Follow The Money, College Edition

While the trial proceeds in the case against Harvard for discriminating against Asian applicants, pushed by a guy whose agenda is to end affirmative action merely because he caught Harvard red handed, defenders of diversity have focused their attentions on the last refuge of the woke, the tu quoque logical fallacy.

A lawsuit against Harvard University has put a focus on admissions policies that the plaintiffs argue hurt Asian-American applicants. I disagree with the suit, seeing it as a false flag operation that aims to dismantle affirmative action for black and Latino students.

It’s unclear how one can “disagree with the suit.” It’s not an agree or disagree thing, but a mechanism for proving a cause of action. One would expect someone as bright as Nick Kristof to understand enough about how law works to not write such a silly paragraph, particularly since he indulges in the mod use of “false flag,” a “covert operation designed to “disguising the actual source of responsibility.”

Of course, if so, then a trial would reveal the “actual source” of responsibility. Even if the motives of the guy backing the suit proves nefarious, as may well be the case, that doesn’t mean the thrust of the suit is wrong or that Harvard isn’t responsible for its discrimination under the guise of diversity.

But when you can’t defend the practice, the next best thing to do is point out hypocrisy.

We progressives hail opportunity, egalitarianism and diversity. Yet here’s our dirty little secret: Some of our most liberal bastions in America rely on a system of inherited privilege that benefits rich whites at the expense of almost everyone else.

I’m talking about “legacy preferences” that elite universities give to children of graduates. These universities constitute some of the world’s greatest public goods, but they rig admissions to favor applicants who already have had every privilege in life.

And there can be no argument that legacy admissions is a perpetuation of privilege. Whether egalitarianism and diversity are the only values, to the exclusion of all others, gets swallowed up in the vagaries of “hail” is another matter, but it is undoubtedly correct that legacy admissions can’t be justified as a matter of progressive values. And progressives find such banalities as wealth and privilege tantamount to the tools of the devil.

But the suit has shone a light on a genuine problem: legacy, coupled with preferences for large donors and for faculty children. Most of the best universities in America systematically discriminate in favor of affluent, privileged alumni children. If that isn’t enough to get your kids accepted, donate $5 million to the university, and they’ll get a second look.

Dirty, filthy lucre will buy a second look, if not a seat itself, at America’s most prestigious universities.

Isn’t it a bit hypocritical that institutions so associated with liberalism should embrace a hereditary aristocratic structure? Ah, never underestimate the power of self-interest to shape people’s views. As Reeves put it dryly: “American liberalism tends to diminish as the issues get closer to home.”

One of the more curious aspects of progressive ideology is its denial of human nature, the peculiar belief that a good progressive will be willing to sacrifice his child on the altar of diversity. “Sorry, Muffy, but it’s community college for you as Harvard needs the seat to give to a marginalized student” said no parent ever. Of course, once Muffy is handed her art appreciation degree and is firmly ensconced as a doyenne at the Met, both parent and child will march for the sake of the downtrodden. It’s the least they can do.

But the virtuous self-reflection of pundits like Kristof, who sips tea in fine china at meetings of the Harvard Board of Overseers, fails to consider how such institutions manage to pay their very important professors, maintain their centuries old buildings, tend the ivy and amass their massive endowment, albeit poorly managed.

Do the math, Nick. It’s wonderful that Harvard has the wherewithal to accept students too poor to pay the tuition, the room and board, the occasional Tasty Burger. But where does that money come from? It didn’t appear in Harvard’s bank account by magic, but from the pockets of your privileged, hereditary aristocratic alumni. And occasionally, by a usurper who can afford to buy a plaque to put his dad’s name on a building.

You want to talk about hypocrisy, Mr. Rhodes Scholar? Fair enough. There would be no prestigious Harvard College today but for the privileged who left their legacies to pay for their legacies. You have some brilliant academics there, Larry Tribe notwithstanding, but they’re not working for free, are they?

Even if Harvard decided to refuse legacy admissions for the sake of egalitarianism, and used its not insubstantial endowment to pay the freight, it’s still free-riding on the philanthropy of its aristocracy. And its endowment would eventually run dry. What then? Would they close the gates around Harvard yard, or would your profs teach pro bono, your buildings be painted by their marginalized inhabitants or fall into decay? What about the dildos and anal beads given out for free during Sex Week?

As fashionable as it’s become to denigrate the privileged for being, well, privileged, it’s disingenuous to enjoy their beneficence while speaking ill of them. In the gushing of emotion over the poor and downtrodden, who most assuredly deserve their opportunity to rise and succeed, it doesn’t serve the cause to ignore the harsh reality that someone has to pay for it.

In a world without shallow malarkey that extols its virtues without being patently full of shit, one would recognize that a school like Harvard must be both home to big money, full tuition payers, philanthropists and, yes, hereditary aristocrats, if it’s going to simultaneously roll out the ivy carpet to the marginalized. Without the legacies, there would be no ivy carpet to roll out. Rather than castigate the legacy admissions for their privilege, it might be wiser to thank them for covering the cost of progressive egalitarianism.

9 thoughts on “Follow The Money, College Edition

  1. B. McLeod

    I think he disagrees with the premise of the suit. People shouldn’t be allowed to sue over discrimination that he supports.

  2. Richard Kopf

    Being a proud graduate of Kearney State College (now the University of Nebraska at Kearney), I stand four-square with Harvard’s efforts at diversity.

    Having been admitted to Kearney on academic probation in order to achieve geographical diversity (I grew up east of Missippi), I am sure I enriched my fellow scholars with my exotic background. One would have thought that as an Admiral In the Nebraska Navy you would have better understood the intrinsic value of the odd.

    Verus Nullus, Omnis Licitus


  3. Christenson

    Whether anyone likes it or not, Harvard is going to have to decide on the makeup of its students and pay attention somehow to their respective protected characteristics. They are simply too easy to measure. No decision on what to look for amongst the huge pool of qualified applicants will be without easily predictable effects on those statistics.

    *How* those choices are made should be the focus.

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