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An Open Letter to Lawrence H. Summers

Saturday, June 1, 2002

Dear Larry,

you began your harvard presidency with promising hints that you might reverse the intellectual, moral, and political drift of America’s most prestigious campus and thus bring a much-needed example of principled leadership to higher education in general. But as we both know, the reform spirit does not sit easily with the modern university. You have already been sharply challenged and harshly criticized. A lot depends on whether you stand up to it or give in. Giving in is, of course, what most people expect.

Yes, I’m a disgruntled alumnus, much rankled by Harvard’s three-decade slide toward political correctness, neo-racialism and mediocrity. Since the late Nathan Pusey stepped down as president — after being mau-maued by unruly students and forsaken by much of the professoriate — your predecessors in Massachusetts Hall have been appeasers, pacifiers, and fundraisers, not education visionaries or principled leaders.

When you arrived — former wunderkind economist with plenty of brains, a reputation for feistiness, and solid experience in Washington-style politics — you made the right noises. Your inaugural address on October 12 was not the usual porridge. You pledged Harvard to pursue the truth “first and last as an end in itself”. In Pusey’s time, such a statement would not be worth remarking. But in today’s academic environment — where some research topics are taboo, some teachings are protested because their content makes people antsy, and some scholars don’t get hired or tenured because their take on truth goes against the grain — this is an important doctrine to re-establish.

You went further. You declared that “the university is open to all ideas, but it is committed to the skepticism that is the hallmark of education.” Another commonplace in Pusey’s day, perhaps, but bold defiance of current reality on many campuses, where some ideas are shunned entirely and others sanctified without critical examination.

You tweaked the pieties of political correctness: “Our special obligation is to seek . . . not what is popular or . . . conventionally believed, but what is right and in the deepest and most rigorous sense advances our understanding of the world.”

You also asserted yourself on the quality of undergraduate education: “We must . . . press them to the highest standards of intellectual excellence.” Harvard, as you knew in October and as the world knows now, has a king-sized problem with its academic standards for students. But imagine “pressing” today’s collegians, especially on an elite campus! It would, for most, be the first time anyone did anything but cosset, praise, and indulge them.

You took a swipe at relativism, the core doctrine of modern academic discourse. You averred that the “torch of truth” is borne “when we promote understanding — not the soft understanding that glides over questions of right and wrong, but the hard-won comprehension that the threat before us demands.” The notion of “right and wrong” has not been welcome in the 02138 zip code for a long time.

You even tipped your hat to patriotism, though many in your audience surely gulped. No, you did not use the P-word, but, speaking a month after the September 11 attacks, you approvingly quoted fdr’s statement that “It is the part of Harvard and America to stand for the freedom of the human mind.” Not Harvard in opposition to America — the standard post-Vietnam formula — but Harvard in league with America, both supporting freedom. And you said something else: You spoke of “honor[ing] those who defend our freedom.” It’s been ages since Harvard did any honest honoring of men and women in uniform.

What you didn’t say was important, too. Though you spoke earnestly of inclusiveness and diversity, you never used the phrase “affirmative action,” an omission swiftly noted by the scrutinizers of politico-academic tea leaves. Affirmative action, as you well know, is code for double standards, the practice of picking or rewarding one person over another despite the fact that he/she isn’t as good, so long as the selection suits some other political or social purpose. “Diversity” can mean something quite different, at least when pursued in tandem with a stern commitment to the “highest standards.”

It was, in sum, a strong talk. As with any inaugural, however, the question is whether it was just talk or a summons to action.

 

The opportunities for action — and challenges to your mettle — did not take long to arrive. September 11 rekindled the rotc issue, on which Harvard’s present policy is truly squalid. This sharpened the contrast between following academic fashion and honoring those who defend the nation. Then, in October, the Boston Globe broke the story of Harvard’s grade-inflation problem, the premier symptom of slack academic standards for students. And by January, you were embroiled in a high-visibility tiff with Cornel West and several other prominent professors of Afro-American studies, a contretemps that touched on several issues but at heart tested whether you would pledge your troth to their version of affirmative action.

