Higher Ed Drama

My Facebook people are ranting about the woman who killed her kid, was accepted to Harvard’s grad program, and then disinvited because some faculty feared the FOX News backlash.

And now Chelsea Manning has been disinvited from Harvard, though they are still inviting the rest of the reality stars. (This is the true story… of seven strangers… picked to live in a house…(work together) and have their lives taped… to find out what happens… when people stop being polite… and start getting real…The Real World.)

Meh. Meh. Meh.

I’m have a hard time getting worked up about the slights to the child abuser and the traitor. There’s so much going on here though. We have famously risk adverse academics and an academic-hating alt-right who are spoiling for a fight. We have the business end of higher ed that wants the big names to build their brand. We have left-oriented, insulated faculty who think that they must keep the barbarians on the other side of the wall.

42 thoughts on “Higher Ed Drama

  1. I see ‘visiting Fellow’ as sort of the elite-class equivalent of Kentucky Colonel, and am inclined to see Harvard as aligning itself with Manning in inviting. I think Morrell was quite right to see this as inappropriate, and that he did the right thing in slapping Kennedy School in the face on his way out. This was painful for Kennedy School, and it should have been.
    The history PhD I am not so sanguine. She is an ex-con, who has done her time. She did rather important history work, from a very unpromising base. I don’t see admission to a graduate program as a statement that someone is upright and upstanding, I see it as a statement that the person has promise to advance the field. So, at least from what I have read, my tendency would be, go ahead and admit.


    1. Serving your sentence and being rehabilitated are required; they satisfy the legal requirements, but don’t repair the damage done. For some acts there is no restitution possible, nor would it be proper for admissions committees to ignore your track record. This doesn’t mean the committee can’t accept such a candidate, but it’s a fraught decision either way.

      While the article makes a great deal about the professors who raised concerns about the graduate student’s contrition, the final decision was made by the university’s leadership — including the president, provost, and deans of the graduate school. For the admission to be withdrawn is bad form. Were all the bigwigs too busy to meet about it until after the letters went out?


  2. I know we love to rant about leftist elitists suppressing free speech on campuses, but apparently, whatever’s going on at Berkeley is a massive fuckup (probably deliberate, but we can’t rule out stupidity) by the neo-Nazis running it.
    “UC Berkeley assistant vice chancellor for communications Dan Mogulof told POLITICO Tuesday that the student organization Berkeley Patriot — whose membership is estimated by Mogulof at between 5-10 members — “still has not completed the critical steps” necessary to arrange venues for the events it announced with fanfare last month.”


      1. Heh, grammar. I guess you could say the pronoun “it” refers to “whatever’s going on at Berkeley,” i.e., their Free Speech Extravaganza thingie.


  3. Ben Shapiro, a very run-of-the-mill conservative guy, just spoke at Berkeley. He’s Orthodox Jewish and the ADL said that last year he was the subject of a heavy anti-Semitic Twitter campaign (and that in a very ugly year).


    Click to access CR_4862_Journalism-Task-Force_v2.pdf

    (See the chart on page 7 of the PDF showing volume of anti-Semitic Twitter abuse of Jewish journalists. It’s actually kind of a nice resource for finding Twitter feeds to read.)

    Shapiro has been very prominent as a Trump critic–which explains how he became a target of alt-right Trump fans.

    So, what happened at Berkeley?

    It sounds like it was well-handled (finally) by the Berkeley police, who arrested illegally armed protesters and said they would talk to anybody who was masked.

    “This wasn’t Shapiro’s first time speaking at UC Berkeley. He spoke there in April 2016 with little fanfare or protest. But this time around, protesters and onlookers gathered, shouting “No Trump. No KKK. No fascist USA.”


    Anybody who has followed Shapiro’s Twitter feed may wonder who they were talking about.

    I would say that one of the biggest problems here is the refusal to make an effort to understand distinctions. Get a program (so to speak)–figure out who people are and what the differences are between them. “Y’all look the same to me,” is just lazy and ignorant-sounding.

    It apparently cost Berkeley $600,000 to pay for the security for the event and keep it safe and peaceful.


    Again, Shapiro is a very mainstream conservative guy and a well-known Trump critic.


  4. Harvard’s mistake is backtracking after a backlash. I understand that Harvard bears a burden as the target of everything elite, but they should be sophisticated enough to make the decisntjeyl stan by the first time around.


  5. Ben Shapiro — the “Obama administration is a criminal enterprise” is a main stream conservative? Does he still advocate changing the rico laws giving people the right to sue the administration?


    1. There is no more such thing as a “mainstream conservative”. They killed each other by calling anybody who paid attention to someone outside their circle a “RINO.”


