Harvard Kennedy School (discussion)

by Henry on September 15, 2017

This post is a stub, intended to allow people to discuss the Harvard Kennedy School decision to revoke its invitation to Chelsea Manning, since the main post comments section is being used as a petition.

{ 58 comments }

1

John R Garrett 09.15.17 at 2:09 pm

I hope that the Chelsea Manning and Michelle Jones stories appearing together will persuade anyone with illusions about Harvard to recognize what it really is and how it operates: Kissinger lives forever. Sign the petition.

2

In the sky 09.15.17 at 2:42 pm

HKS appears to have chosen a red line of “not convicted of crimes against the United States government.” That’s a reasonable line no matter how stupid or odious people may find Spicer and Lewandowski.

3

Martinned 09.15.17 at 2:48 pm

I suppose my view would depend on the broader profile of fellows at the Kennedy School.

For reasons to do with her academic/professional background, Chelsea Manning wouldn’t fit my idea of a fellow of the Kennedy School. But if it is common to invite people without experience either at the highest levels of government or studying said high levels of government academically to be fellows, I’m not sure why Ms. Manning’s criminal record should matter.

(The other post mentioned Corey Lewandowski and Sean Spicer. Both would make more sense to me than Chelsea Manning, but still not much. Sean Spicer at least worked in the White House, but all Corey Lewandowski did is work on a Presidential campaign, which – as far as I know – isn’t what the Kennedy School teaches.)

4

kidneystones 09.15.17 at 2:54 pm

Here’s the statement: https://www.hks.harvard.edu/announcements/statement-dean-elmendorf-regarding-invitation-chelsea-manning-be-visiting-fellow

It’s pretty mealy-mouthed, but as John R Garrett notes, nobody should have any illusions about what Harvard – it’s one of the world’s great universities. Getting dis-invited may be something of an honor. Evidently Manning was only supposed to be at the university for a day. According to the statement from the Kennedy School that invitation still stands.

“We invited Chelsea Manning to spend a day at the Kennedy School. …We are withdrawing the invitation to her to serve as a Visiting Fellow—and the perceived honor that it implies to some people—while maintaining the invitation for her to spend a day at the Kennedy School and speak in the Forum. “

Which means the petition is about getting the honorific ‘visiting fellow’ re-appended to the one-day invite.

Harvard can be pretty silly at times, but in the case of both Jones and Manning I think they’ve made the right calls.

5

Pseudo-gorgias 09.15.17 at 3:03 pm

I’d be more sympathetic in progressives hadn’t totally destroyed their credibility on this issue. This is no different than the case of Christine Lagarde or Ayaan Ali, and the arguments then made against those speakers apply with even greater force to manning. If progressives were really serious about returning a liberal regime to the campus perhaps there would be a starting point in the discussion, but until then this is just special pleading.

6

bob mcmanus 09.15.17 at 3:23 pm

I am, so far, thrilled at being mistaken in my apprehension that Sessions would go after her and my disappointment that Obama granted clemency instead of a pardon. I’ll wait to see the format before I sign below.

7

alkali 09.15.17 at 3:50 pm

The Elmendorf statement is self-discrediting. In particular, it reveals that the “Visiting Fellow” designation is insubstantial — it simply means that a person is coming for a day to give a talk and to meet with interested faculty and students — and it is freely conveyed on people of all political stripes. Unless Elmendorf proposes to start denying this designation to CIA vets who come to campus, there is no reason to deny it to Ms. Manning.

8

Ted Lemon 09.15.17 at 4:24 pm

@5 if you have a point to make, make the point and dispense with the ad hominem.

What I find disappointing about this and about the Michelle Jones case is that Harvard lacks the courage of their convictions. It makes a great deal of sense to invite Manning, whether you agree with her or not, because she is relevant. Subsequently stripping her of her designation as a Visiting Fellow is just wimpy. Disinviting Jones after accepting her was again just wimpy.

Harvard is an 800 pound gorilla. They don’t need to make concessions to appearance. Indeed, it would be better for their reputation not to. So this boils down to somebody with the power to do so dragging Harvard’s reputation through the mud for ideological reasons.

9

Cian O'Connor 09.15.17 at 4:35 pm

This story bothered me more TBH:
http://nyti.ms/2x09OA3

It’s only a matter of time before the US starts branding ex-convicts.

10

Suzanne 09.15.17 at 5:18 pm

@7: Isn’t it just. (“Gee, we didn’t realize people saw the Visiting Fellow designation as an honor.”) At least future Visiting Fellows will know exactly where they stand.