Those aren’t the only sticky issues you’ve addressed. There’s been the prolonged fuss about underpaid blue-collar employees at the world’s wealthiest university — which occasioned a lengthy office sit-in by student activists during the final months of Neil Rudenstine’s limp tenure as president. (The workers will now get a raise; the students have been warned not to “occupy” any more buildings.) There’s been your effort to revamp Harvard’s stodgy faculty selection practices, notably the tendency to settle for scholars so senior as to have outlived their productive years. There was your search for a new dean for the school of education. (It looked for a bit as if you might make an unconventional choice, but you opted for another predictable ed-school type, a worshipper of John Dewey.) There was even your effort — shocking in student eyes — to admonish undergraduates engaged in community service that they should go heavier on good works than political activism.

Those are all worthy projects, some of which will win you no friends in the short run. But you warned in your inaugural that friend-making isn’t your foremost interest: “Much as I admire the movie Love Story, I don’t believe that being president means never having to say you’re sorry.”

What you could not have realized at the time was how many times you would find yourself saying “sorry” in the months to come. Worse, as you’ve been finding out, there’s “sorry” and there’s “sorry” — and then there’s the academy’s variant, which Cornel West & Co. were keen to teach you. One version was perfected by Bill Clinton, whom you lengthily served in Washington. It involves biting one’s lower lip, feeling another’s pain, and apologizing for some past action — usually someone else’s action — against a group whose present approval one seeks.

A different “sorry” is associated with one’s own bold actions, as in the adage that “It’s easier to ask forgiveness than to seek permission.” The need for it most often arises when one does something without the advance approval of every affected party or interest, breaking a little china to attain a worthy end.

Are you more lip biter or china breaker? It’s easy to flag the issues that will put your leadership to the test. These are matters of the greatest import to Harvard’s future — with the long shadow it casts over all of U.S. higher education. The acid tests will be your handling of rotc, grade inflation, and affirmative action. For they evoke the three big ways that our universities slid off the road in the 1960s and 1970s: the rejection of all things patriotic, as the academy’s hatred for the Vietnam War fed an animus toward America itself; the decay in academic standards as students were indulged and forgiven when they rebelled against authority and demanded to be rewarded more for doing less; and the sundering of the campus into self-absorbed enclaves, identifiable by race, ethnicity, gender or sexual preference, each devoted to studying (only) its own “culture” and adamant that the university’s resources — from budgets to student places to faculty berths to dining hall provender — be divvied up according to intricate calculations of proportional (or disproportionate) shares, unburdened by any uniform standards, concern for the common good, or shared definition of truth.

Those three challenges don’t exhaust the list of ailments besetting the modern university, but they’re among its most acute symptoms. They’re also laden with politics and emotion and thus precisely the sorts of issues that today’s prudent campus head shuns. No wonder presidents often settle for raising money, adding recreation centers for students and air conditioning for professors, lightening the teaching load, placating the graduate faculties with deans just like themselves, extending the vacations, sweetening the curriculum with more trendy electives and fewer core requirements, and cheering the football team, not to mention women’s lacrosse.

 

Harvard’s involvement with rotc began during World War I. According to John Bethell in Harvard Observed: An Illustrated History of the University in the Twentieth Century (Harvard University Press, 1998), the university “mobilized a ‘Harvard Regiment,’ formed in January 1916, with more than 1,000 members, that became the first unit of the Army’s new Reserve Officers Training Corps.” Bethell’s book includes a photo of that crimson horde marching along Boston’s Columbus Avenue as part of a “preparedness parade” in May of that year. One of your eminent predecessors was directly involved: “President Lowell invited 6 French disabled officers to come to Harvard to train the Regiment.”

A decade later, Navy rotc set up shop in Cambridge, to be joined after World War II by the Air Force. As on other campuses, the military paid for student scholarships — including my roommate’s in the early 1960s — in return for students’ taking special rotc courses, drilling on Monday afternoons, and agreeing to serve on active and reserve duty for a stated number of years after graduation.

That arrangement continues today on hundreds of campuses, including Princeton, Berkeley and Duke, but not at Harvard. The faculty withdrew “academic and curricular status” from rotc in 1969 after that year’s student “strike” — the famous occupation of University Hall by radical students (and their infamous support by radical professors). It was the heyday of campus opposition to the Vietnam War and nervousness about the draft. The faculty had already denied academic credit for military science courses. Now the Harvard Corporation was prevailed upon to redefine rotc as a wholly extracurricular activity and cancel the faculty appointments of the military instructors. This violated federal law, which required that the head of an rotc unit hold professorial rank and that the program not be consigned to extracurricular status alongside the glee club and yearbook. So Harvard’s rotc units were disbanded. Pentagon dollars continued to flow for rotc scholarships but recipient students were now obliged to travel across town to mit to drill and take their “non credit courses.” Harvard paid mit for training them.

