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: Continue reading