11

JRLRC 09.15.17 at 5:24 pm

12

Chris Bertram 09.15.17 at 5:46 pm

Dani Rodrik and Damon Linker are busy defending the decision (against Samuel Moyn) on twitter.

13

bruce wilder 09.15.17 at 6:13 pm

Tell me again why Michael J. Morell isn’t in jail? Oh right. Because torture and murder are not against the law when the CIA does them. Those are not “crimes against the United States government”, they are crimes of the United States government, so it is OK to “honor” Morell.

14

Cian O'Connor 09.15.17 at 6:27 pm

Harvard is an 800 pound gorilla. They don’t need to make concessions to appearance. Indeed, it would be better for their reputation not to. So this boils down to somebody with the power to do so dragging Harvard’s reputation through the mud for ideological reasons.

Are they though? Isn’t Harvard more like a servant of the ruling class. Extremely useful, esteemed on occasion, but still only a courtier.

15

In the sky 09.15.17 at 7:55 pm

Those are not “crimes against the United States government”, they are crimes of the United States government, so it is OK to “honor” Morell.

That’s quite impressive whataboutery, Bruce, not to mention the excellent use of scare quotes.

Whether they should hire (entirely innocent-until-proven-guilty) war criminals or goons like Spicer is a fascinating question, but irrelevant to whether it’s reasonable for HKS to not invite people who have been convicted of serious offenses against the jurisdiction in which HKS resides/flag it flies. Independent of one’s views on Wikileaks/Manning, and indeed independent of any further whataboutery about their other “distinguished” (scarequotes!) guests, they have drawn a reasonable line here.

16

kidneystones 09.15.17 at 9:06 pm

@8 “So this boils down to somebody with the power to do so dragging Harvard’s reputation through the mud for ideological reasons.”

First, allow me to stress that both the Jones and Manning cases are textbook examples, imho, where people should be allowed to respectfully disagree. I strongly disagree with your characterization of Harvard’s meandering positions in both cases. First, a great many neutrals might feel that your description pretty much sums up the actions of Antifa, and even BLM, protesters at any number of institutions across America. In the case of Harvard, however, we’re seeing the surface of a number of battles being fought by factions insides and outside the university. There is, for example, the institutional relationship the university prizes with elite institutional America referred to on another thread.

Top fellows from the US and other governments have choices. The Manning dis-invite confirms what happens when this body chooses to make their feelings clear. The Jones case while different in many respects is also a battleground of constituencies. I don’t personally see any reason to remove the honorific visiting fellow from the Manning invite. But universities are funny places. Ayers was famously denied Emeritus status for statements and attitudes that had nothing to do with his academic work, in large part because alumni and faculty, on balance, did not want to extend him that honor.

The Kennedy School is both a site of serious scholarship and a recruiting institution of sorts. The lid has been lifted on the sausage-making of the marketing of the Harvard pedigree and branding process. That’s what the Manning case teaches me. The Jones case is more problematic. However, the university, like Yale and other elite universities across the globe, as a matter of course deliberately excludes an extremely large percentage of its applicants, many of which would be/are welcome at other institutions. Jones won’t be/isn’t the first or only qualified candidate denied admission. In a sense, her rejection is the rejection of her supporters and their arguments. Again, I stress my view that the administrators are the arbiters of power-struggles we see only on the surface. The conservative inclinations, in the broadest sense of the term, always work to promote the exclusivity that is the Harvard brand – elite applicants, rich alumni, and a steady stream of both.

Both Manning and Jones are from the wrong demographic zip codes and nobody should be too surprised to see Harvard doing what Harvard always does, usually to general applause.

17

Suzanne 09.15.17 at 11:24 pm

@2:It’s a reasonable red line for Harvard but somebody should have thought of that before issuing the invitation. I’m surprised she was even considered by the HKS in the first place.

18

Heliopause 09.16.17 at 2:09 am

Did anybody else look up a list of Harvard Visiting Fellows? Here’s one I found: https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2017/09/15/what-visiting-fellow-harvard-institute-politics-here-full-list/aiHcbBM4KKvVLHINCQx3VM/story.html

To call the majority of the people on this list “reliable dispensers of conventional wisdom” is about the nicest term I can think of.

19

LFC 09.16.17 at 4:53 am

I think the Manning and the Jones cases are very different.

The decision to remove the title “visiting fellow” from Manning but maintain the invitation for her to spend a day at the Kennedy School is tacky. Once she’d been invited to be a one-day visiting fellow by the Institute of Politics (which, btw, is not mainly a scholarly ‘center’ but plays a quite different role) that should have been that, short of some truly drastic circumstance intervening (which it didn’t here) and irrespective of subsequent objections.

