Cambridge, MA, an Open-Air Asylum
Dominic Green laments that a great American brand is squandering the public’s trust.
Failures of quality control are damaging its market dominance. Like any corporation, Harvard is looking for new management and working to burnish its image.
Unlike most corporations, Harvard has no idea what it is doing. Boeing still has engineers; Harvard has only professors. When the wheels came off at Chrysler in 1978, the company brought in Lee Iacocca. Harvard has brought in Derek Penslar.
Derek Penslar, an Unforced Error
Mr. Penslar, a professor of Jewish history, calls Israel a “settler colonial” state and compares the Jewish state’s establishment to France’s colonial takeover of Algeria.
In August he signed an academic petition called “The Elephant in the Room.” It endorsed the conspiracy theory that the Netanyahu government’s proposals for judicial reform mask a plan to “ethnically cleanse all territories under Israeli rule of their Palestinian population.” It asserted that Israel imposes a “regime of apartheid” on Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and accused the country of “Jewish supremacism.”
Mr. Penslar leads Harvard’s Center for Jewish Studies. He has been named a co-chairman of the university’s Presidential Task Force on Combating Antisemitism. According to Deborah Lipstadt, the latter appointment was an “unforced error,” reports Mr. Green.
The spontaneous campus celebrations after Hamas’s massacre, rape and kidnapping of Israelis on Oct. 7 meant that Harvard could no longer ignore its problem with Jews, and especially the Jewish state. Prodded by donors and shamed by the media, the university’s then-president, Claudine Gay, commissioned a committee.
Claudine Gay, former Harvard president, admitted in a Senate hearing that calling for the genocide of Jews was sometimes acceptable at Harvard, depending on the “context.”
The head of the advisory committee, Rabbi David Wolpe, resigned. He said Harvard was gripped by an ideology “that works only along axes of oppression and places Jews as oppressors and therefore intrinsically evil.”
Like a real president sending in the Navy SEALs, temporary president Alan Garber launched the task force, jointly commanded by Mr. Penslar and a social scientist from Harvard Business School who researches driverless cars.
Some of My Best Friends Are Professors
The Harvard professors are from the shrinking minority of classical liberals and liberal conservatives. Mr. Green met them in private, “lest their colleagues spot them.”
They know the battle of ideas is lost. The ship of fools was hijacked decades ago by the radical left. It floats down the River Charles on a tide of donor cash, dissenters thrown overboard.
Harvard, like the real America, is federal by design, but paralyzed by the administrative state.
Each of its undergraduate colleges and professional schools has its own fundraising machinery and endowment. Each has its boutique DEI commissariat that corrupts the academic hiring process and pollutes the intellectual atmosphere with what Rabbi Wolpe calls the “toxicity of intellectual slovenliness.”
The president and the Harvard Corp. resemble the U.S. government before the creation of the Federal Reserve and the New Deal: strong enough to speak on everyone’s behalf but struggling to impose their orders.
The Deadliest Academic Weapon
Dominic Green was told that Penslar’s collogues stand behind him. Like warriors of an invincible tribe, “everyone” will sign a letter sign to prove his independence of mind.”
The advisory committee was asked for data on anti-Jewish speech and conduct at Harvard. Alas, none was available.
The same went for “Islamophobia,” which is obligatorily regarded as being a problem of equal magnitude, even though it isn’t.
Foreign Admissions and Jew Baiting
Is the task force up to an investigation? Some trial balloons could include asking why do only American institutions feature mass protest, incitement, and even physical assaults against Jew. Could, wonders Mr. Green, this be related to the “subversion of the academy by the left? Is there a correlation between high levels of foreign donations and the addition of Jew-baiting to the curriculum?”
Ship of Fools
Harvard already takes hundreds of millions from the federal government. If it can’t rebuild itself quickly, continues Mr. Green, Harvard’s reputation sinks. Yes, it is buoyed by its wealth, but donor campaigns can pressure some of Harvard’s schools to raise standards in hiring.
Administrations can tell professors to keep politics out of the classroom, but they can’t keep the professors out. Radical politics are now as much a part of the job as the tweed coat and pipe used to be.
Sailing ships, years ago, were quarantined in times of plague for 40 days to avoid infecting the landlubbers. Harvard needs to be quarantined for 40 years, suggests Mr. Green.
That’s how long it’ll take for the latest recipients of tenure to vacate their plush perches. They might be fired for making students feel “unsafe” by suggesting that a man can’t become a woman. They can’t be fired for promoting stupid or wicked ideas. Their colleagues gave them tenure for doing just that. It’s Claudine Gays and Derek Penslars all the way down.
Mr. Green offers that his children aren’t applying to Harvard or Yale, before adding a few suggestions:
Don’t send your kids and your checks. Do your homework. Invest in new institutions whose curricula give real value. If your alma mater has become the mother of all leftists, practice some tough love. Truth is the daughter of time, but investor preferences can hurry it along.
As the Gandhi bumper sticker on the professorial Subaru Forester says, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”