What Do You Do About Harvard?

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In particular, what do I do about Harvard?

Harvard, beginning approximately during the regime of the previous president, Drew Faust, has been infested with serious ethics rot, and it continues to progress. I have documented some, but far from all, of the most disturbing aspects of this process, like the University’s practice of discriminating against Asian-American applicants (as well as whites, of course), which they are now defending in court. What is supposed to be the role model for the entire higher education system in the United States continues to give credence and respectability to unethical practices and values, spreading its own affliction to other institutions far and wide. Worst of all, it is indoctrinating its students to be anti-American, anti-individual rights, anti-Western civilization and culture allies of the radical Left, while attempting to demonize opposing views on campus and off.

What’s going on here? The graphic above should make it clear, but if it doesn’t, this should:

Revoke Their Degrees

Add your name here to the petition here.

The campaign to subvert the outcome of the 2020 presidential election left five dead and nearly killed many more as armed, organized insurrectionists with Confederate flags and Nazi paraphernalia stormed the Capitol in search of members of Congress to kill or capture. Nationwide violence is expected in the weeks to come.

Is Harvard University prepared to take a stand for representative democracy and against violent white supremacy?It’s no secret that over a dozen Harvard graduates worked hard to spread the disinformation and mistrust that created last Wednesday’s insurrection – from Representative Dan Crenshaw (HKS ‘17), who supported the December Texas lawsuit to invalidate the election, to Senator Ted Cruz (HLS ’97), one of the loudest claimants of fraud and a rare senator still objecting to the election certification after the violence at the Capitol, to White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany (HLS ’17), who dutifully denies the validity of the election.

Harvard must revoke the degrees of alumni whose incendiary language and subversion of democratic processes–rooted in a history of  white supremacist voter suppression –incited the violent insurrection on January 6. This includes all who have used their platforms to deny the validity of the presidential election. They do not and should not represent a university committed to “strengthening democracy” and “the advancement of justice.” A wide body of evidence , including studies from Harvard researchers , suggests that societies cannot recover from civil strife without a process for holding violent actors accountable.

Communities that eschew justice in favor of “moving on” fall victim to violence once more because the perpetrators never experienced consequences for their actions. So it is unsurprising that a growing chorus of Harvard faculty members like HKS Professor Juliette Kayyem has demanded accountability from the Trump administration on both moral and practical grounds. But what of the Bacow administration? Are those who demanded that Republicans have the courage to impeach the President prepared to exhibit the same courage within their own institution? After Wednesday’s insurrection, Government professor Ryan Enos and HKS Student Body President Diego Garcia Blum both renewed demands that the University pledge not to invite implicated political figures for speaking engagements or teaching positions. This is an important first step, as is Harvard Kennedy School Dean Doug Elmendorf’s welcome decision to remove Representative Elise Stefanik (College ’06) from the Institute of Politics. However, banning someone from a committee or campus because they incited a violent attempt to overthrow the U.S. government is the least the University can do; it still grants them the benefits of their Harvard degree everywhere outside of Cambridge. Those like Rep. Stefanik, who will wear a ban from Harvard as a badge of honor , may be less sanguine about a career without their B.A or J.D. Revoke their degrees. There is long-standinginstitutional anxiety that penalizing alumni will chill open discourse on campus. Harvard should be confident in its ability to expose students to diverse viewpoints without empowering the instigators of a violent, racist revanchist movement.

There should be little concern of a cascading “slippery slope” of degrees revoked – unless more alumni choose to encourage armed insurrection in the future. As Prof. Enos writes, avoiding a role in the armed overthrow of your own government is not a difficult standard to meet. Accountability is not a partisan demand because the validity of armed insurrection is not a partisan issue. Voices from the right and the left must always be welcome, but the acceptability of violence in politics should not be up for debate at Harvard.