Unlike the Manning case, the Jones case does not involve a one-day invitation to give a talk and meet with some students but, in effect, probably roughly a six-year or seven-year (or longer) invitation to become a part of a particular academic program. It’s a completely different thing.

The Manning decision seems silly and quite indefensible; the Jones decision, by contrast, seems like a fairly close call on both sides of which serious arguments can be made. At a minimum, the Jones case doesn’t seem open and shut (though I think, as I said on the other thread, she probably should have been admitted).

In sum, apart from the fact that they both involve the same university, these are very different situations, or so I’d argue.

20

christian h. 09.16.17 at 7:04 am

There’s absolutely nothing reasonable at all about the imaginary line that the Kennedy school has not in fact drawn with respect to conviction of a crime in the US. The actual line they have drawn is of course that they won’t be seen to honour people upsetting to the apparatchiks that can dole out jobs to their graduates and favours to the school. What makes this so particularly sordid is that, fundamentally, this is about the most sleazy corruption.

21

christian h. 09.16.17 at 7:09 am

The discussion here is also sadly predictable. Every time a university engages in this kind of cowardly behaviour – unhiring professors, firing lecturers, univiting guests because they’ve been critical of a cause their donors or their graduates’ employers hold dear – a crowd descends and discusses …. not the actual actions of said university but some alternate universe where a functionally equivalent action was based on the most reasonable abstract considerations of respect for the law, civility, and rational discourse.

22

Howard Frant 09.16.17 at 7:42 am

It’s not, as the OP said, the “Institute of Government”. It’s the Institute of Politics. It has virtually no contact with the rest of the school, and interacts mainly with undergraduates. Fellows are generally temporarily unemployed politicians. Usually they’ve been elected officials, but Spicer and Lewandowski are not unreasonable choices. Manning is strange choice; I’m surprised that she was invited as an IOP Fellow.

I don’t think we need to get into Harvard dropping its mask, the ruling class, etc.; the Kennedy School runs a ten-month program for senior managers in national and international security which undoubtedly is a cash cow for the school. I presume the Dean didn’t want to risk pissing off a lot of those guys and killing the cow. This isn’t much of a crowd for Occam’s Razor, is it?

23

kidneystones 09.16.17 at 11:36 am

Harvard may have it’s tempests, but how about an economics adjunct using his twitter feed to “Smashfascism” and promote the killing of cops?

As in, yes, really.

https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2017/09/15/us/15reuters-new-york-police-johnjay.html

The NYT glosses omits any actual, you know, alt-left hate speech cause, well – I don’t know why but here are a few choice examples: https://pjmedia.com/trending/2017/09/15/antifa-prof-nyc-placed-administrative-leave-anti-cop-tweets/

Cost of security to prevent riots over Ben Shapiro at UC: 600 k.

24

In the sky 09.16.17 at 12:18 pm

The discussion here is also sadly predictable. Every time a university engages in this kind of cowardly behaviour – unhiring professors, firing lecturers, univiting guests because they’ve been critical of a cause their donors or their graduates’ employers hold dear – a crowd descends and discusses …. not the actual actions of said university but some alternate universe where a functionally equivalent action was based on the most reasonable abstract considerations of respect for the law, civility, and rational discourse.

It’s almost as predictable as the crew who then retort “We need to talk about the specifics here, not the general principles.”

25

Donald 09.16.17 at 1:50 pm

“That’s quite impressive whataboutery, Bruce, not to mention the excellent use of scare quotes.”

Bruce’s point is not whataboutery. It is the central issue. People who expose the war crimes of a given country’s government will be prosecuted and treated with contempt by the ruling class. Sorry for the stilted Marxist rhetoric, but substitute whatever rhetoric you want–it’s a truism that is as old as the Bible.

“I don’t think we need to get into Harvard dropping its mask, the ruling class, etc.; the Kennedy School runs a ten-month program for senior managers in national and international security which undoubtedly is a cash cow for the school. I presume the Dean didn’t want to risk pissing off a lot of those guys and killing the cow. This isn’t much of a crowd for Occam’s Razor, is it?”

This is saying essentially the same thing in two different ways while pretending that the two explanations are entirely different, so as to justify the concluding bit of snark. Yes, Harvard likely acted this way in large part because it would lose money. Is that supposed to conflict with the theory of people who might invoke a phrase like ” the ruling class”?