This began the period of Harvard’s deeply hypocritical rotc arrangement: an under-the-table passing of Defense Department money to the university for student financial aid even as Harvard disavowed all association with, and legitimacy for, the training of military officers.

That arrangement lasted for two decades, until the issue of homosexuality in the military arose. Soon after Bill Clinton imposed his “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, another faculty committee harrumphed that “use of Harvard’s general purpose funds to subsidize participation in an activity that excludes gay, lesbian, and bisexual students solely on the basis of their sexual preference violates Harvard’s non-discrimination policy and should be discontinued.” Accordingly, while students could continue taking the subway to mit for rotc if they wished to, no Harvard dollars would subsidize them. In an exquisite act of disingenuousness, your predecessor quietly appealed to patriotic alumni to contribute to a restricted off-the-books fund — the “Friends of Harvard rotc Trust” — that now collects some $140,000 a year to underwrite the costs of the fewer than 50 Harvard undergrads who, against all odds, still participate in rotc.

The faculty, of course, voice no moral or ethical qualms when accepting sizable Defense Department grants — some $16 million in 2000 — that flow into the university’s till to support their own research. As one newly commissioned second lieutenant remarked upon his graduation, “Harvard’s principles go only so far.”

An animated student council voted in 1999 to bring rotc back onto campus, but the dean of students promptly assured the Bisexual, Gay, and Lesbian, Transgender and Supporter Alliance that “the Harvard policy is unlikely to change any time soon.” Said a university spokesman not long after September 11, “We’re comfortable with the current arrangement.”

You, meanwhile, have sent mixed signals. Besides your inaugural remark about honoring those in uniform, you’ve said, ‘‘We need to be careful about adopting any policy on campus of non-support for those involved in defending the country. . . . Every Harvard student should be proud that we have in our midst students who make the commitment to rotc.’’ You’ve voiced doubts about the “unorthodox accounting” by which Harvard students’ participation in mit’s rotc program is paid for. You even wrote a Veterans Day letter to “Harvard Cadets and Midshipmen” stating that you “and many others deeply admire those of you who choose to serve society in this way.”On the other hand, this past winter you told a group of students that, in light of campus objections to the Pentagon’s policy on homosexuality, it would be hard to “impose a more transparent arrangement” on Harvard’s relationship with rotc. You sound as if you might like to do that but aren’t sure it’s worth the fuss. Alas for you, you inherited a clear policy that’s politically correct and morally wrong. You either keep it or you change it. Especially after September 11, it’s pious hypocrisy to talk about honoring those in uniform while fastidiously refusing to let a single Harvard penny — or a single faculty appointment or course credit — go toward preparing people who wish to wear that uniform.

Harvard, meanwhile, gives official status (and use of its facilities and other subsidies) to such groups as the Peer Contraceptive Counselors, Students Against Government Executions, the Harvard Islamic Society, and the Harvard-Radcliffe Juggling Club. It confers degree credit for courses on “Haiti and Haitian Vodou,” “Celtic Paganism,” and “Sexing Victorian Fiction.” As for accepting money from dubious sources, as William Bennett has reminded us,

The bin Laden family has endowed fellowships at Harvard valued at several million dollars. And yet rotc is not welcome at Harvard. Harvard has been willing to make distinctions and defend the bin Laden family’s money, citing their disowning of the terrorist mastermind.

Harvard has not, however, seen fit to make any distinctions to defend rotc. When rotc is not welcome at Harvard, but bin Laden family money is, we are witnessing moral confusion.

 

Harvard is certainly not the only university with a grade inflation problem. A recent study by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences — led by Harvard economist and former dean Henry Rosovsky — reviewed much research on the topic, all of which comes to the same conclusion: “[G]rade inflation began in the 1960s and continued through, at least, the mid-1990s.” According to one multi-campus study, a grades rose from 7 to 26 percent from 1969 to 1993, as c’s fell from 25 percent to 9 percent. By the mid-1990s, the average college grade was in the b range and fewer than 20 percent of students received marks lower than b-minus.

Meanwhile, sat scores fell, remedial courses proliferated, and employers began to grumble that today’s bachelor’s degree does not signify much by way of true skills and knowledge.

