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Saturday, September 17, 2005

where's the vision?

First, a little background: Conrad Harper resigned from the Harvard Corporation because a. he believes Summers has a long pattern of disrespectful remarks toward underrepresented peoples and b. despite this the Corporation raised his pay by over 4%. Two excellent article can be read here and here.

So, the Crimson ran a staff ed on the subject last week basically commending Harper's choice to resign and encouraging the Corporation to pick another "dissenting voice." To be honest, I found the piece completely and utterly baffling, a hedging piece of analysis predicated on saying as little as possible.(more in expanded post)

What was confusing about it for me was that, while the piece did a pretty dance about the processes needed for a secret body to be healthy and reach out to the faculty etc., it said nothing about what actual OPINIONS this individual and body should have. The piece contains no critique of the actual way the Corporation works or the direction it's going. And, for a replacement it outlined this as the ideal candidate:
What the Corporation needs now is not another member who has all the same interests and areas of expertise as the others. It needs a member who can bring wholly new perspectives to old problems, while simultaneously being ready to compromise, acquiesce, and respect the judgment of the majority. He or she must not allow the University's governing body to become complacent.
Does anyone else have no idea what that means? Does this mean that someone who believes that Harvard should conquer Mars, but works well with others and respects majority opinion would fit their ideal candidate? Their point, as in many things, is entirely PROCESS-based. They don't care what happens (or what direction the Corporation steers the school), they just want to make sure that the process works. Blech.

Why not say this: we need someone on the Corporation who believes that a University has more difficult questions to ask itself than "how can we make the most money?" and "how can we keep our reputation and donor-base intact?". In other words, we need an entire Corporation that believes that producing the political, social and economic "elite" of a country and world includes more difficult questions than producing, say, shoes. We need a corporation that believes that Harvard should: 1. be fair with its neighbors, 2. produce students with values that extend beyond making money and having power, 3.treat its workers with the respect they deserve, 4.believe that a university has a leading role in addressing injustice, not just talking about its existence.

I could, and at some point will, go on. But for now can we please have a real discussion about the Corporation and University that goes beyond questions of process?


At 1:56 AM, Blogger Jersey Slugger said...

Conrad Harper's replacement should be an individual that isn't scared to stand up to the powerful suits that make up the Harvard Management Company (HMC). As a representative from one of the largest "underrepresented" groups at Harvard Harper speaks for many people that will never have an opportunity to enter our hallowed halls of Harvard. In standing up to the HMC and Summers against his comments on women in science and other related topics (i.e. with Cornel West in 2002, Native Americans in 2004) Harper's statement of rejection was highly refreshing. On the issue of Harvard's interest deviating from that of your average corporation, eh...not really. Harvard is a highly powerful corporation that IS very wrapped up in the preservation of its international image and the retention of its financial, political, and social supporters. Expecting its aim (and social accountability) to change would be to expect corporations to change. Expecting corporations to change is not realistics. For this reason I seek the death of all for-profit (and therefore not for-society as a whole or for-individuals disparately) corporations. That is all...


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