitude to follow through on an admissions decision Harvard believed was correct is pure cowardice. It also doesn’t make sense. Harvard’s political correctness crusade under Faust, who is mercifully on the way out, has deserved far more criticism than over a single instance of admitting or rejecting a murderous mother. Harvard is trembling in fear of Fox News now?

3. If Jones were white, or a man, or both, would Harvard or NYU consider him for a graduate program?

4. The Times: “Instead, the spokeswoman offered a general statement saying the graduate school “is committed to recruiting and enrolling students from all backgrounds” and “strives to create an inclusive and supportive environment where all students can thrive.”

Diversity in grad school admissions has to extend to mothers who kill their children? Really? Why?

5. “One of our considerations,” Professor Stauffer said, “was if this candidate is admitted to Harvard, where everyone is an elite among elites, that adjustment could be too much.”

Now that’s stupid, and makes me question his judgments and biases. The woman thrived doing hard time, and he thinks Harvard might be “too much”? She either is qualified for admission or she isn’t; once there, it’s up to her to make the most of the opportunity, or fail…just like anybody else.

6. What does “she’s served her time” or “she’s paid her debt to society” mean to people? Do people think that a prison sentence wipes the slate clean? That’s what the current progressive cant is, illustrated by the Obama administration’s efforts to protect ex-cons from having to reveal that fact early in the employment application process. But punishment doesn’t clean slates. The crime was still committed, with all it indicates about the criminal’s values and character. Michelle Jones may well be a sociopath. Killing a child suggests it, certainly. Her subsequent achievements are not inconsistent with being a sociopath; they are frequently intelligent, resourceful, and charismatic. The 20 years in jail don’t bring Brandon back to life. Is it really unjust if some opportunities are forfeited forever when a mother murders her child?

15 Comments

Filed under Childhood and children, Education, Gender and Sex, Law & Law Enforcement, Race

15 responses to “Harvard Rejects A Convicted Child Killer: What’s Going On Here?

  1. Phlinn

    I would consider it perfectly just to have some of the consequences of murder be lifelong. The consequences to her child were irreversible, and our system was merciful to not execute her. I approve of a certain amount of mercy, but no one is obligated to forget past actions. That goes for the naked/racist teacher principles as well.

    The EU’s “right to be forgotten” is pure nonsense, although I have nothing but disdain internet mob attacks over stupid but harmless decisions.

  2. I believe she could serve her time and make a life outside prison, including productive career. But some consequence of crimes or just plain morals failures should be permanent. Her child is dead, and I’m sorry if that forfeiting a degree from a prestigious school seems harsh. But so was death.

    This isn’t an eye for an eye. Or cruel and unusual. She got out unusually early, and produced solid work in her field from within prison. She didn’t need the ‘doctor’ to do that. The fame she’s gaining from this brouhaha means she will probably have a prominent book and lecture career. ‘Doctor’ is supposed to be a title of respect and learning, and most people we meet every day with that title we trust with our lives. Murdering her child forfeits that respect. That crime can be forgotten until her child graduates school.

  3. Other Bill

    I am so tired of the left lionizing convicts and their “art.” Jean Genet was probably the first. Also helps to be a homosexual. I suspect this woman is a lesbian and she’s gotten bonus points for that as well as being a convict.

  4. Ash

    So Harvard shouldn’t admit her, because she killed her child,

    Well, so who should, and why?

    If she’s been paroled from jail, and you don’t want to provide her housing support, medicaid and food stamps, someone has to hire her.

    Who do you think that is, and why should they be forced to take her, and to what extent is that just an extra-judicial continuing life long sentence for her?

    It is in some sense similar to James Damore at Google. If Google SJWs and SJWs in general don’t want Damore at Google, where do they think a a “sociopath” like Damore should go? Not Amazon, Not Facebook, not Twitter, not any top tier software house, right? So where do they think Damore should go and why inflict a sociopath like Damore on lesser tier software houses? Or maybe they just want Damore working as a street cleaner, forever.

    —–

    The definition of “strongest candidate” in a phd program should be pretty clear: her history publications and research were considered way above the other candidates.

    If she has something to offer society in terms of great historical research, and she has done her time and been legally released from prison then isn’t society cutting off its nose to spite its face to keep punishing her and not permitting her to use her talents to improve society’s understanding of history?