The Rosovsky report says “grade inflation appears to have been especially noticeable in the Ivy League.” At Princeton, by 1997, 42.5 percent of all grades were in the a range; at Dartmouth, in 1994, the corresponding figure was 44 percent.

Harvard, however, seems to have frosted this cake. Days before your inauguration, the Boston Globe’s Patrick Healy informed the world that 51 percent of all Harvard grades in 2000-2001 were a’s and a-minuses and that 91 percent of students in the class of 2001 had graduated with “honors.” Which meant, of course, that, in the words of Teachers College president Arthur Levine, “Harvard has done away with true honors.” Rosovsky commented that “Honors at Harvard has lost all meaning.” (In 2001, 20 percent of Stanford seniors graduated with honors, as did 28 percent at Duke, 8 percent at Cornell, 25 percent at Columbia and 44 percent at Princeton.)

The change over time has been stunning. The Globe says just a third of Harvard graduates earned “cum laude” or better back in 1946. I recall about half my classmates graduating with honors in 1965.

Nobody denies that Harvard’s grade inflation has worsened. Undergraduate education dean Susan Pedersen reported in November, on behalf of the faculty committee on educational policy, that it “has become a serious problem . . . and that steps should be taken to combat it.” a-range grades rose from one-third to one-half in just fifteen years, as grades below b-minus shrank to fewer than one in ten. The “gentleman’s c” of yesteryear has become a “gentleman’s b-plus.”

Various explanations are offered. Professors naturally favor such benign accounts as Pedersen’s suggestion that higher grades are an “unintended but understandable consequence of closer involvement by faculty with students.” Postmodernism itself gets invoked through the suggestion (also Pedersen’s) that “a shift in our pedagogical aims away from a mastery of a fixed body of work and towards interpretive ability may be making grading more difficult.” Rosovsky and his colleagues at the Academy of Arts and Sciences suggest multiple theories: student evaluations of professors, with attendant pressure on faculty to cater to students’ lust for high grades; an influx of faculty members more concerned with “student development and protection” than rigorous assessment; the loosening of graduation requirements, making it easier for students to avoid demanding courses — and to withdraw midway from any that turn out to be tougher than expected; the dilution of course content, making classes easier to ace; and funding arrangements that have left most universities dependent — via tuition income or state formulas — on keeping their enrollments up, which means catering to student desires.

Harvard has not had to worry about its enrollment numbers, but it surely manifests those other traits, as well as — another Rosovsky explanation — a continuing Vietnam hangover. Fear of the draft made it doubly important for a student to remain in good standing, one whose draft board would not question his academic bona fides and who also stood a strong chance of being admitted to graduate school and thereby maintaining his student deferment. Campus protests associated with the war left professors guilty or cowed, reluctant to assert power in so confrontational a way as conferring low grades. And student strikes and boycotts sometimes made grading a joke. Rosovsky recalls that “At Harvard — to cite just one case — students were allowed to designate ex post facto whether they preferred a letter grade or pass-fail. The effects of this decision on gpa’s are obvious.”

The Globe’s Healy put it more vividly: “Vietnam-era draft boards panicked Harvard students and teachers, so that inflated grades became the moral equivalent of opposition to the war, helping prevent all but 19 Harvard College men from dying in Southeast Asia.” He notes that 1969, the year the students “occupied” University Hall (until Pusey called the cops to evict them, thus dooming his presidency), “was the defining moment in grade inflation: sat scores for entering freshmen fell for the first time in years, yet the proportion of a’s and b’s shot up by 10 percent and the rate of honors continued climbing sharply.”

The most provocative explanation for grade inflation, albeit one rejected by Rosovsky, Pedersen and most other academics, including your predecessor Derek Bok and William Bowen in their defense of affirmative action, The Shape of the River (Princeton, 1998), is that easier grading also accompanied greater student diversity. Having striven to enroll more “students of color,” sometimes by making exceptions to customary admissions standards, universities dared not flunk them out or produce grading patterns that made them appear less successful than their peers.

Harvard students know they’re having an easy time of it. Healy opened his Globe expose by quoting Trevor Cox ’02, who led the university’s far-flung student volunteer program. “I’ve coasted on far higher grades than I deserve,” Cox said. “It’s scandalous. You can get very good grades, and earn honors, without ever producing quality work.”