    2. I wasn’t following him during the Obama administration, so this is news to me. I’ve only followed him during his Trump/alt-right hate figure days. He’s done very good work over the last year.

      Also, why shouldn’t a citizen be able to sue the government if the government has engaged in criminal conspiracy against them?

      With regard to “the Obama administration is a criminal enterprise”–I’d have to see the context.


    3. That seems like normal political rhetoric (in our time and maybe always). Google site:motherjones.com, search terms “George Bush” and “war crimes,” and read the results until you get bored.


    1. A big part of it is that Berkeley had a really namby pamby approach to dealing with violent protesters this spring when Milo Y (I do not wish to learn how to spell his name) was going to speak, but the speech got cancelled at the last minute in the face of violent protesters.


      “They dressed “like ninjas” and marched onto UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza like a paramilitary force armed with bats, steel rods, fireworks and Molotov cocktails, officials say.”

      “Within minutes, the group of 100 to 150 agitators had smashed half a dozen windows with barricades, launched fireworks at police and toppled a diesel-powered klieg light, which caused it to burst into flames.”

      “They didn’t come to lock arms and sing ‘Kumbaya,’” said Dan Mogulof, assistant vice chancellor and spokesman for the UC Berkeley. “They came to [mess stuff] up,” he said, using stronger language.”

      “But even though there was only one arrest Wednesday night, Berkeley officials insist the incident was something altogether new.”

      100-150 violent protesters and ONE arrest.

      “We have never seen this on the Berkeley campus,” Mogulof said. “This was an unprecedented invasion.”

      “Mogulof said Berkeley administrators are dedicated to protecting the 1st Amendment and free speech, but certain events might need to have a closer look, especially if there is potential for major disruption and destruction on campus. School officials, he said, are reviewing their policing tactics as well as their policies and protocols for future events featuring controversial speakers.”

      “He said “it’s not about limiting free speech,” but about protecting the students and campus.”

      “The agitators, who keep their faces covered with bandannas, attach themselves to peaceful protests and then break out and start shattering windows and attacking cars, authorities say.”

      Free speech is good! Violence and violent suppression of free speech is bad! Proceed accordingly.

      Also, don’t reward violent law-breakers by letting them win.

      On the bright side, it sounds like Berkeley did a lot better with security for this recent speech. But it shouldn’t take a massive police and security presence every time anybody right of Joe Biden sets foot on Berkeley campus.


  6. Interestingly, judging from my facebook feed (which I think skews a little more right and a little less educated than Laura’s), the Manning thing doesn’t seem to have stirred the alt-right. The complaint was all from the establishment.

    (To be clear, when I say “alt-right,” I mean non-MSM, conservative, internet “news” purveyors, not the white supremacist subset of said purveyors. My facebook feed doesn’t feature any of the white supremacist sites.)


  7. I don’t understand why they chose Manning. She just did a dump of intelligence. It wasn’t a thoughtful choice to expose abuse, so what is she going to say?. Also, talking about AI? E3s are not generally high level analysts. Did she further her education in jail?


    1. Inviting Manning has to be seen as a dog whistle political gesture by Harvard that backfired when it generated too much publicity. There are any number of Congressional Medal of Honor winners who have at least as much insight as Manning into sophisticated policy concerns, but that’s not the sort of person Harvard invites to be a visiting fellow.


      1. Those all seem to me like people who are much more likely to say something worth hearing than Chelsea Manning, who, as noted above, occupied a very junior position, and is notable only for having betrayed that position. (And for being transgender, I guess.) I can’t think of anyone at Harvard that I would describe as a “moral and intellectual titan,” so that can’t be the test.

        (It would be an amusing comments thread to have people name proposed “moral and intellectual titans” at Harvard. Maybe there’s someone I didn’t think of.)


  8. As for Harvard, a murderer didn’t get into her top choice. Oh well. We already knew Harvard as an institution is a moral coward. I read the article, she beat a four year old and left him alone for a few days. That child died alone, in pain, thirsty, hungry and frightened. She still hasn’t said what she did with the body. I am glad she is finding ways to contribute, but I don’t care if she faces slights from Harvard.


  9. This has something for everybody:


    Milo Y. has been advertising various prominent speakers for a Free Speech Week at Berkeley Sept. 24-27 (i.e. starting a week from today)–but it turns out that a number of the speakers hadn’t agreed or hadn’t even been contacted. Some of the advertised-but-not-coming are: Charles Murray (who says he wouldn’t appear because Milo is “a despicable @sshole”), Heather MacDonald and Michael Malice (I don’t know who he is).


    Event planning–how does it work?


    1. I like Murray better by the day… My best guess is that Yiannopoulos was counting on Berkeley turning down, and when Berkeley called his bluff, there he was in his skivvies.
      I’m seeing Yiannopoulos and Manning as similarly eager for publicity and notoriety.