26

Donald Johnson 09.16.17 at 2:07 pm

I suppose that if someone responds to my comment in a negative way he or she might ridicule my reference to the Bible and war crimes– the point was that one sees court prophets praising the government in the OT, while those who criticize the oppression of the poor by the rich get considerably worse treatment. So no, not war crimes, but the idea is the same. Chomsky pointed that out once, but it is an obvious point and presumably true of most if not all societies, including democracies. So it is not surprising that Harvard cares more about the moral qualms of CIA directors than about the people who expose them. It was more surprising that they invited Manning in the first place.

27

Howard Frant 09.16.17 at 2:35 pm

Every time a university engages in this kind of cowardly behaviour – unhiring professors, firing lecturers, univiting guests because they’ve been critical of a cause their donors or their graduates’ employers hold dear

And, as has been pointed out, they didn’t uninvite Manning. This may be, as JFC says, tacky, but where’s the principle that everyone is rushing to the barricades to defend?

28

Anarcissie 09.16.17 at 4:20 pm

In looking into this story through the available media, I am unable to find out why Ms Manning would accept such an invitation in the first place.

29

Ebenezer Scrooge 09.16.17 at 5:24 pm

Put me down as “shocked but not surprised.”
Universities used to be where the really smart people hung out: in reserve for the needs of society. (Universities still get a lot of reputational mileage from the Manhattan Project.) But that hasn’t been true for awhile–the fancier purlieus of Corporate and Government America have the same kind of candlepower these days.
So what justification remains? Education? Undergrad education can be done cheaper and more efficiently through other means. Graduate school is just an apprenticeship, which can take place in many contexts. Professional schools may teach something, but are generally inferior to OJT.
Universities are only worth keeping for their independence. The smart peeps in the corporate and government sectors serve other masters. Until recently, the professoriat served only itself. (The press plays a similar role, but is woefully short on technical expertise.) But nowadays, the professoriat is beginning to lose its independence and serve the institutional needs of the university, which resemble the institutional needs of most corporations: customer satisfaction.
I suppose the university will survive this. There is, after all, a demand for its remaining services. Universities legitimate the current ruling class through their scholarship, preserve the myth of meritocracy through their undergrad education, and provide minor-league football spectacles. I’d rather such a university dies, but it won’t.

30

JRLRC 09.16.17 at 5:57 pm

31

CJColucci 09.16.17 at 6:06 pm

Nobody would have complained, or even noticed, if Harvard hadn’t extended either offer in the first place. Though I have no problem with either initial decision, there were respectable reasons not to extend them, and I wouldn’t have had an issue if Harvard had decided otherwise. But having done what it did, this is just weak and embarrassing. I thought Harvard was full of smart people.

32

alfredlordbleep 09.16.17 at 6:21 pm

Those are not “crimes against the United States government”, they are crimes of the United States government, so it is OK to “honor” Morell.[—bruce wilder@13]

That’s quite impressive whataboutery, Bruce, not to mention the excellent use of scare quotes.

Whether they should hire (entirely innocent-until-proven-guilty) war criminals or goons like Spicer is a fascinating question [. . .] —In the sky@15

[brackets and emphasis added]

Just who does In the sky imagine will try top U. S. government officials (in this life on earth)?

And is “Whataboutery” on the way to becoming a lazy put-down, like, say, “political correctness”? One hopes not. . .

33

Chris "merian" W. 09.16.17 at 6:55 pm

@2 “HKS appears to have chosen a red line of “not convicted of crimes against the United States government.” That’s a reasonable line no matter how stupid or odious people may find Spicer and Lewandowski.”

First of all, Ms Jones was convicted of a crime against a person committed as a teenager (I’d have written juvenile, but with the US system you never know, and I’m really not particularly interested in the minutiae of her prosecution), not against the US government.

Second, to draw the line at a criminal conviction means to abdicate any pretense at weight and authority in the public debate. It’s at the limits of what’s generally accepted is where an institution can most usefully veer into new waters, by carefully selecting which norm-pushing individuals or ideas are worthy giving some space to develop. (I’m not advocating for showy willy-nilly norm-breaking.) This is incompatible with practicing what in German is called pre-emptive obedience (vorauseilender Gehorsam).

(Also, let’s say that an existing Harvard scholar is doing or saying something along the lines of civil disobedience, something that gets into the craw of the current administration, and there’s successful prosecution for, whatever, criminal trespassing or criminal obstruction of something-or-other. They’ll have to now know that the institution won’t have their back. In a time where there’s even more doubt than for a long time that the executive will more-or-less uphold principles of democratic opinion-formation and liberty, that’s worrying.)