As for the honors travesty, inflated grades don’t tell the full story. Harvard has long regarded any sort of b as worthy of “honors,” and, as we have seen, few grades are lower than that today. Until 1961, however, one at least had to earn b-level grades within one’s major subject, which meant taking multiple courses of ascending difficulty within a single discipline and writing a senior-year “honors thesis” in that field. Responding to student demands for greater curricular flexibility, however, the faculty voted to permit honors in “general studies,” meaning that an overall b average — whatever the courses — would justify “cum laude” on one’s diploma. Honors instantly rose by 7 percent. Today, a quarter of all honors diplomas have nothing to do with honors in one’s major — or with slaving over a thesis.

When it comes to grading practices and graduation honors, Harvard is now the laughingstock of American higher education. All sort of committees are struggling with what to do. So, one hears, are you. But it won’t be easy to change. Not only is the expectation of high grades now built into the student culture. It has suffused the faculty, too. The Crimson reported that, as recently as January 15, the history department’s “head tutor” e-mailed professors to go easy: “Events throughout the fall, starting with September 11, have been distressing for everyone. . . . [D]espite the recent hullabaloo over grade inflation, this is not the semester in which to crack down.”

 

Politically knotty as it is, grade inflation is a simpler problem than racialism on campus. Nobody makes a principled case for higher grades; you can even find professors and students who disapprove of the practice. But affirmative action has wrought subtler and more pervasive corruptions to the search for truth and the maintenance of standards. Its entanglement with academe goes far beyond your dust-up with the now-departing Cornel West and his colleagues, reaching to the moral underpinnings of major contemporary institutions, which, Shelby Steele has perceptively noted, risk the loss of “mainstream legitimacy unless white guilt defines their approach to racial matters.”

You began by holding a well-warranted and much-reported woodshed session with West, a celebrity professor who has done little in recent years to justify his lofty academic title and handsome salary, and whose shenanigans in politics (Al Sharpton’s campaign) and pop culture (a “rap” record, a self-adoring website) raise doubts as to whether he is any sort of academic at all. Critics such as Leon Wieseltier assert that he’s never written anything of scholarly value. Linguist (and African-American) John McWhorter says that “rap is not scholarship. Nor is putting one’s arm around a hustler like the Rev. Sharpton.” West is also a famously easy grader of students, who typically don’t see much of him due to his frequent jettings about for well-paid speeches, black consciousness events, and political activity.

He is, however, accustomed to guilty white liberals — especially Harvard presidents — kissing his ring, enlarging his empire, and seeking his approval. At first, you didn’t do that. Instead, you rebuked him. You spoke the truth to him. By his lights, you dissed him. And all hell broke loose. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson vowed to come to Cambridge to “mediate.” Princeton slid in with tempting offers to West and two of his colleagues in Harvard’s Department of Afro-American Studies. The media enjoyed a feeding frenzy. (It’s so rare these days for university presidents to do anything ink-worthy other than raise more money than ever before.) Seeking to trade on the racial guilt that surely you must have been feeling, Harvard’s “Latino studies” professors averred that you had shown yourself insufficiently sensitive to the university’s need for a full-fledged academic program of their own. It was, wrote Stuart Taylor in Slate magazine, a “feast of victimology.”

Then you said you were sorry. Not, alas, for having taken bold action on behalf of high principle, but sorry for the misunderstanding. For the communications problem. For not having made clear the depth of your commitment to diversity. Sorry that such giants of the faculty were even considering a move to Princeton, and determined to do all in your power to keep them in Cambridge. Sorry for not letting the Latino studies faculty know sooner of your openness to the center that they covet.

But then, probably to your surprise, you got slammed again, not only by commentators on the right who were dismayed by your apology but also by West and his allies, who allowed as how sorry wasn’t enough, such slights would not be forgotten, and everyone would be watching to see what you did next. They were bent on teaching you a real lesson: In today’s academic politics, neither standard version of “sorry” will suffice. Indeed, such apologies worsen the problem by showing that the usual pieties can pierce your armor. This ups the ante, daring you to make amends, to engage in something akin to reparations. Never mind that your only offense was uttering a few blunt words on behalf of truth, standards, and traditional academic values.

In any case, West and his colleague Anthony Appiah are now headed for New Jersey. Are you secretly pleased to be rid of them? I hope so. But which lesson have you learned for the future? The one that West & Company seek to impart or the perceptive one noted by Fareed Zakaria when you transited from Washington back into academe: “In Washington, a politician’s primary worry is an attack from the far right. At universities, it’s the opposite. The right barely exists. . . . On campus, the killer bees are all on the left. . . . One may bemoan this state of affairs . . . but this is the institution as it exists. You must know it to change it.”