    —–

    I absolutely agree Harvard’s post-game decision is cowardly and unethical, and also that thank the FSM Drew Faust is going. Not a moment too soon.

    • Thought provoking observations.

      But…

      She is keeping someone out of grad school that may be just as productive as she is, and without leaving a dead son in her wake.

      James Damore is not a sociopath, as hsi letter makes clear. So that made no sense. Nor has he killed anyone. Weird analogy.

      It’s a separate issue, but I’d be perfectly fine with policies that made serious felons ineligible for social assistance if their crime keeps them from working. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time, as Tony Baretta used to say.

      You just argued that character isn’t a component of being a strong candidate, OR that killing a little boy doesn’t indicate a serious chracter deficit. Either way, you are wrong.

      • Ash

        I put sociopath in quotes because that’s not how I feel about him, but that’s (at the extreme of) what the SJWs trying to nuke his career feel about him. But I think the point still holds, at what point do we as society just nuke people’s chosen careers and force them into life as untouchables?

        And yes, Jones’ position does take place at the expense of another candidate, but when Harvard declares her one of the strongest candidates, she is well, one of the strongest candidates so the person who replaces her is one of the weakest candidates. Hence at this moment, Harvard believes she is the person who could most make use of this post graduate education and most give back to society with that post graduate education.

        > It’s a separate issue, but I’d be perfectly fine with policies that made serious felons ineligible for social assistance if their crime keeps them from working. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time, as Tony Baretta used to say.

        So a slow death penalty of life on the streets, no food, no medical care, and hey that wouldn’t incentivize them into a further life of crime, or nullify our claim their sentence is over.

        > killing a little boy doesn’t indicate a serious chracter deficit.

        So don’t admit her into the bar, but she isn’t applying for law school or medical school, she wants to become a history professor.

        So my feeling is that if she’s out legally, she’s out legally. Unless her sentence, her crime, bears directly on her career, let her and others take the jobs or seek the education they qualify for.

        Otherwise she’s still in the gulag, just with no roof, food, clothing or medical aid (or rules) and that doesn’t seem to be ethical either.

        • 1. “I put sociopath in quotes because that’s not how I feel about him, but that’s (at the extreme of) what the SJWs trying to nuke his career feel about him.”
          No, he’s a dissenter in a culture that quashes dissent, that’s all. “Sociopath” doesn’t mean “skunk at the picnic.”

          2.Again, if Harvard has to stoop to admitting murderers as the best of the best, then it’s in trouble. If you read the article, her advocates say her background is an asset. That’s a bridge WAAAAAAAAAAy too far for me. The fact that she murdered a 4-year old makes her stronger? Baloney.

          3. I’m not advocating it; I’m saying I wouldn’t object to it. Bad life choices should have consequences, and yes, I don’t like paying for people who have crippled their own prospects.

          4. You made a #22 argument there, you know. OJ is also out legally, but I wouldn’t admit him, either, and neither would Harvard, though after the Chelsea Manning decision, maybe I’m giving the school too much credit. Legally and ethically are very distinct concepts.

          • I’m not advocating it; I’m saying I wouldn’t object to it. Bad life choices should have consequences, and yes, I don’t like paying for people who have crippled their own prospects.

            Of course, this does beg the question.

            Why do not convicted felons simply get jobs from other convicted felons?

        • Jeff

          “when Harvard declares her one of the strongest candidates, she is well, one of the strongest candidates so the person who replaces her is one of the weakest candidates.”

          Not necessarily. Given the progressive bent at Harvard, and the mania for “diversity” at most college campuses, “strongest candidate” doesn’t necessarily mean “best historian” in this context. It may simply mean that her application checked more “diversity” boxes than other equally-qualified candidates.

          “…at what point do we as society just nuke people’s chosen careers and force them into life as untouchables?”

          It’s a good, thought-provoking question, and there’s obviously a line somewhere. Personally, I think I’m okay with “cold-blooded child murder” being on the bad side of that line.

      • “It’s a separate issue, but I’d be perfectly fine with policies that made serious felons ineligible for social assistance if their crime keeps them from working. Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time, as Tony Baretta used to say.”

        See… We accept on some level that even after someone leaves jail, there is no such thing as a clean slate. Convicted pedophiles don’t get to work as teachers, drunk drivers don’t get their licenses back, ex cons don’t get to be prison guards…. But saying someone doesn’t get social assistance? That’s cold.

