Why I’m Skipping My College Class Reunion…

Harvard strike

I already noted here that I would not attend my 50th College reunion next year because my alma mater has repeatedly embarrassed me, causing me to (literally) turn my diploma to the wall. I wrote an explanation for my boycott for my class’s reunion book, which will be published in 2022. Some of you asked that I post what I wrote. Here it is…

***

This is a depressing report to write. My family was always besotted with Harvard. We lived in Arlington, Mass., a short bus ride from Harvard Square. My father, Jack A. Marshall, Sr. (the Greater) graduated from the College after WWII on the GI Bill. He met my mother on campus, waving to the young Greek beauty looking at him from her office window in Mass Hall, where she was a secretary. My sister, Edith Marshall ’74 and I both attended the College after my mother returned to work there, eventually becoming the Asst. Dean of Housing.Despite all Harvard has meant to me and my family over the decades, and despite all of the special friends I long to see again, I won’t be attending the class reunion.

The university has repeatedly embarrassed and angered me over the last decade (and before), causing me to turn my diploma face to the wall. The school has become a hyper-partisan, ideologically extreme institutional shill, less devoted to educating its students and upholding its role model status than to following progressive cant regardless of the consequences or the core values trashed in the process.

I’m a professional ethicist these days, having finally abandoned the other half of my career as a stage director (The American Century Theater, 1995-2015, RIP). Most of my work is in legal ethics as a trainer and consultant. Thus I was horrified when, in 2019, Harvard’s Dean of the College announced the firing of Prof. Ronald Sullivan as Winthrop House faculty dean because he was defending Harvey Weinstein against his New York prosecution. The Winthrop House students ignorantly declared Sullivan insufficiently virtuous, but instead of using the episode to teach them (and others) what lawyers are ethically required to do, the dean joined the sit-in protest calling for his removal. To be clear about how wrong this was, by firing Sullivan, Harvard was endorsing and engaging in liberal fascism and directly opposing core democratic values.

Lawyers don’t endorse the acts, beliefs or opinions of the clients they represent. From the Massachusetts Bar’s ethics rules (I taught the Rules section of the introductory and mandatory course for new bar admittees)…

“Rule 1.2 (b): A lawyer’s representation of a client, including representation by appointment, does not constitute an endorsement of the client’s political, economic, social, or moral views or activities.”

This is a crucial principle. Fair trials and our criminal justice system depend on it; it is embodied in the Sixth Amendment of the Bill of Rights. But Harvard students found the principle insufficiently “woke,” and the college agreed. The fact that Harvard undergrads haven’t learned the importance of guaranteeing all citizens legal representation, and the fact that Harvard hasn’t taught it, apparently because its own leadership doesn’t agree with the principle itself, indicates that Harvard has devolved into more of a left-wing indoctrination machine than a liberal arts college.

That was the proverbial last straw, but there was much more before and since. Harvard’s announcement that it would defend its policy of discriminating against Asian-American college applicants in exactly the same fashion that it discriminated against Jews well into the 1960s was unconscionable. Before that, the College announced that it would punish students for belonging to single gender off-campus clubs, a decision that was the students’ choice to make and that concerned the school not at all. Harvard joined other venal institutions with lesser resources to refuse tuition refunds to students robbed of in-person teaching and the campus experience during the pandemic lockdown—odd, since I distinctly recall being told in orientation that it was the contact with other students, midnight bull sessions and extra-curricular activities (like my beloved Gilbert and Sullivan Players) that provided the real value in attending Harvard (and they were).

There are many more such betrayals on my list, but describing them all would be as tedious for you as it is upsetting for me.

Dad died in his sleep in 2009, exactly the way he wanted to go. I found him in his favorite chair. It was my birthday, and I will always suspect that my father thought of his timing as a good joke. It was a gift, really: he had just started to show his age (at 89), and he was determined not to ever burden Mom or his family. My mother never recovered from losing the love of her life, and died almost a year to the day of my father’s magnificent funeral at Arlington National Cemetery, with all the honors due to a Silver Star recipient. They are both resting there now, not far from my Alexandria home where I live with my wonderful wife Grace and, in a downstairs apartment, my 26-year-old son Grant, who does what he knew he wanted to do from childhood: he’s an auto mechanic and tech. I, in contrast, never could decide what to do with my life.

To Dave, Skip, Nels, Dick, Dennis, Mike, Howie, Greg (Thanks again), Ollie, and so many others, I have missed you, and wish I could come to Cambridge.

I just can’t do it.

18 thoughts on “Why I’m Skipping My College Class Reunion…

  1. My college has distinguished itself by spawning, and then feting, that Mark Elias guy who dreamed up and orchestrated the dirtiest trick in the history of American politics, the Russian collusion fantasy. (By the way, Elias went on to Harvard Law School.)

  2. A reference to Harvard Alum, John Adams, and his defense in the Boston Massacre might have been useful in addressing the Weinstein issue (if Harvard still teaches American history).
    -Jut

  3. When I teach criminal process at police academies I emphasize the right to counsel with the example of John Adam’s defending the British soldiers in the Boston Massacre case. Looks like that defense by our second President, would have been condemned by present Harvard staff and students. Sad to say the least.