An absolutist commitment to the free exchange of ideas in this moment resembles a commitment to treating white supremacist uprisings as “politics as usual” and maintaining a dangerous culture of impunity. This cannot be the position Harvard wants to be remembered for at this pivotal moment in American history. The violence on Capitol Hill is not an isolated incident, and it will not be the last if institutions like Harvard continue to allow white supremacy to go unchallenged. The preemenence of white supremacy was on display among protestors carrying confederate flags and wearing Nazi symbols, reaffirmed by police officers who met Black protesters with riot gear and live ammunition but welcomed white supremacists with selfies and warm embraces, and immortalized by politicians who continue to label BLM protesters as thugs and criminals while describing Capitol Hill insurrectionists as patriots and American heroes.

Harvard values democracy, equality, and the rule of law. Does it value them enough to hold its own alumni accountable for the most flagrant attack on these principles in recent history? A Harvard degree is a privilege, not a right. Harvard had no qualms about rescinding offers of admission to high school students because of racist activity online that did not reflect the University’s values. But holding teenagers accountable is easy. Harvard should have the will to hold adult insurrectionists to the same standards.  

Add your name here to the petition here.

Nice. Although the petition was written by students, various Harvard professors are supporting it in addition to the named Professor Ryan Enos, the director of graduate studies for Harvard’s Government department, Harvard Kennedy School Dean Doug Elmendorf, and Prof. Juliette Kayyem. (Kayyem proved with her tweet posted here that she is a fascist of the Left.) The petition’s arguments are disingenuous and hypocritical, though relatively erudite (I had to look up “revanchist,” which is definitely a word the American Left is estopped from using as an accusation). At least they are teaching something useful at Harvard.

The Harvard petition is part of a wider effort of isolation, intimidation and revenge by victorious Democrats, as they emulate totalitarian regimes that follow ascensions to power with retaliation against their opponents. Blacklists and campaigns of harassment are underway, and, amazingly, being framed by their advocates as virtuous. They are, in fact, the opposite, and represent the real threat to democracy, not the stupid and pointless attack on the Capitol.

In addition to being a direct assault on the political and speech freedoms of its graduates and a speech-chilling threat to its students, revoking an earned degree is almost certainly illegal as well as unethical, embodying the unconstitutional principle of the ex post facto law. As Prof. Turley points out, “it would send the message that any degree is subject to the shifting political winds of a university and that attaining a degree remains only tentative and subject to revocation by majority demand.” (Turley also says, “This effort is being spurred on by the rhetoric of figures like MSNBC’s Joy Reid who called for the “de-Ba’athification” of the Republican Party and CNN’s Don Lemon insisting that Trump voters as a group are supporters of Nazis and the KKK. Wow. If Harvard faculty and grads are really being influenced by the low-wattage likes of Reid, Lemon and Cuomo, those degrees they are threatening to cancel are worthless anyway.)

As for me, I turned my Harvard diploma to the wall long ago. The conduct of my alma mater (and that of my father and sister, where my mother worked for over 20 years and served at one point as an assistant dean) has been an ongoing embarrassment, but I am running out of options to express my disgust. Harvard only pays attention to money, essentially, and it is already in better financial condition than most states. Even if I was foolish enough to contribute to Harvard (I don’t send gift certificates to Jeff Bezos either), there would have to be about six zeros at the end for my generosity to entitle me to any influence.

If Harvard goes through with this degree-pulling scheme, I will seriously consider publicly renouncing and surrendering my degree while urging other graduates to do likewise, if I think I can start a national discussion by doing so.

What do you think?

34 thoughts on “What Do You Do About Harvard?

  1. Before I retired, I was called on several times to give presentations on “leadership” and to mentor others. One key attribute that I advocated (because I believed in it wholeheartedly although adapted from others) was “humility.” Not false humility where one — or an institution — does not recognize its own worth, but real humility : everyone has something to offer, other ideas than your own are valuable, advances come from surprising sources, etc. It certainly seems that Harvard — not only the institution, but its administrators (I won’t call them leaders) — lacks this necessary ingredient to be recognized as any kind of real leader; thought leader, political leader, societal leader, leader of those with a thirst to learn. From what you have posted, dear Jack, it certainly seems that Harvard, through its manifest arrogance, conceit, and lack of the kind of humility I summarized, has effectively abandoned any claim to leadership; while still pretending it is a leader, of course.

