Harvard Cancels Peretz Speaking Gig

(cc photo b dan4th)

(cc photo b dan4th)

More exciting adventures from the Ivy League:

[Martin] Peretz, the editor in chief of The New Republic and a former Harvard professor, had been scheduled to speak at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies, scheduled for Sept. 25, according to the Harvard Crimson, the university’s student newspaper. But the final schedule for the program does not list Peretz as a speaker. He is to be recognized, however, along with several other head tutors and directors of studies. […]

An undergraduate research endowment fund in Peretz’s name was created recently by his family and friends, according to the Crimson, which also said that the fund’s proposed amount had increased from $500,000 to $650,000 in the last week from alumni contributions. The growth has been interpreted as an indication of alumni support to honor Peretz at the program.

I’m glad to see an enhanced level of attention being given to the fact that a semi-important figure in American political journalism is driven by racist views of Arabs and Muslims, as I’ve said before this whole farce mostly illustrates the absurd racket of fundraising at already-rich American universities. The Harvard business model is the exchange of money for prestige, and insofar as Peretz has rich friends willing to pony up cash Harvard is willing to bestow honors. If it becomes a problem, they may try to sweep it under the rug by, e.g., changing the speaker’s roster. But not accepting the cash isn’t on the menu, nor is refusing the perform the service in exchange for which the cash has been offered.

It’s true, of course, that well-intentioned Harvard donors could probably change things by threatening to withhold future contributions unless the honor is rescinded. But that would be a bit silly since people shouldn’t be giving Harvard money anyway. By the same token, the individuals responsible for establishing the Peretz Fund should consider putting their views of Peretz, Muslims, and all the rest to one side and asking whether an undergraduate research fund is a reasonable way of helping people. Are there no educational institutions in the world more in need of funds? Really?