34

S_Ou_B 09.17.17 at 1:31 am

@In the sky, 15

What an incredibly elusive response. Seeing as Harvard isn’t an arm of the state (well, I mean, not officially anyway), there’s no immediate reason why we should accept “being convicted by the US government” as a reasonable criteria to disinvite Manning or remove the Visiting Fellow honor or whatever, and presumably Harvard didn’t think so either before they folded under pressure. Besides, the only thing that criteria does is push off the work of moral justification to the state, in which case bringing up the hypocrisies and bad moral reasoning of the state is entirely germane.

35

Saurs 09.17.17 at 8:35 am

@Anarcissie, it’s reasonable to assume she accepted the gig because it offered her an opportunity to address, as the original announcement framed them, “issues of LGBTQ identity in the military” from a stage (largely on-line) different than what she has grown accustomed to since her release. She is described, in the original roster of speakers, as “a Washington D.C. based network security expert and former U.S. Army intelligence analyst” who has written about “social, technological and economic ramifications of Artificial Intelligence.” She is also identified as a trans woman who is involved in trans advocacy and activism.

Whether Kennedy was an appropriate (and ethical) venue for what insights she wanted to offer remains to be seen, but she obviously thought it wise and/or a good professional opportunity. (She was less than enthused when she learned about Spicer being named another fellow.) She may have been wrong, but there’s no real mystery, otherwise. She’s not directly responding to requests for interviews at the moment and may have relished a formal speech or a more controlled discussion, with a narrower subject range, than facing a potentially hostile journalist who might not be satisfied limiting their questions to her activism. Who can say?

36

LFC 09.17.17 at 12:40 pm

H. Frant @27

I wasn’t sure the slang-y word “tacky” was still in use, but I guess those of us of a certain age recognize it. ;)

[Btw, you had a typo on my first initial, but that’s ok.]

37

bob mcmanus 09.17.17 at 2:40 pm

I may be missing something that everybody else assumes or has already been explained, but does the fellowship as opposed to a mere invitation to speak involve an emolument or something, a check? I presumed it did, and so there is an important difference between the two.

I presume Manning is in need of money right now, so if the fellowship does include money, then she has been materially damaged and should sue Harvard for material and reputational damages.

38

Anarcissie 09.17.17 at 4:57 pm

Saurs 09.17.17 at 8:35 am @ 35 —
Well, Ms Manning can say, but apparently she hasn’t (yet). HKS seems like a dubious place to set foot, much less express oneself, but we’ve all got to make our way through the state as best we can. I had not meant to criticize.

39

Orange Watch 09.17.17 at 5:45 pm

kidneystones@4, 16:

Pointing out that Harvard is well within its rights to disinvite or avoid honoring people of its choosing is frankly beside the point. I agree they are within their rights to do so, and I don’t doubt most here do as well. The issue is the process by which they arrived at the decision to do so. I would have no problem if Harvard expelled every student on campus who was not a white Protestant cisgender male of European decent and from an old money family if they did so after demonstrating by impartial means that all those students were guilty of gross academic misconduct. I would most certainly have a problem if they did so because the Harvard Corporation publicly announced that starting tomorrow they would no longer waste university resources teaching inferior beings and would henceforth only cater to proper, decent folk. Process matters, and no amount of gesticulating at the ends will make the means go away.

40

Donald Johnson 09.17.17 at 8:40 pm

” but where’s the principle that everyone is rushing to defend?”

One principle is that it is tacky to let apologists for torture like Morell posture as people of principle. You yourself said they probably dumped Manning because they were afraid of the money they would lose if they didn’t. You seem fine with this. Maybe everyone would be fine with it if Harvard just came out and explained their actions in the way you explained them. We would all know exactly where they stand.

41

LFC 09.18.17 at 12:17 am

Orange Watch @38

I would have no problem if Harvard expelled every student on campus who was not a white Protestant cisgender male of European de[s]cent and from an old money family if they did so after demonstrating by impartial means that all those students were guilty of gross academic misconduct.

If Harvard were to expel “every student on campus who was not a white Protestant cisgender male of European de[s]cent and from an old money family,” they’d be expelling, I’d guess, around 85 percent of their undergraduates, if not perhaps more. (That’s a guess, as I said, but I’d be surprised if it weren’t in the ballpark. I suppose the exact number might depend a bit on how one defined “old money family,” but whatever.)

42

kidneystones 09.18.17 at 12:48 am

@38 I enjoy your comments and agree that process matters. But that the ends always matter more. This not any means to an ends problem in either case, so let’s not get lost down that path. It’s a case of adjudicating between competing interests and Harvard has done exactly that.