      1. dave s.,

        You know, that’s EXACTLY what my husband said when I told him about the fake speaker list.

        Does Yiannopoulos like 13-year-old girl type emojis as much as Manning does? I’ve only seen Manning’s tweets.

        Manning’s twitter feed gives me second hand embarrassment. I’m not kidding about the 13-year-old girl thing:


      2. I just did a totally scientific survey by telling my 15-year-old daughter to look at the Chelsea Manning tweet, saying that I wanted her evaluation of the person based on the one tweet. Here’s my transcript of the 15-year-old’s response:

        –It’s hard to take them seriously
        –It’s really cheerful
        –That has brightened up my day!
        –Thank you!

        I was expecting a harsher review (C can be a very tough crowd), so in all fairness, I’ll have to bump my grade of Chelsea Manning up to “tweets like 15-year-old girl.”


  10. In the Jones case Harvard wasn’t responding to a backlash. Someone higher up than the department anticipated backlash, and forestalled it. Its different from the Manning case in that respect (though similar in that it is not at all normal for higher ups to veto a grad admission). I find the Manning case quite surprising in several ways. Its surprising they gave her the fellowship, very surprising they caved to pressure, incomprehensible that they did that but are still inviting her, and shocking to see the low quality of some of the other fellows! In her case, I don’t think they should have honored her, and definitely think they should have stuck with it when they did! Revoking the honor is particularly embarrassing because it implies the honor is sufficiently great or important that, when you look at some of the other honorees, you think, who on earth thinks they are worthy of it?
    In the Jones case, I can sympathize both with the people who think she should have been admitted and those who think she shouldn’t. Hard case, but I can’t see a wrong has been done (esp given that she is able to go elsewhere).

    Murray won’t share a platform with Milo? Well that doesn’t surprise me (which maybe reflects that I have a better opinion of him than is generally popular). But — who would? It would be a complete embarrassment to be caught on a platform with him.


    1. But — who would? It would be a complete embarrassment to be caught on a platform with him.

      I don’t have the full list, but it’s got to include a few past or current figures in the current administration.


      1. MH said,

        “I don’t have the full list, but it’s got to include a few past or current figures in the current administration.”

        Bannon is on the speaker list–but it’s not clear if he knew that.


      2. MH said:

        “Bannon hired Milo when he was running Breitbart. Also employed by Breitbart, the above mentioned Ben Shapiro.”

        One big happy family!

        A quick trip down memory lane:

        –Trump’s campaign manager Corey Lewandowski grabbed Breitbart’s Michelle Fields when she was asking Trump a question in March 2016
        –Breitbart didn’t back Fields and Fields quit Breitbart a few days later
        –Ben Shapiro (who also worked at Breitbart) also quit at the same time


        “Today I informed the management at Breitbart News of my immediate resignation,” Fields said in a statement sent to BuzzFeed News. “I do not believe Breitbart News has adequately stood by me during the events of the past week and because of that I believe it is now best for us to part ways.”

        “In his own statement, Shapiro said the episode was emblematic of how he believes the site’s management had sold out the legacy of its founder and namesake, the late Andrew Breitbart.

        ““Andrew’s life mission has been betrayed,” Shapiro wrote. “Indeed, Breitbart News, under the chairmanship of Steve Bannon, has put a stake through the heart of Andrew’s legacy. In my opinion, Steve Bannon is a bully, and has sold out Andrew’s mission in order to back another bully, Donald Trump; he has shaped the company into Trump’s personal Pravda, to the extent that he abandoned and undercut his own reporter, Breitbart News’ Michelle Fields, in order to protect Trump’s bully campaign manager, Corey Lewandowski, who allegedly assaulted Michelle.”

        “Breitbart published a story casting doubt on Fields’ account, appearing to side with the Trump campaign over their own reporter. Joel Pollak, a senior editor-at-large at the organization, ordered staffers to stop defending Fields. One source with knowledge of the situation said some staffers who publicly defended Fields had been threatened with firing.

        “Both Lewandowski and Trump maligned Michelle in the most repulsive fashion,” Shapiro wrote in his resignation statement.”


    2. Yeah, the fact that she was admitted to NYU with, I assume, full funding means that there wasn’t a monumental tragedy. I do think that people should be forgiven after serving their terms. For me, the worst tradegy are the people who did non-violent crimes like selling drugs or even minor violent ones like holding up a 7-11 where nobody gets hurt and then those people can’t even get a job bagging groceries after serving their terms.

      This woman’s case is complicated. I would happily support a different case that explored the same issues (former felons unable to find work/shunned by society).

      Colleges reject grad students for all sorts of reasons. There are a limited number of spots and the cost to support them is very high. All candidates are extremely qualified. Colleges make decisions based on a whole range of circumstances, including age. Why is this woman’s case different?


