The ‘culture’ of Harvard College


Some months ago an adjunct instructor hired to teach an undergraduate course on government at Harvard College detected widespread cheating on a final examination. As required under Harvard’s honor code, he reported out this episode for administrative action. Harvard has now announced that some 60 students were involved. Harvard has refrained from outlining the penalties applied, or the names of the students involved.

It is known, however, that the government class involved was a class specially attended by students enrolled at Harvard primarily because of their prowess in various sports. Such students live a privileged life, protected from almost all the pressures of scholarship, by a university administration that lives well off alumni donors who crave success on Harvard’s fields and courts.

Tom Wolfe, one of America’s great novelists, infiltrated one such campus – I suspect that it was University of Pennsylvania – to dissect such a culture in his novel: I am Charlotte Simmons.

His novel provides a devastating critique of the ‘culture’ itself.

Jocks are strongly encouraged by Coach to register only for courses for dumb-heads, where compliant instructors take care to maintain passing grades. For example, a course in French literature would be conducted entirely in English. Coach also makes sure that each jock is linked to a paid scholarship student whose task it is to write their term papers, and tutor them sufficiently to pass the easy examinations.

If jocks still encounter grade problems – as is inevitable given their IQ limitations – Coach will meet with the University President to ‘educate’ him on the matter of priorities. Coach may have an IQ of 80 while the President has an IQ of 150. But Coach earns a salary several times higher than the President and Coach brings in high dollar donations from Alumni who crave sports success. Coach has rich alumni donors at his back who will reinforce the message that he delivers.

Alumni donors worship success on the courts and playing fields of the Ivy League university. One such donor, in the Harvard example, a leading figure at Staples, whose son is enrolled at Harvard, has criticized the instructor for ratting out the jocks, and the University for even minimally ‘enforcing’ discipline’.

Who do you think the Ivy League President will heed: the adjunct instructor, or Coach and his Donor cohorts?

Note by the way the undergraduate instructor who ratted out the fraud was not a full-time faculty member. Full-time faculty members at Ivy League universities, for the most part, do not deign to teach undergraduates. Graduate students take their place, for a pittance of the salaries brought down by faculty. In the case of Harvard, faculty at the Kennedy School of Government typically spend their time in plush offices, looking out over the Charles River, while dreaming about the Potomac.

That also is part of the customer fraud perpetrated by the Ivy League ‘culture’.

Hat Tip: The Times , February 2, 2013

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2 Responses to “The ‘culture’ of Harvard College”

  1. Monday Link Encyclopedia and Self-Promotion | Clarissa's Blog Says:

    [...] the post of the week: an adjunct instructor versus the Coach: the battle of Harvard. I haven’t worked for Harvard but at Yale this is exactly how things were. “So, how [...]

  2. A6 Says:

    I suppose we must count our blessings. So far as is publicly known, this kind of thing is only for athletes, not (yet) for all the mismatched affirmative-action admits.

    Although there’s no reason the categories might not overlap.

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