  4. “The school has become a hyper-partisan, ideologically extreme institutional shill, less devoted to educating its students and upholding its role model status than to following progressive cant regardless of the consequences or the core values trashed in the process.”

    Coup De F*ckin’ Grâce!

  5. It must be devastating to see your school do such unethical things.

    I can’t imagine the hurt you must feel.

    I did wonder though if not attending is the right thing?

    I ask this with UTMOST respect for you and because I think you will know my inquiry comes from caring and curiosity, and my own quest for truth.

    Is you not going in any way like someone canceling something because they don’t like the beliefs or actions of another? In this case you with the school?

    Is what you are choosing like what the left does when it cancels someone? Even though you are right…. Don’t they think they are when they shortage from others?

    I guess another way to see it is, they aren’t asking you to endorse them by attending a reunion. Is it possible to hold all the same thoughts about their terrible actions AND attend to see your classmates AND perhaps even have some influence on those there who you can talk to?

    Again I think they are wrong and I can’t imagine how painful it must be. But is separating and not going to a reunion the right thing?

    Not saying it’s not the right thing for you personally.

    Just wonder if you not going is the same as all the woke people who won’t go places or who boycott places because they don’t agree with what an organization does.

    Please again know this comes from a person who highly respects you and shares this blog often.

    Can you help me understand the difference from an ethics point of view? I get the personal one, I think.

    Respectfully,

    Cow

    • No, it’s simple as this: Harvard’s reunions are orgy’s of Harvard self-glorification, and if you go, you participate in it. It’s all good feelings and narcissism. I can handle that: I’ve handled it before, but not when it’s a lie. I’m not boycotting because I disagree with Harvard—I’ve disagreed with the prevailing mindset there for decades. I’m boycotting because the school has abandoned its ideals and embarrassed its alumni, and I needed—somebody need—to write about it where it would be noticed—and the class reunion book gets read.

      • Ohhhh that clarifies for me. I didn’t understand that.

        It makes sense then.

        Thank you for explaining and I’m sorry I missed the part about a letter and it being read and seen.

        Thank you for all you do.

  6. Good for you, Jack. Please let us know if they publish (all of) it. And how many letters you get in support. There must be some ….? And I’m sure you look forward with relish to any dissent.

    Somewhere among my comments in Ethics Alarms I remember mentioning this letter, where it could only be seen from behind my father’s desk, gilt-framed and hung on his office wall. Having graduated second in his class at Columbia with honors in his pre-med major, he was not expecting this response to his application to their med school in 1930. Roughly, except for the five words of the last sentence:

    [salutation, no name]
    This is to inform you we will not have a place for you at Columbia School of Medicine.
    Our Jewish quota is filled.
    [no complementary close, signature]

    Needless to say, he never attended any of the reunions, nor bothered responding to any of their solicitations. However, as his reputation grew, he heard from former classmates, praising his success and asking for use of his name or references for their children’s applications. He always answered politely, including the reason for not referring anyone to his alma mater.

    • Presumably he went to medical school somewhere else and did well afterwards? They say living well is the best revenge, but I think that’s one more bullshit way of dismissing someone’s grievances, legit or not, and I don’t blame him for referring no one else.

  7. I love a good troll, and the fist graphic just adds the right amount of salt into the sword-slash you just delivered. Regretfully, no doubt, but you might as well get your money’s worth.

  8. My grandfather remained in the same city he went to my alma matter in (in fact while he attended he was a day-hopper). He could have easily attended reunions. The first time I think he intended to was his 25th, but, at least as he told it, that weekend his father, my great-grandfather, died, and he subsequently wrecked his car, so he never made it. I’m almost sure alcohol was involved in the wreck, since granddad was one step away from being a functioning alcoholic. He only started going after his 50th, when everything was free, and he could drink himself under the table and act the fool without annoying my grandmother (long story). My father has never attended a one – he graduated, served 2 years in the US Navy, married my mother, bought a house, went to graduate school full time and got his MBA in a year, got a job where he would remain for 37 years, and had 2 sons in relatively short order. Sooo, he was kinda busy, and by the time all of that was done, driving 4 hours to hang with guys he used to attend class with, drink with, and play sophomoric pranks with, was the farthest thing from his mind. I went to one or two homecomings, but I went to law school immediately after, which is a very different environment, and the practice of law, particularly as a new-fledged associate, does not leave much time for breaking away to hang out with the idiots you used to act stupid with.

    • Sweet revenge, yes. It’s a bit of a saga, one of my dad’s favorites.. Too late to back out now.

