Alumni | Trusteeship

Monkey Time—and Monkey Business—at Harvard

RICOCHET   |  May 18, 2016 by Daniel Oliver

In China, it’s the year of the monkey. It’s monkey time here too. The monkeys on the back of the political system this year are Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders.

But there are other monkeys loose as well. Harvard University has a barrel of them on its own back: a slate of five insurgent candidates running for the position of Overseer. The Board of Overseers at Harvard is one of two governing bodies, the other being the President and Fellows, also known as the Corporation. The Corporation is self-perpetuating, which limits change. But one power the Overseers have is to consent, or withhold consent, to the election of Corporation members.

Three of the five insurgent candidates are Ralph Nader, Ron Unz, and Stuart Taylor. They are part of a group known as “Free Harvard/Fair Harvard.” Their primary goals are to abolish tuition and increase transparency in the admissions process at Harvard College.

The group’s website says: “Harvard is now one of the world’s largest hedge-funds, with its $38 BILLION portfolio tax-exempt because of the college it runs as a charity off to one side. The university’s annual investment income is twenty-five times larger than its net tuition revenue. Meanwhile, thousands of student families are forced to spend most of their life-savings on $180,000 of total tuition, while relatively few non-affluent students even bother applying. Paying tuition to a giant hedge-fund is unconscionable, and Harvard should immediately abolish all college tuition.”

The insurgents claim that the admissions policies favor “the wealthy and the powerful over more able students from ordinary American families” and that “there is also strong evidence that Harvard has a system of ‘Asian Quotas’ just like the ‘Jewish Quotas’ of the 1920s.” The insurgents want to do away with the quotas. How do you say “Amen” in Asian?

But the Free Harvard/Fair Harvard candidates are being opposed, according to the Harvard Crimson, the college newspaper, by a pro–affirmative-action group of nearly 700 alumni. The only surprise there is that the group doesn’t number 7,000. Or 70,000.

The insurgents have other ideas too, and some of them can be found in the answers to a questionnaire sent to them by ACTA, the indispensable American Council of Trustees and Alumni.

Asked about academic freedom, Stuart Taylor wrote, “Civil liberties, academic freedom, and intellectual diversity are in deep trouble on America’s campuses, including Harvard.” Ron Unz answered, “I am completely appalled at some of the current trends of ideological suppression by activist groups at Harvard and as an Overseer would strongly oppose them.”

Asked about due process in cases of alleged sexual assault, Taylor wrote: “As 28 Harvard law professors said in October 2015, Harvard University’s new disciplinary procedures ‘lack the most basic elements of fairness and due process, are overwhelmingly stacked against the accused.’ The law professors urged Harvard — in vain — to stand up to the Obama administration’s pressure to eviscerate due process, and ‘stand up for principle in the face of funding threats.’”

Asked about ROTC cadets’ receiving no academic credit for military-science courses, Lee Cheng, another insurgent, wrote: “Military science courses should receive academic credit and cadets on campus should receive the same level of protection, tolerance and welcome, if not more, than any other group of students.”

There are other issues at Harvard, but the Free Harvard/Fair Harvard folk can’t take them all on — yet. Harvard, flexing its mussolinis, is forcing the private single-sex clubs on campus (known as “final clubs”) to take members of what in olden times was known as the opposite sex. The ostensible reason is that too many sexual assaults are occurring at parties at the clubs.

According to the Wall Street Journal, “a survey of Harvard students conducted last year found that 47% of senior women who participated in final club activities experienced ‘non-consensual sexual contact,’ compared with 31% of all senior women at the school.”

Hmm. That just seems … unlikely, and for a different take, see here.

However, if it is true, it sounds like a separate admissions problem. But think about it: Harvard’s dormitories are coed; the uber-enlightened Harvard administration, fellow-traveling with the zeitgeist, surely sees nothing wrong with premarital sex; the students go to parties where both boys and girls drink too much; and — stuff happens. Is that good? Of course not. Is it predictable? Please. Perhaps the admissions problem is that the wrong people have been admitted to the Board of Overseers.

And, uh, excuse me, but, uh, what were the girls wearing? A scandalous question, no doubt, but look: if you were one of the brightest senior coeds on the planet and knew that 47 percent of the milk for sale in your neighborhood was contaminated and would make you sick, wouldn’t you take steps to see that the milk you bought was potable? That’s just common sense, which, the survey is telling us, appears to be in short supply at Harvard.

What Harvard needs is to be shaken upside down by its toes, paddled on the behind, ridiculed, dunked in a barrel, and told to fly right. That, roughly, is the process the Free Harvard/Fair Harvard crowd is trying to begin. Even if you don’t favor free tuition or unbiased admissions policies, it’s worth voting for the insurgents just to shake things up. Harvard graduates are hereby urged, therefore, in the good Boston tradition, to vote early, and often, for the insurgents.

So kids: What time is it at Harvard? It’s monkey time!

Roll out the barrel, we’ll have a barrel of fun.


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