Changing or appeasing it — there’s your only real choice. Either will test your political adroitness. But appeasement will win you the cynical fawning of campus factions, while change is what Harvard — and American higher education — most needs.

In the short run, appeasement brings peace. In the long run, it exacts a high price in quality and integrity. And in the long run those are the twin pillars on which Harvard’s lordly reputation rests. All else — fame, money, alumni loyalty, peer envy, the freedom to select almost any student or professor, international influence, the ability to have the Marshall Plan announced from your commencement platform, etc. — stems from the belief that Harvard is the gold standard. Dent that conviction and you begin to erode Harvard’s dearest asset. Then everything else will teeter.

You know full well that double standards are an affront to quality and that the greatest threat to any university’s integrity, even Harvard’s, is its balkanization into covetous, warring tribes organized not by discipline or profession but by race, gender, sexual preference, and national origin. None of the values you espoused in your inaugural can thrive in so poisoned an environment. Yet that is what the affirmative-action crowd wants you to do: pledge yourself to divisiveness rather than diversity. And that is what you seem to have done, when you recently assured a journalist that you favor Bok-and-Rudenstine-style affirmative action, including “the consideration of race” in admissions decisions.

Harvard’s situation is different from that of most American campuses. It has long enjoyed the luxury of choosing among hordes of “fully qualified” applicants and many decades ago foreswore the practice of taking only those with the loftiest test scores and grades. In the bad old days, that meant keeping spaces for WASPs and not letting in too many Jews. In my day, diversity meant ensuring that the football team had a quarterback, the orchestra had an oboist, and graduates of ordinary midwestern high schools were not shut out by those from Groton and Andover. Today’s version of diversity demands students of every hue and background. At Harvard, though, they’re essentially all “qualified” even if not the very best in the huge applicant pool.

Harvard’s real affirmative action challenge involves a different kind of double standard. The Cornel West episode illustrates it. Imagine a white professor going off to manage the campaign of Pat Buchanan or David Duke, as West did for Al Sharpton. Sure, tenured faculty members can get away with a lot, but in that hypothetical situation a presidential rebuke would not be nearly enough. Angry professors and inflamed students would disgorge gallons of white guilt and black outrage, demanding that you take firm action to end this affront to liberal values. West, by contrast, made you apologize. You may now be free of him, but there will be more like him ahead if you distill from this episode that you should make Harvard a safer place for people who behave like he did.

 

What next? You know that the literate world is watching. As African-American studies department chairman Henry L. Gates notes, “The president of Harvard has a tremendously powerful bully pulpit, and the symbolic power of his opinion is incalculable.”

Some expect that you, like your predecessors, will pander to faculty fashion, minimize student hassles, and behave like your counterparts on so many other campuses. You’ll avoid rocking boats, or so they hope, and you’ll defer the tough decisions, kiss the hand of political correctness, and be quick to apologize for any tremors in the hive of killer bees. Meanwhile, rotc will remain out of sight and rotc money off the books (even as bin Laden money stays in the endowment). When all the faculty committees have finished chewing over the grade-inflation issue, just about everyone will continue to graduate with “honors” and most transcripts will still be festooned with a’s. The distinction between “diversity” and “affirmative action” will prove entirely meaningless, as you yield to the demands of Af-Am professors and compensate for the earlier dust-up by okaying a new department of Latino studies and sanctioning race-based admissions and hiring decisions. This is the future that many on your campus have in mind for you and that many in the wider higher education community take for granted.

But they can’t impose that future on you. It’s up to you. If you want to, you can lead Harvard out of its moral quagmire and clarify its murky standards, while demonstrating serious leadership for a nationwide higher education community that hasn’t had any in years. You’ll bring rotc back to the Yard; admonish academic departments not to let their average student grade rise above b-minus; and salute pluralism of the sort that’s firmly joined to a high, uniform standard and to the steadfast search for truth. You’ll wave a tender farewell to Professor West as he leaves for New Jersey.

You will, in short, apply the principles voiced in your inaugural address to the challenges before you. Professors will yowl. Students will protest. Alumni/ae will be divided but most, I believe, would applaud. More important than the on-campus audience, however, you will know that you’re doing the right thing. And America will be the better for it.

Sincerely,
Checker Finn
B.A. 1965, M.A.T. 1967, Ed.D. 1970