    • Great point, Michael, and one largely neglected in the leadership scholarship. In my leadership profiles of US Presidents (my thesis at the institution that Must Not Be Named), only a handful stood out for that kind of humility, some surprising, like Kennedy. Others: Washington, Buchanan, Lincoln, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, Harding, Truman. (I’d tell you where my survey stopped, but then you’d know what a geezer I am…) As you van see, sometimes humility is the mark of a great leader, and sometimes a weak one.

      • I would disagree “a little.” When humility is the type of humility (not self-derogation) that listens, observes, and recognizes potential value in a broad spectrum of people (throughout the hierarchy from janitor to CEO as I used to say), I believe it to be a key ingredient of real leadership. I also thought it was a necessary ingredient in my mentoring of young top graduates of top French schools — Polytechnique and ENA. 😉

        • The problem is when humility makes you listen to everybody and never have the confidence to just make a decision, because you are afraid it will be wrong. This was one of Obama’s problems. He was simultaneously convinced he was smarter than everyone else, and insecure enough that he wasn’t willing to accept responsibility when he a decision didn’t work out. Leaders like Ike, Reagan, LBJ, Jackson and the Roosevelts may listen to others, but they still trusted their own instincts more than anyone else’s. It’s a tough balance.

          • I do agree completely with trusting one’s own judgment. Recognizing that others have something unique to offer does not obviate the need to make decisions oneself.

      • And I do think that real humility is an attribute of a great leader, though not all who have that attribute become great leaders. I would have added Eisenhower to your list. But, damn, then there’s Patton. Crap, does that mean My thesis is wrong? Obviously, one can overcome lack of humility through sheer force of superior knowledge and personality to be a great leader — but I also don’t think that annuls my theory

      • Looking at two presidents both who lacked humility, it seems that trustworthiness really is a cardinal virtue. I’m thinking of Theodore Roosevelt who totally lacked humility (except in regard to controlling his daughter Alice) and turned out to be one of our greatest presidents. One of the worst who also totally lacked humility and trustworthiness was LBJ.

  2. Undoubtedly this represents an idea that will gain traction with other institutions. Another piece in the intellectual/political/social cleansing. I have a fascination with why so many – especially Jews – could not see the writing on the wall in the late 30s. The “it can never happen to us” mentality along with “This will all blow over.” That is the real lesson I have absorbed over the last four years.

  3. “…who met Black protesters with riot gear and live ammunition but welcomed white supremacists with selfies and warm embraces…”
    The only person directly killed by D.C. police was white.

    “…protestors carrying confederate flags and wearing Nazi symbols…”
    There were no Nazi symbols, none that I saw anyway, although if you go by the CNN article they link, every US Navy ship would have been a white supremacist, until about a year ago. They point out Gadsden flags as being used by white supremacists, but every commissioned ship was allowed a modified version with red and white stripes (called the first Naval Jack) while moored, and it is authorized to be worn on some USN uniforms.

    I know it seems like they’re trying to destroy American culture and history. Hell, they are trying to do just that. Seems the best option is to keep trying to point out their inconsistencies and lies about America.

  4. Seems to me that Lawrence Tribe should be excoriated by this group for taking diametrically opposed views during the Clinton impeachment and the Trump impeachment, which he advocated even before Trump took office. Oh wait, he’s on the right (meaning left) side. How this guy remains an icon in the study of Constitutional law escapes me. Glad I studied Constitutional Law under Chuck Wright, who not only invited but encouraged differing views, different interpretations, from his students as long as they supported their arguments and did not simply make “raw assertions”.

  5. So, if a law school revokes a graduate’s degree, can the graduate be sued by all his former clients and his state bar for practicing law without a valid license? Will all the defendants they prosecuted or defended be entitled to a new trial?

      • Oh, absolutely NOT. Why, people don’t BUY degrees! Sarcasm aside, there may be no school where degrees aren’t more bought than Harvard, which has, last I checked, the highest graduation rate of any major private university: once you get in, you graduate.

  6. “What to do about the entire American academy,” is the real question. Why are Mrs. OB and I squirreling away money for our grandkids’ college tuition?