      Too late to apply elsewhere, when one of his profs called to commiserate (they’d all heard about the letters which as it turned out hadn’t gone to all the Jewish grads, only the ones with immigrant parents, hmm…) and to offer dad a solution — apply to his alma mater: He had a reference letter all ready, and could arrange for a b&b with an old classmate who’d married locally in Kingston and had a thriving practice there … you don’t mind going out of the country? No? Then don’t stop to get a passport now.– do it when you’re settled in. Just go as a visiting student, no problem. It’s one of the best schools in the country.

      “Wow. Jamaica. Such a small country. I’m surprised they have a med school.” The acceptance seemed to come by return post, dad said. He was so nervous, one of my brothers read it to him. He knew it wasn’t Columbia, but med school was med school. The rest was a blur: packing the family suitcase with the few summer clothes he had, gifting his next youngest brother with the New Jersey winter ones, while the youngest was well satisfied with the stamps on the envelope, asking why their president had a crown on his head and no last name. King George V was hard to explain; so was a place like Jamaica. His father had sprung for the bus tickets; he lapsed into Yiddish when he was excited, finally just hugged dad – his eldest, the soon-to- be doctor – and stuffed them deep into his son’s inside pocket. His mother cried and smiled and handed him a package of something that smelled good.

      The prof met him at the bus station, handing dad a envelope that said INFO, with what dad guessed to be addresses. Unexpectedly, when he opened the envelope after the bus started, five ten dollar bills were there as well, with a note that said: “For clothing. Pay me back when you get your tenth paying patient.”

      Dad knew he had a very long ride (10 hours, I think) and he was still excited but near exhaustion from the constant rush and excitement. He said prayers of thanks, closed his eyes, found himself crying, went to sleep with the tears coming down, woke up at a rest stop, had breakfast (in the middle of the night) and arrived at — the wrong place — with the bus gone and …No way that was the Atlantic Ocean. Where the heck was he? He looked at the tickets. They had the name of the station he was at! But the rest was all wrong. The professor’s letter was with the tickets. “If you can’t get a lift, wait for a taxi to take you across,” it said, “you’ll find the bus to Kingston after you go through Customs..”

      There was no one at the small station. Water ahead, yes. But it was the wrong kind of water. Worse, he was going in the wrong direction.. The ticket stubs didn’t give him any other details. He started going through his pockets frantically (at this point, dad is pulling his pockets inside out … along with everything that’s in them until he finds a piece of paper — there’s always a piece of paper, if only a partial pad of prescriptions,)

      He opens the pretend paper and checks the letterhead. It’s the acceptance letter from Queen’s University School of Medicine … Kingston … okay, that’s right …Ontario uh oh,. Canada uh oh ooo,. He uses his x-ray eyes on the suitcase.

      Dad was still blushing, he says, when he got a ride across the St. Lawrence Seaway, and almost all the way to Kingston. The couple who pick him up are convinced he just had a fond farewell from his fiancee. Suddenly, while he’s telling the story standing at the station in Kingston at last at his destination, right then, he loses his blush and his face bursts into sunshine. He smiles at the calendar in his head. Four grand years later – he best time of his life so far — no vacations: Study or clinicals or being a lab assistant or shadow to his genial doctor-host or his nurse-assistant-wife in his office downstairs from their home. Somehow he learns to ski, skate, curl, make a showy snowman, give up alcohol permanently after being challenged to chug a warm Canadian beer, sing Christmas carols, and grow into a man of abundant, abiding joy.

      He was a G.P. through the worst of the Great Depression, the old bursting at the seams, black-bag carrying, home-visiting birth-to-death- kind of “doc” until he got tired watching blue babies die and moms go into clinical depression. Until he got in on the revolutionary idea of childbirth-with-training (what they should have called it in the first place) that produced fearless, exercised, puppy-breathing moms who accepted minimal, if any, child-killing ether and bonded with their newborns on the spot, in seconds instead of three months latef when they recovered from their own drugged out hideous pain. Or never.

      He divided his time among the Margaret Hague Maternity Hospital in Jersey City, (named after Boss Hague’s mother – the only positive thing the scourge of Hudson County ever did), Mount Sinai in Manhattan, his own free clinic in his office downstairs, and me from age three, picked up from school, living in the front seat getting his full attention or in the back seat playing or doing homework while he’s on call. Or going along while he trains nurses and husbands and “old wives of all ages”, or skirmishes with the Catholic Church. I thought priests were rabbis who talked with accents other than Yiddish. One day he brings his old professor, sick to death of chemo, home to stay in our guest room: There, pain-free and alert, he and dad watch boxing, wrestling and,football and everyone else stays out of the way because they copy the movements they see,unconsciously, with all their might, without a thought. He also writes lesson plans for my dad’s lectures and notes for his arguments, rarely remembering his cancer. With a careful balance of medications he acts a second, Christian father to my dad, whose duty it is to call in the priest when his beloved teacher dies quietly one spring afternoon.

      Dad delivered three thousand and two babies without losing one or the other. Courtesy of Queen’s University, Kingston, Ontario, Canada. He never did manage to get to a reunion, but he gave generously, including a growing grant at his death, simultaneously sending a postcard to Columbia University School of Medicine to thank them for their Jewish quota.

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