The notion that any kind of injustice has occurred, at least as any normal person would deploy the term, simply confirms how silly and absurd this discussion has become. Manning’s loss of the honorific is the deal-breaker? A child-murderer who has yet to reveal the location of her own son’s body must be granted a funded education at an elite private institution?

The reason why people clamber over one another to get into Harvard, or have the bogus ‘visiting fellow’ title appended even if it means substantively zero is the anti-thesis of the values I assume many here hold dear.

It’s no secret to anyone associated with Harvard that universes of injustice and inequality thrive within that ecosystem amidst the serious scholarship that takes also place, just as we’d expect in any large organization. Promotions, tenure, hiring, funding, and yes acceptance offers are subject to intense competition and negotiation every day, there, and at every other elite institution and many others. Usually these battles take place behind closed doors. This one spilled out into the open.

I’m reluctant to correct you, but it seems to me that you’re not objecting to the process, but rather that the veneer of civility has been stripped away in both cases and has somehow injured Manning and Jones, neither of whom appear to qualify as victims in any real world context that I’d understand.

Manning is still invited to speak and Jones will get the support and funding she deserves, just not at the institution so many strangely feel is essential to her progress as an academic. I couldn’t frankly give a fig about either.

Successful outcomes for these two individuals are assured. As I’ve mentioned frequently, I’m much, much more concerned that 3/4 African-American males in California of high school age cannot meet basic literacy tests. The fact that Ms. Manning and Ms. Jones ‘deserve’ to be at Harvard with full honors has become an issue istestament to something.

I’m just not sure what.

43

Howard Frant 09.18.17 at 4:52 am

I’m still having a hard time getting exercised about Manning. Some people may have trouble thinking of military officers as legitimate students, but the Kennedy School clearly does think of them that way, and I can’t see any principled reason not to.

Evidently, some of those students are really personally pissed off about Manning, enough perhaps that it might harm the whole program, and, yes, cost the school money. The school’s response was to take away an “honor” it never intended to award, while retaining the invitation to speak. So the students are, presunably, somewhat appeased, and speech is not impaired, though now Manning is understandably pissed off. This doesn’t strike me as a “to the barricades!” moment. But undoubtedly I’m missing something.

44

Howard Frant 09.18.17 at 5:27 am

Or put it this way. Suppose the MPPs are outraged by the granting of this “honor” to Spicer, and threaten to withhold futurer contributions, with the same outcome as here. Is this still a craven surrender? What if it’s MPP alumni?

45

David Steinsaltz 09.18.17 at 9:20 am

I’m surprised by the number of people who are willing to say something like, Harvard is an autonomous business, controversy about Manning and Jones threatened its business, and it’s naive to expect them to make any other decision. In the same way that Harvard has a right to choose recipients of its “honours”, on the basis of its private agenda, we have a right to withhold our honour of the institution for our own reasons. No one is suggesting that Chelsea Manning lead an army of the dispossessed in to occupy the Kennedy School and drive Douglas Elmendorff from office.

And to the extent that Harvard’s business model actually depends on the respect that it gets from academics and intellectuals, our criticism will have to be weighed in its crass institutional decision-making against the more obvious power of money and government power. I don’t want to exaggerate our influence, but I can’t see any influence in giving up the influence we have, to say “elite universities are just cynical instruments of the establishment” when a foundation of their power is their claim — and our acceptance of their claim — to be something else.

46

engels 09.18.17 at 11:08 am

Harvard’s incoming class of 2021 is made up of over 29 percent legacy students, reports The Harvard Crimson. Last year’s applicants who had Harvard in their blood were three times more likely to get into the school than those without. […] Legacy students tend to be wealthy and white, students who, as a group, are already disproportionately represented at college. The New York Times found that, at five Ivy League schools, Dartmouth, Princeton, Yale, Penn and Brown, as well as 33 other colleges, there are more students from families in the top one percent than from the entire bottom 60 percent. That’s not an accident. In fact, in the early 20th century, universities introduced a preference for legacies on purpose to exclude less-desirable applicants, such as immigrants, and to keep their campuses homogeneous, Think Progress reports. Princeton adopted a comprehensive admissions process in 1922, which led to a drop in its Jewish student population. The chairman of Princeton’s Board of Admissions acknowledged that he had wanted to solve their “Jewish problem.”
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/06/harvards-incoming-class-is-one-third-legacy.html

47

Brandon 09.18.17 at 12:46 pm

Before reconciliation, there must be truth. Right?

