The cat, as they say, is out of the bag. Harvard is arrogant, ethically inert, and avaricious. But we knew that.
Yesterday I noted that Harvard had accepted nearly $9 million from the pandemic relief package. “With a 40 billion dollar dollar endowment, Harvard is better off financially than the U.S. government,” I wrote. “There is no excuse for the school accepting the money. It is getting widely criticized for taking it, and ought to be.”
Harvard’s disingenuous rationalization was unconvincing:
“By federal formula laid out in the CARES Act, Harvard was allocated $8.6 million, with 50% of those funds to be reserved for grants to students. Harvard is actually allocating 100% of the funds to financial assistance for students to meet their urgent needs in the face of this pandemic. Harvard will allocate the funds based on student financial need. This financial assistance will be on top of the significant support the University has already provided to students — including assistance with travel, providing direct aid for living expenses to those with need, and supporting students’ transition to online education.”
My conclusion: “The only issue is that Harvard has plenty of money to do all of this without any hand-outs from the government, and many other institutions need the money more, which is an easy calculation because no institution needs money less than Harvard does.”
Others, including President Trump, chided The Greatest University In The World for its indefensible greed. The school pushed back earlier today with a word-parsing justification that made no sense. It has 40 billion dollars sitting in investments. That’s the end of the debate.
The double talk didn’t work, and by this afternoon, with the backlash growing and the episode becoming a public relations nightmare, the Crimson had capitulated. Trump and the other critics were right. Harvard was wrong. The University announced that it would not apply for or accept emergency relief, joining Stanford and Princeton.
In an ignominious statement trying to shift blame for the fiasco, Harvard said “that the intense focus by politicians and others on Harvard in connection with this program may undermine participation in a relief effort that Congress created and the President signed into law for the purpose of helping students and institutions whose financial challenges in the coming months may be most severe. As a result of this, and the evolving guidance being issued around use of the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, Harvard has decided not to seek or accept the funds allocated to it by statute.”
But too late.