Without doubt the current election for the Harvard Board of Overseers must rank as the most significant and substantive of the last twenty-five years, perhaps even the last century. The results of our Free Harvard/Fair Harvard campaign could have tremendous national implications for tuition and admissions policy at our most elite colleges, with ripple effects upon all of American higher education.
Unfortunately, the ongoing national Trumpathon, with its endless series of Page One insults and crude slurs has captured an absolutely overwhelming share of American political attention, leaving relatively little for any other campaign, let alone a mere battle for the Harvard Board of Overseers. When The Dreadful Donald and Lyin’ Ted are trading staged photos of their wives in dress and undress on Twitter, why would anyone in America care whether elite college tuition might be abolished?
Therefore, I was extremely pleased a few days ago when Harvard’s Chinese Student Association invited me to a public debate they were sponsoring on April 10th, whose timing would be ideal for providing the media and the entire Harvard community an opportunity to weigh some of the conflicting claims made by ourselves and our organized opponents. The leaders of the latter had repeatedly said they were uninterested in publicly debating the issues with us, but with a Harvard event now scheduled, I felt confident they would now be forced to either send a representative or else be unmasked as totally ridiculous.
I was already scheduled to participate in a U.S. Senate Candidate Forum in California on the afternoon of the 9th, but immediately booked a red-eye flight to get to Cambridge for the 10th, shipped out a box of materials to my hotel in Harvard Square, and used my newly established Twitter account to send out a preliminary announcement:
Harvard's Chinese Student Association has just invited me to speak on "Asian Quotas" More details to follow: https://t.co/cIk6zDM05o
— Ron Unz (@RonUnz1) April 1, 2016
Unfortunately, two days later this additional Tweet followed:
Chinese Student Association pressured into dropping Harvard Debate on "Asian Quotas"—Will it still happen?
— Ron Unz (@RonUnz1) April 3, 2016
Although I am not privy to the exact details of what transpired, apparently the alumni leadership of the No campaign remained absolutely adamant in their refusal to participate in any public debate on the issues, which seems rather silly to me. Then in an even more childish manner, they made the Alice-in-Wonderland argument that since it would obviously be unfair for an audience to be exposed only to one side of the issue, the planned debate must therefore be cancelled, and heavily pressured the CSA to do so.
Such behavior brings to mind a seven-year-old who threatens to hold his breath if told to do his spelling homework, but when expressed by established alumni in their fifties such arguments may prove quite intimidating to undergraduates perhaps still be in their teens, and the board of Harvard’s Chinese Student Association quickly decided to drop their sponsorship of the debate, which now may or may not have to be cancelled.
A large Harvard lecture hall, Sever 113, has already been reserved, I’ve paid for my plane tickets and hotel room, and my materials are currently in transit to Cambridge. So a young Harvard Law School student, Matthew Young, is now urgently trying to round up one or more replacement student organizations as sponsors, allowing the debate forum to proceed. Anyone interested in assisting this or obtaining additional information should contact him.
The main architect of this possibly successful attempt to torpedo the scheduled Harvard debate appears to be one Jeannie Park, whose name frankly means nothing to me, and whose current professional activities are somewhat unclear. However, a couple of minutes of Googling brought some surprising facts to light. I am shocked, shocked that such seemingly juvenile political behavior would be coming from someone who had spent her distinguished publishing career working as an editor at one of America’s most intellectually elite periodicals, namely People Magazine. And for anyone so interested, here’s an example of her remarkably insightful and substantive Twitter Feed:
— Jeannie Park (@parkjeannie) December 9, 2015
Certainly, Harvard University’s traditions of “Free Speech” and “Open Debate” have taken an odd turn recently. The top stories at The Harvard Law Record currently center on agitated activists whose notion of academic freedom seemingly involves plastering the walls of the law school with their own crude posters and taking down any others that dispute their arguments.
Under such circumstances, perhaps the political rise of Donald Trump is far less mysterious than I had assumed.