Ms. Jones is a woman who tortured and neglected a child to death and who, to this day, will not reveal where his little body was disposed of. There was a lot of reason-giving on her part: the child was a product of violence. She was a young, badly-abused and traumatized person herself. The details she supplies in these regards were fulsome and we are right to take them seriously. What she did to kill her son and dispose of his corpse is a serious thing, too, and it has been glossed over in a way that few narrative historians I know would abide by in the telling of a story, especially when the person who has told the first and third part of the story has the knowledge and ability to tell the second part.

I agree that she has fulfilled her punitive requirements to the government, and therefore to society in some large and general sense. I am glad she received a shortened sentence because her scholarship was evidence of her rehabilitation. We can bracket all that off. The question then becomes to what extent the governors of a private institution have the right to deny her something rare and extraordinary in their own realm: a fully-funded opportunity to take one’s place among the best scholars in the world in a community where this good is coveted and fiercely sought after.

There is this thought, and we don’t say it too loudly but we still think it, that the history department admitted Michelle from among other qualified applicants like her *because* she killed a person and went to jail for it, and *because* she is black and was incarcerated. There were rejected applicants to the program whose scholarship was surely as good, and whose contributions to history would be as valuable. This, the Jones case, was meant to be the department’s contribution not to only to history but to our present-day society.

Her admission was a statement about what it might mean to be a redeemed killer and an incarcerated person of color by their (progressive) view in the United States. Let’s not be naive: it wasn’t like the department fell in love with her scholarship and then was surprised and intrigued to learn, after they had admitted her, that she had killed a child many years ago. She was their unicorn: a convicted felon of color who is brilliant and holds great promise in the field. We’ve seen law schools admit felons to make a point about our society, and now it was a history department’s turn. The imprimatur they were using to make their point wasn’t only their department’s, however, it was that of Harvard itself.

No so fast, said the people whose job it is to make more acute judgments about Harvard’s imprimatur. Welcome, said NYU. I guarantee that in the sweep of things, where Ms. Jones learns to do history and what history she actually does will be inconsequential, in the way that nearly all of our papers, books and research are inconsequential except as a small part of a wider web of knowledge. What is of greater consequence in this case is who she is and how she got there. Once that is the case, Harvard is entitled to consider the details of her crime, and these details apparently gave them pause.

If this is true, it’s not unreasonable or crazy for a university to take the circumstances of her killing and its aftermath into consideration when they review the history department’s decision. Child murder is close to pedophilia as a crime that many reasonable people find hardest to forgive, and, as you can tell by what I write, I think that withholding information about how you killed your 4-year-old son and what you did with his body should bring some scrutiny upon you as a person people would want to associate with in the semi-private settings in which a wide range of reasons suffice for drawing a conclusion.

I feel she has been quiet about what she did because it would be an assault on our dignity. I’m sure it still terrifies her to recall it. People who kill the children who are never found throw their bodies into dumpsters, haul them deep into the woods for consumption by animals, or fold them into coolers or garbage bags and leave them by the side of the road. They cut them up and scatter the pieces. Whatever she did took an act of consciousness and will because we never found him and that’s quite rare. We can talk about personal identity and whether Ms. Jones today is the same person who did something like this years ago, but there will always be a thread inside her from that day that runs to this one and we deserve to know what it is. There is no right to privacy in murder.

So I’m not at all upset that NYU took her, and not because of any dim view about NYU. It’s because, as someone said above, this is an issue about which reasonable people may disagree. I’m more worried about the people who see the history department as the final voice in this matter and see the disagreement that followed, albeit one that had a hierarchy of power that produced the outcome we see, as some criminal usurpation of the divine right of an academic department to do as it pleases with the resources a larger university accords it.

His name was Brandon, by the way. His bones are still somewhere in this world. If Michelle wants not only liberty but reconciliation, she should tell us where they are. We should find them and bury them properly. His history deserves to be written as a basic condition of humanity. Then, we can review the story in full and private institutions can set their terms of reconciliation. Somebody said above ref: Manning that it’s lazy and wrong to accord moralizing and accountability to the government alone. I agree, so it’s odd that this would work for Manning but not for Jones. I’ll buy Ms. Jones’ books when she writes them, but I’d like to read this other story, too.

48

LFC 09.18.17 at 2:55 pm

engels @46

I would favor getting rid of legacy preferences in admissions. The causes of the skewed class/income composition of the student bodies at those schools go much deeper than the legacy preference, however, and are rooted in the broader socioeconomic and educational inequalities in the society.

