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Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

The Left’s attempts to weaponize race in Gay resignation sound hollow.

Sanders Theatre, Harvard University. Credit: Chensiyuan, via Wikimedia commons

Six months after the Supreme Court ruled against Harvard and invalidated race-based admissions, the elite ivy league is at the forefront of another battle around race.

Charles Blow, a Black NY Times columnist, wrote a lengthy piece this week criticizing those who shone a light on former Harvard president Claudine Gay's plagiarism and lack of true academic accomplishment. Gay, who resigned from her prestigious post nearly two months after not assuming responsibility at a Congressional hearing for clamping down on anti-Semitic protests at Harvard - and defending such speech as free expression - will continue to serve as a tenured professor, earning nearly a $1 Million paycheck.

Calling his column "The Persecution of Harvard's Claudine Gay," Blow argued that the campaign against her was never truly about her testimony or accusations of plagiarism. "Diversity, equity, and inclusion, or D.E.I - the effort to assist and support the underrepresented - turns out to be the ultimate target."

Blow's statement is blatantly false. After George Floyd, many Americans were repulsed by problems of systemic racism in America when qualified minorities were overlooked in favor of others. The practice existed in corporate America and even in something as fundamental as obtaining a home mortgage or small business loan. In the color-blind society that Martin Luther King dreamed about, such discrimination was inherently un-American. The laudable goal of D.E.I. was to level the playing field as long as it was applied measurably without discrimination. However, as we have repeatedly seen, bad actors are open to leveraging DEI to promote and retain underachievers after depriving more qualified individuals, tantamount to reverse discrimination.

Claudine Gay made it to the pinnacle of academic appointments by becoming the president of Harvard University, a name globally synonymous with excellence. When Harvard alums die, their epitaphs often mention the Harvard diploma in the first line. Leading such a distinguished academic institution requires extraordinary achievement, befitting the brand's promise for nearly 400 years. 

Consider Larry Summers, a Harvard president who served between 2001 and 2006. Summers became a full professor at Harvard when he was just 28 years old. He then left to become the Chief Economist of the World Bank. The American Economic Association awarded him the John Bates Clark Medal for his research. In 1999, Summers became the Secretary of the Treasury. In 2009, he became President Obama's White House National Economic Council Director. When he stepped down as Harvard's president involuntarily, a long line of eminent personalities lamented his move. 

Our point is not to compare the accomplishments of two Harvard leaders, but Claudine Gay had none of Summers's achievements. She is a professor in African-American studies, a department that Summers set up during his tenure as Harvard's president. Her only administrative positions were at Harvard. 

When such a lackluster leader was found to have repeatedly plagiarized the few research papers she had ever published, it became clear that she was not a qualified hire. It also became clear that she became Harvard's first African-American president not because of her accomplishments but despite her lack thereof.

So, Mr. Blow, many Americans want to expend effort to assist and support the underrepresented - as long as they are worthy, strong candidates. “I see Gay as getting her post at Harvard because she was a diversity, equity and inclusion candidate, not on the basis of strong academic qualifications,” read a Dec. 21 statement by Vernon Smith, a Harvard graduate and winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics.

Only one person can be Harvard's president at any given time, so if Gay was chosen, it was probably at the cost of someone eminently more capable. Most Americans are equally repulsed by D.E.I. efforts that promote less-qualified minority candidates, disfavoring more-qualified non-minority candidates.

Over at MSNBC, Joy Reid, another Black female journalist who thrives on discussing race and airs Black grievances daily, said that "Gay's resignation was the result of a coordinated anti-diversity program and not due to plagiarism or her controversial answers at that Congressional hearing."

Stop the race-baiting, Mrs. Reid. You, too, are wrong. Our criticisms of Mr. Blow apply to you as well.

Editor’s note:

Business Insider published a story on Thursday that Bill Ackman’s wife, Neri Oxman, engaged in plagiarism during her 2010 doctoral dissertation at MIT. Ackman, a wealthy hedge fund manager, has been Gay’s leading critic. Business Insider’s journalistic justification is to point out Ackman’s hypocrisy, although Ackman himself has not been accused of plagiarizing.

In response, Ackman has said he would invest in having the work of all MIT professors reviewed for plagiarism and the results published on X.

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