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A Harvard Ghost Story

According to The Harvard Crimson, pro-Palestinian protesters flew three Palestinian flags from the college’s University Hall last Saturday evening. Who would be surprised by that?

Harvard, like other Ivy League institutions, is debasing itself but probably not enough yet for the people in charge—if there are any—to take corrective action. Harvard is no longer really about education but about political activism.

Education is supposed to be about reading, writing, and arithmetic—even at the college level. Once upon a time, and not that long ago, students at college read the classics to gain knowledge, learned to write stylish prose, and, for those scientifically minded, studied mathematics and became scientists.

Not any more. Now, “education” seems to be about connecting “to the world by centering the most pressing challenges that the world faces as university priorities,” as the now-disgraced former Harvard president Claudine Gay put it last year. “For me,” she said, “those include . . . all the ways in which democracy is faltering around the globe, the climate crisis, and inequality, to name a few.”

In Gay’s view, Harvard (and presumably all the institutions like it) was meant to be an incubator for left-wing activism.

The powers that be at Harvard finally had the sense to dismiss Gay as president (though she’s still teaching, at nearly $900,000 a year)—but beyond that, has Harvard really changed? And will any of the other institutions like Harvard ever change without a gigantic push from an outside force—like, maybe, Congress, which could (and certainly should) cut off its government funds.

An annual ritual at Harvard is the election by Harvard graduates of members of the Board of Overseers (one of the university’s two governing boards) and the Harvard Alumni Association.

A quick look at some of the candidates for Overseer suggests that Harvard is still “centering the most pressing challenges that the world faces as University priorities,” in Gay’s unfortunate phrase.

One candidate is Nworah Blaise Ayogu, MD, MBA. He is the general manager and chief medical officer of Amazon Clinic. He obtained his MD from Harvard Medical School and his MBA from Harvard Business School. He sounds really qualified, but, alas, since he’s black, we don’t really know if he’s qualified or the beneficiary/victim of affirmative action. Since we’re not his patients, we also don’t really care.

But we should care about this: responding to Harvard’s Diversity Questionnaire, Ayogu wrote: “Educating students who will create . . . a more just and equitable world is Harvard’s core mission and thus it’s [sic] top priority.” Really? That’s Harvard’s core mission? (It apparently isn’t grammar.) He is certainly in the Claudine Gay mold.

Another candidate is Theodore D. Chuang, a judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland, appointed by President Barack Obama. Not much is available about Chuang, except that he is endorsed by (deep breath): the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard, First Generation Harvard Alumni, Harvard Asian American Alumni Alliance, Harvard Black Alumni Society, Harvard Gender and Sexuality Caucus, Harvard Latino Alumni Alliance, Harvard Progressive Jewish Alumni, Harvard South Asian Alumni Alliance, Harvard Tamil Alumni Association, Harvard University Muslim Alumni, and Native American Alumni of Harvard University.

Another candidate is Juan Antonio Sepúlveda Jr., also endorsed by the Coalition for a Diverse Harvard, which had this to say about him:

Juan Sepúlveda has advanced diversity and inclusion at each step of his distinguished career. From his involvement in community organizing at age 16; through his co-founding of the Latinx on Fast Track Leadership Institute . . . to his present role as a Distinguished Professor and the Special Adviser for Inclusive Excellence to the Trinity University president (focused on implementing “campus-wide programming that promotes diversity and fosters inclusion and access”), Sepúlveda has a long-demonstrated commitment to inclusion . . .

etc., etc., etc.

Another candidate for Overseer is Danielle A. Feinberg, a visual effects supervisor at Pixar Animation Studios. In 2022, Feinberg received an award from the San Francisco Business Times for leaders paving the way for LGBTQ equality in the workplace.

And finally, for now, is the candidacy for the Harvard Alumni Association of Edward L. Rocha. Here’s what Rocha and two colleagues wrote about Harvard a few years ago:

As Americans, we speak English, Spanish, French, German, Lenape, Swahili and any number of other tongues. We are free to speak these languages and express our diverse cultures because America’s founders, too, were immigrants, and understood the terms of oppression that caused them to flee their own native countries. But recent literature by Samuel P. Huntington, Harvard’s Weatherhead University Professor, has caught much of the Harvard community off-guard by disregarding this fundamental truth. Huntington’s critique of Latin American (particularly Mexican) immigration to the United States comes after a long history of anti-immigrant rhetoric on his part. However, his recent writings are most disturbing due to their lack of substantial evidence and thinly veiled racism against non-Anglo-Protestants in America.

Rocha, like millions of other lefties, appears to not know the difference between settlers and immigrants, people who came to a wilderness and people who came to a welfare society. To call the pilgrims and other early settlers “immigrants” is either stupid or disingenuous—either one a disqualification for office—and shows no appreciation for Harvard’s ancestors’ worth.

And so it goes at Harvard. Claudine Gay may be gone from the presidency, but her ghost still roams the halls of America’s once most prestigious college, where last year dozens of student groups signed a letter from the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee blaming Hamas’s October 7 attack on the Israeli people, calling them an “apartheid regime,” and where, now, students fly the Palestinian flag.

Daniel Oliver, H’61, is Chairman of the Board of the Education and Research Institute and a Director of Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was Executive Editor and subsequently Chairman of the Board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review.

Email Daniel Oliver at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.

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About Daniel Oliver

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and a director of the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy in San Francisco. In addition to serving as chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of William F. Buckley Jr.’s National Review. Email him at Daniel.Oliver@TheCandidAmerican.com.

Photo: Cambridge, MA - April 24: Harvard Yard was closed to public access today, with security guards at select entrances admitting only those with Harvard University ID cards. Most smaller entrances to the yard were closed. (Photo by Lane Turner/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)