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UNITED STATES: Elite universities like Harvard

I said that, whereas other American universities once viewed Harvard with awe, it is now considered just another good university. Well, it is worse than that. John Leo of US News and World Report regularly expresses the widespread scorn for the nonsensical courses and behavior which mar elite universities. Now Harvard has been hit by an article in The Economist (175-11/02) illustrated with a picture o football players lying on the grass, with the caption "Who said anything about work? This is Harvard". This is a reference to the grade inflation denounced by the new president Larry Summers, but the main point of the article is his argument with Cornel West, the spokesman for the Afro-American Studies Department. President Summers is a distinguished academic and an excellent administrator. Yet he has been humiliated by Cornel West, to whom C-Span recently devoted a three-hour (!) interview. He came across as much worse than Jesse Jackson, but he has a coveted university professorship. The African-American professors threatened to go to Princeton if they did not what they wanted from Harvard. They play the vctimization game of getting something undeserved by making university officials look like racists. This is not a criticism of blacks who have achieved their position by normal means. Colin Powell was a poor student, but he might make a good president of the US.

Compare the blacks with the Jews, also the victims of discrimination. There are many blacks who have got jobs simply because of their color, but it is hard to find a Jew who does not deserve the post he has achieved. The contribution of blacks to the intellectual life of America has suffered from grade inflation, but the enormous contributions of the Jews are very real. May I single out just one WAISer? Eric Boehm arrived from Germany as a refugee from Nazi Germany. By ability, hard-work and organizational skill, he has created bibliographic services which are of enormous importance to the universities of the US and indeed of the world. He is also a founding father of WAIS, so I feel a special bond with him.

Ronald Hilton - 1/9/02