Showing posts with label William Buckley. Show all posts
Showing posts with label William Buckley. Show all posts

Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Antisemitism at Harvard. Should I Burn hy Harvard Diploma?

 I wish I were a billionaire who had given a pot of money to Harvard University. I would write Harvard a stern public letter rebuking its anemic response to anti-Jewish bigotry by Harvard students. I would vow not to give the university one more dime. A few billionaires have taken that action.

Indeed, there is strong evidence that antisemitism lurks in the shadows on Harvard's musty campus. Adrian Ahkenazy, a Harvard alum, and a  Harvard Jewish Alumni Association co-founder, wrote an op-ed essay in the New York Post a few days ago, noting that there are fewer Jewish students and faculty at Harvard than in years past. "Among many saddening discoveries," he wrote, "we see that Jews have been purged across campus--from the administration and the Board of Supervisors to the faculty and the student body." Jewish students comprise only 5 percent of the Harvard student body, down from more than 20 percent at the turn of the twentieth century.

In an open letter to the Harvard community, Harvard's president implicitly admitted that antisemitism is a problem at the university. President Claudine Gay wrote that Harvard is "seeking to identify external partnerships that will allow Harvard to learn from and work with others on our strategy [to combat antisemitism]." To me, it sounds like Harvard plans to hire some consultants to study anti-Jewish bigotry until people forget about it.

I am not a billionaire and have never given Harvard any money (besides my tuition). How can I effectively express my contempt for Harvard's closet antisemitism?

I have a Harvard doctoral degree, which I could publicly burn as a protest of Harvard's cowardice and closet bigotry. I also purchased a crimson academic gown for my Harvard graduation ceremony in 1993. I could burn that, too.

However, I will not set my diploma or academic regalia ablaze. I don't believe in setting things on fire to express my political convictions. In any event, I don't think anything I might say or do would get Harvard’s attention. After all, I live in Flyover Country.

How do ordinary people censor an elite university trafficking in prestige while marinating in bigotry and moral cowardice? We can begin by deconstructing Harvard's image as the epitome of intellectual and moral superiority.

Many Americans believe that Harvard people are more intelligent and more morally sensitive than the rest of us. Having spent some time at Harvard, I can tell you that legend is untrue. There are some smart people at Harvard, but most Harvardians are no more intelligent than your favorite handyman or plumber.

Perhaps William F. Buckley said it best: “I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Gore Vidal bequeathed his entire estate to Harvard University, but he died anyway.

Gore Vidal died in 2012, leaving his entire estate to Harvard University. I'm sure he received a nice thank-you note. Harvard knows how to charm the suckers.

I know. I once received a letter from Harvard confirming my appointment as a teaching assistant. I think it was signed by the Provost. It came on fine stationery and closed with the words, "Your most obedient servant."  Of course the job only paid $300 a month, less than my family's monthly health health insurance bill. But a  letter from some Harvard muckety muck signed "Your most obedient servant" meant more to me then than a living wage. I kept the letter for years.

According to the New York Times, Vidal died in his home at age 86, tormented by alcoholism, incontinence, and dementia. Apparently, no one in his life meant more to him than Harvard, which gets the royalties from Vidal's book sales plus his $37 million estate.

But why give the money to Harvard, which after all has loads of money. Perhaps Gore Vidal sought to buy immortality. As one of his friends said in the New York Times story, "Gore was clearly
Gore Vidal in 2009
Photo credit: Wikipedia
uncomfortable talking about a wold without Gore Vidal. Nothing above immortality and world domination would ever be enough for him."

But a $37 million bequest to Harvard won't buy immortality. And Neither will Vidal's 25 novels.  Even literary giants die and their reputations fade into obscurity. Remember Norman Mailer, super egotist and winner of two Pulitzer Prizes? How many people read Armies of the Night last year do you suppose?

We all creep toward death, most of us in obscurity. I have no money to give to Harvard and wouldn't give it if I had.  Harvard figured that out years ago and stopped sending me its glossy Harvard magazine. I will never be rich, never be famous, never be powerful.

But I am comforted at this time in my life by my wife and family--comforts Mr. Vidal apparently never had, although he had a long time companion he loved very much. I am grateful for my small home in a friendly Southern town, by the beauty of South Louisiana's swamps and bayous, and by the mild and temperate sun that shines most days throughout our Southern winters.

And I am comforted by my faith.  I feel sure a priest will give me last rites in my final hours. I know I will have a funeral Mass at Christ the King Church on the LSU campus; and I am confident that at least some of my grandchildren will attend.  And surely someone will write my name in the Book of Remembrance and will pray for my soul now and then.

And in my remaining years, God will strengthen me with the Mass, with Christ's body and blood. And when bitter memories and regrets sweep over me, I am reassured by God's forgiveness.

I am sorry  Gore Vidal did not have these comforts in his final years. It made me sad to learn that this famous and dazzlingly creative man felt compelled in the last year of his life to make the pathetic gesture of giving the fruits of his life's work to a soulless university he never attended.


Tim Teeman. A Final Plot Twist. New York Times, November 10, 2013, Style Section, p. 1.