  11. I went to the website. Well worth reading Amy Binder’s book , Becoming Right, about conservatives on campus, which describes beautifully the kind of in-your-face tactics exhibited on the site. The “Mario Savio: award is particularly unpleasant and provocative. What repulsive people.

    Now, someone at Berkeley (in Econ or Poli Sci, or the public policy school) should ask Charles Murray to come out and do something to conflict with one of the events. Does Brad DeLong read 11d?


    1. harry b said,

      “Well worth reading Amy Binder’s book , Becoming Right, about conservatives on campus, which describes beautifully the kind of in-your-face tactics exhibited on the site.”

      Bear in mind that the student organizers are students, i.e. still figuring things out, and student activists of any stripe can be pretty obnoxious. At my husband’s last campus, the pro-choice kids used to pelt the pro-life kids with condoms when they were all tabling (i.e. sitting at tables trying to attract new members). Sex week was also interesting–there’d be flyers all over giving (rather obvious) tips on how to safely enjoy some non-standard sexual practices. Being in-your-face is typical of student activist culture. Up until 15 minutes ago, conservative students were the exception to that, but I guess times have changed.

      One thing I’ve heard mentioned is that the lack of an adult conservative presence on many campuses these days means that there’s no responsible adult conservative person available to give guidance, intellectual formation, and good personal example.

      I’m not expecting Milo to roll up on our current campus any time soon for many reasons, not least that there is a strong local adult conservative presence, so it would be harder for him to do his Pied Piper shtick. I was googling and it looks like he’s also never been to Princeton, which has a very strong, bow-tied conservative culture and the great Robert P. George. It’s not my cup of tea, but you’ll notice that there aren’t a lot of Molotov cocktails and Nazis at Princeton.

      I was chatting online this past year with a relatively normal Milo admirer (grown up, sad to say), and one thing I took away from it is that Milo gets a lot of mileage out of being allegedly the only guy speaking for free speech on campus, the only guy who will fight for free speech. For relatively normal people, that’s his primary attraction. The more repressive and volatile the campus ideological environment, the more Milo thrives–hence his repeated buzzing around Berkeley like a fly visiting garbage.

      Bonus demographic fact: Alt-right types almost never read anything in actual book form–you’ll almost never hear them reference a book. This is generally true of the younger generation. Even when they have intellectual aspirations (and the alt-right does represent intellectual aspiration), young-people-today read practically nothing longer or older than an online article. (Possible exception for Ayn Rand–but I can’t think of any other book author who gets referenced.)


      1. The more repressive and volatile the campus ideological environment, the more Milo thrives–hence his repeated buzzing around Berkeley like a fly visiting garbage.

        White supremacists are always trying to blame their attraction to white supremacism on their reaction to liberals. I don’t see why anybody should let them. Many people have dealt with far more repression and not openly embraced evil. If feeling repressed because your professor makes you sad justifies embracing literal Nazism, what is, for example, a black resident of Cleveland justified in doing after it’s been proved that police there can shoot a twelve-year-old boy without consequence when that boy is black?


      2. Binder studies two campuses (unnamed), one a western state public flagship (and she has data from other campuses in the system — I can’t tell which one it is), and the other an Ivy (again, I can’t tell which one, but I can tell it is not Princeton). She says that the different (very well funded) national organisations have different styles, and its clear that the more in-your-face stuff gets much more uptake on the public campus, and much less on the Ivy. I don’t find that surprising: but the point is that adults are driving this behaviour in either case, and it is not merely a function of kids being kids. Its specific kinds of kids being specific kinds of kids, with adult advice and support (and huge amounts of money — we had nothing when we were young lefties, and I was always aware that YAF, etc, had real money).

        So I’m not sure you’re exactly right about “The more repressive and volatile the campus ideological environment, the more Milo thrives”. Many SLACs are now basically closed to conservatives completely, much more so than places like Berkeley or Madison (as evidenced maybe by the fact that Charles Murray can get an invite from a Center run by a Marxist in Madison, but can’t even speak at Middlebury). But Milo knows he’ll do better at the somewhat more open places.

        I agree that this ‘in your face’ stuff is not a right/left thing, And would add its not an adult/non adult thing – – faculty are not always restraining influences on so-called left wing activists, and in fact as I understand faculty were a major part of the problem at Middlebury (and administrators at similar institutions have told me similar tales). Its a shame that more left-of-center faculty don’t spend more time hanging out with conservative students. (I should say that in the aftermath of the election in November I had 4 kids crying in my office (separately) — 2 because of the result, the other 2 because they can’t tell their friends how they voted, and so just heard a barrage of casual insults – -and I was equally supportive to all of them….


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