    • As I think I’ve mentioned, our son, while still in high school, told us that as of that time, he didn’t see any point in going to college, since his dream career didn’t require it, and he wasn’t convinced it was worth the money. We knew then he was a smart kid inspite of school, not because of it. (He was home schooled, however, for half his educational career.)

  7. First and foremost, why did it even occur to these people to consider sucxh a thing?

    ?It’s no secret that over a dozen Harvard graduates worked hard to spread the disinformation and mistrust that created last Wednesday’s insurrection – from Representative Dan Crenshaw (HKS ‘17), who supported the December Texas lawsuit to invalidate the election, to Senator Ted Cruz (HLS ’97), one of the loudest claimants of fraud and a rare senator still objecting to the election certification after the violence at the Capitol, to White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany (HLS ’17), who dutifully denies the validity of the election.

    What do they say about Harvard graduates who spread fear and distrust that created the insurrections in Minneapolis and Portland with all these Black Lives Matter lies?

    What do they say about Harvard graduates who denied, downplayed, or excused the rioting last summer?

    Or who advocated using the word “unrest” rather than “riot”?

    Or who asked, “show me where protests and supposed to be polite and peaceful”?
    Or called them “peaceful demonstration[s]” that “Intensified”

    Or who denied that destroying property is violent?

    Or in response to property destruction, said, “People will do what they do.”

    Is there any principle involved?

  8. I need to find another way of processing reports like this. On the one hand, it’s Opera Buffa; on the other hand- I don’t want to think about the other hand. So as a Yale Law School grad, I will give kudos to Harvard for coming up with the dumbest idea of the week.

  9. Of course there is a principle involved — anything Republicans do is unprincipled and bad, anything Democrats do is principled and good.

  10. When I was an undergraduate, a common saying among the faculty was “All Bad Things Start at Harvard”. That was over 30 years ago at an incredibly liberal institution. However, even an institution with 5 separate warring Communist groups and a student affiliate of the PLO viewed Harvard as over-the-top looney. I was only amused by the saying until Harvard decided to randomly assign dorm mates without regard to sex. That is right, male and female 18 year olds randomly made room-mates. Well, as YOU might expect, there were a lot of complaints from students and parents. Harvard sent out a letter calling all the complainants bigots and telling them that by complaining, they revealed themselves to be insufficiently evolved to be Harvard people. The next year, they doubled-down on the program, but donations to the school suffered. They discontinued the program with a condescending announcement that American society was too backwards for Harvard.

    Harvard has been like this a long time. Given the bias of journalists, psychologists, and pollsters, I would be willing to bet the above breakdown is really:
    1.5% liberal
    18.9% very liberal
    41.3% extreme leftist
    38.4% certifiably insane

    • Began laughing at “All Bad Things Start at Harvard” and couldn’t stop til I hit the last “%” at which point I spat cracker crumbs all over the keyboard. And they thought my college was run by crazies.

      p.s. Are you insinuating that 0.1% are … unreal?

    • Jack (and Michael R.) : Just noticed the percentages used here came from the illustration at the top of the page; The question is whether they came with the petition or were elsewhere purported to be from the Harvard Crimson. As far as I know, the Crimson is not a (deliberately) comic paper, and — as still undecided by an honest and ethical Yale Man Who Knows Things who examined the whole post: “I fear it’s a genuine product of the self-righteous student left, or the skillful work of a right-wing agent provocateur made to appear so.”

      Because of the fake stats, I’m going to call it a toss-up.

      • Why would you doubt those stats? They seem to be completely consistent with other similar surveys.I’ve seen.In this interview from 2017, Prof. Harvey Mansfield, a conservative professor (who I had for one course!) says that when he was considering leaving Harvard for the U of Chicago, the chair of the department begged him not to go because he was the department’s “balance.” A single professor! But that is, in fact, Harvard: Mansfield has said in other forums that he’s literally the only conservative on the entire faculty.

        And in the interview linked, he describes Trump’s election as the lower half of the IQ scale winning against the upper half. That’s a Harvard conservative for you.

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