  5. “…if this candidate is admitted to Harvard, where everyone is an elite among elites, that adjustment could be too much.”

    Breaking news, Harvard just admitted they’re worse than prison!

  6. Wayne

    Ey Gads! What what Harvard thinking when they considered her to be the strongest candidate. The provost made the right decision perhaps for the wrong reason. There should be lifetime consequences for a mother who murders her child unless there was some kind of chemical imbalance resulting in psychosis.

  7. It seems that fear was the driving factor in this Harvard choice. It’s much like many other choices that institutions, companies, and a lot of people are making these days; fear of social justice warriors, fear of anti social justice warriors, fear of social media, fear of being judged by the court of public opinion, fear of illogical smears, fear of the unknown, fear of ginned up partisan hyperbole, fear of racists, fear of misogynists, fear…, fear…, fear…, etc, etc. etc.

    The United States and much of the world is on the verge of wide spread Panophobia; a significant number of the political left crossed the line to Panophobia the morning of Wednesday, November 9, 2016.

    Fear has some pretty nasty physiological side effects but the one we as a society need to watch out for is the violent reactions to what they “think” is making them fearful. At some point fear will drive psychologically unstable people to do irrational things.

  8. People hatin’ on Hahvahd?? Say it ain’t so, could be they’re taking steps in the right direction?

    Harvard is the Institution of Higher Indoctrination that prompted the Fordham Law Review to slobber effusively that the pasty white Elizabeth Warren was its law school’s “first woman of color,” after all.

    And Lefty is rather forgiving when it comes to past transgressions, after the ‘externality’ points are tallied and its been determined the transgressor is ideologically certified, leastways.

    To wit: The Women’s March warmly welcomed one Donna Hylton recently despite the minor…um…shortcoming of being a kidnapper/ransomer/rapist/torturer/murderer.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donna_Hylton

    Like Lou Reed crooned:

    ♫It’s a mixed up, ♫muddled up, ♫shook up world,
    ♫Except for Lola. ♫Lo lo lo lo Lola.

  9. Pennagain

    I go with Jack on “sociopath.” Her subsequent achievements are not inconsistent with being a sociopath; they are frequently intelligent, resourceful, and charismatic. rings a loud bell. And before you lash out, I’m putting this in context with two other major points. First, again as Jack pointed out,
    I. she killed a child.
    …A. It was not an accident.
    …B. She was not compelled to kill.
    …C. It was not spur of the moment.
    …D. She systematically, over a period of years — are you hearing this? Dwell on it. — gave great pain to a helpless child. Over and over and over again.
    …E. She abandoned him, left him alone. How long were you left alone as a child, before you got scared? Terrified? Confused? He would have been, finally, completely paralyzed emotionally.
    …F. Any psychiatric care she received in prison would have been minimal, inadequate, and perhaps just enough for a really bright person to pick up all the cues of sanity. She’s had years of practice.

    Are you seeing some damn stupid movie in your head where the kid … two years old, three years old, then four … is supposed to have grown healthy and strong and learned somehow, like the kid in the movie, to fend for himself … and fight off a gang of housebreaking thieves as well? Have you ever loved a child? Known anyone who beat their dog? Do you really think I’m being unfair to this brilliant star, depriving her of a Harvard education because she has done her time and, presumably, made verbal expressions of regret. Cried youth and parental abuse and emotional disturbance..

    We do not forget our acts of cruelty. We remember them more clearly than anything else, even after being truly sorry, and repentant, and perhaps, even punished severely. And that was a comparatively tiny, petty cruelty, wasn’t it? Would you like to imagine living in her head? Or very very much worse: having pushed it so far back and covered it up with thought-proof mud that it’s as if it hadn’t happened. There’s more danger in that than there is the horror of remembering it.

    What set me off on this – pushed me over to the side of wanting to see her out of society permanently, preferably in a mental hospital, PhD and all — is that small fact of their never finding her little son’s body. And that’s Part II, Finale, and Curtain.”The circumstances of the death are unclear,” say the news reports. Was he dead? “She buried him in the woods.” She says.

    But she’s right as rain now. I don’t think. Taken all in all, it adds up to . . . unstable, and able to hide it well.

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