If you think about it, it’s v. likely that the legacy preference has, over the years, worked less and less in exactly the fashion that those who introduced it in the early 20th century intended. I.e., it no longer works to keep a class homogeneously WASP, though it undoubtedly still favors, on balance, students from more affluent families (of whatever race or religion). But it’s not the basic reason for the over-representation of students from the top one percent and under-representation of those from the bottom 60 percent of the income dist. (as I said, it’s the broader societal inequities, the universities not doing enough to counteract them in their admissions policies overall, and that the administrators don’t see their role in the reproduction of inequalities as a big problem).

49

Matt_L 09.18.17 at 7:44 pm

@29 “So what justification remains? Education? Undergrad education can be done cheaper and more efficiently through other means. ”

What are these cheaper and more efficient means? – books on tape? Video disks? The great lectures of great professors on VHS? tell me more.

50

LFC 09.18.17 at 9:12 pm

p.s. @engels
see J. Karabel’s The Chosen (2005) on the 20th-cent. history of admissions policies at Yale, Princeton, and Harvard.

51

engels 09.18.17 at 11:18 pm

The causes of the skewed class/income composition of the student bodies at those schools go much deeper than the legacy preference

Agreed, but from an international perspective the legacy system seems far out of step with 21st century norms (also weird that the same people who think affirmative action is an outrage against meritocracy don’t seem to mind about it…)

52

J-D 09.19.17 at 5:49 am

Brandon

The details she supplies in these regards were fulsome and we are right to take them seriously.

https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/fulsome
http://grammarist.com/usage/fulsome/

53

Brandon 09.19.17 at 11:01 am

Thank you for correcting my use of the word fulsome, J-D. You learn something new every day.

54

Z 09.19.17 at 12:08 pm

kidneystones The fact that Ms. Manning and Ms. Jones ‘deserve’ to be at Harvard

That’s a disingenuous statement. Nobody here said that Ms. Manning and Ms. Jones deserve to be at Harvard, and you know that: Ms. Manning is not a visiting fellow in 99% of the world university and nobody objects, again Ms. Jones was not accepted at Yale and nobody is making a big deal out of it.

[Their cases] has become an issue istestament to something. I’m just not sure what.

How about the principle that rules should be applied in an uniform way to everyone, and that exceptional treatment should be reserved for exceptional and well-defined circumstances? If someone is accepted to a school or has received an invitation through the normal procedure, you don’t disinvite them or change the terms of the invitation absent a clear and clearly defined reason. That is simple enough a principle, but an important one for an autonomous community of scholars to do what is supposed to do.

55

kidneystones 09.20.17 at 12:39 am

@54 You normally present more coherent comments.

In the first paragraph, you insist that because nobody (here) it seems has deployed the word ‘deserve’ that this isn’t the case.

In the second, you imply that Manning has been disinvited, when the opposite is plainly the case.

I’m pleased Manning is invited to speak at HKS, her/his decision to deny the students the opportunity of discussion confirms something. For my money the entire argument over an honorific reeks and reminds me how trivial silly ‘academic’ priorities often are. Manning belongs in prison if the laws are applied equally and fairly. She/he is only free to choose not to speak at HKS, because an exception to a general rule was made.

56

TM 09.20.17 at 8:52 am

Joe Arpaio belongs in prison.

57

In the sky 09.20.17 at 2:11 pm

I’m sure nobody was too upset, but I’m sorry for being absent from this thread for the last few days :-)

My claim was that it is reasonable for the KSG, as a professional school, to defer authority to the courts/institutions of the United States. KSG flies the US flag and is named after a US President fergodsake. It surely has an international development role, and trains many future diplomats from other countries, but is very much a Bostonian institution that supports the US Constitution, its court system, and what not. In that context, drawing a line of not hiring/honouring anyone that has admitted treason (or war crimes, or “assisting the enemy”, etc) against the United States seems like a thoroughly reasonable line even if I personally disagree with the decision.

Ms Manning is not an academic. This is a policy school/”School of Government”, and Manning committed a crime that was not a DUI or burglary, but active release of confidential information to the detriment of the US.

Should Harvard stand up and say “Screw these illegitimate courts, we’ll decide who should be honoured”? Maybe, yeah. But they’ve opted to instead let the courts decide, and I don’t think there is any great scandal in that.

58

TM 09.21.17 at 7:25 am

Masha Gessen:

Three Tales of Moral Corrosion

“Let’s linger on this for a second: the head of the nation’s spy agency has pressured the country’s most prestigious private university into reversing an academic appointment.”
http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2017/09/18/three-tales-of-moral-corrosion/

57: “But they’ve opted to instead let the courts decide”. No, they opted to let the CIA chief decide.

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