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Required Reading

By Edited THIS Column. and Brian R. Hecht compiled

A sampling of what Harvard people are saying, and what is being said about Harvard, in the press.

Dear Neil

A staff editorial in The Cambridge Chronicle took the form of a letter to Neil Rudenstine. Here's what it had to say:

As long as Harvard and Cambridge exist on the face of the Earth, their difference will tug at the neighborhoods and pull at the tales of Harvard's gowns. The faculty and students at Harvard do not seem like those in the outside world. And the institution does not act like other institutions. From the outside, it appears, Harvard has more money than God and the students more confidence than Trump.

But Harvard is Cambridge and Cambridge is Harvard. The two, in the end we realize, would not exist as they are today without the other's presence. No, this is not to say the oft repeated If Harvard were not here, Cambridge would be Somerville, or Medford or Brookline or (fill it in). It is simply a reminder that sometimes we most hate our co-dependent relations, those to whom we feel inextricably linked, especially when we feel that we are the ones without power...

...Rudenstine, who steps into a role that demands setting far-reaching academic agendas as well as fundraising, networking and public relations on an international scale must set an example. When Rudenstine came to Massachusetts last spring, he quickly noted that Cambridge is not Princeton. His former hometown did not have the same kind of strong grassroots community feel to challenge the Ivy League leader. So far, Neil R. Rudenstine has done well in adapting to a more cantankerous kind of community. The word about town is that he honestly likes people and has mingled well among Cantabrigians. We wish the president well and hoping the successful socializing will translate into a candid concern for the community that is now his own.

Awww, shucks. We're sure Neil will be too busy pulling at the "tales" of Harvard's gowns to notice that his middle initial is L. and not R.

Consistency Counts

Same paper, same day, the front page caption under a picture of Harvard's new president reads:

THE OFFICIAL ENTRY--Neil R. and Angelica Zander Rudenstine make their way from the president's house at 17 Quincy Street after Rudenstein was inaugurated as 26th president of Harvard Friday.


Granted, the New York Post has never been a particularly moderate voice in the debate over Leonard Jeffries--the City College professor whose allegedly anti-Semitic, anti-white and anti-gay statements have been making headlines for months. But when reports emerged that Jeffries threatened the life of a Crimson reporter, Eliot Morgan, the Post went whole hog with front-page stories and lengthy editorials. Here's a sampling from a staff editorial that appeared yesterday:

The latest evidence about Jeffries' character revolves around the death threat he allegedly leveled against a Harvard Crimson editor who'd interviewed him: Eliot Morgan, Jeffries was apparently worried that Morgan would detail the professor's hostility toward Jews; no doubt, he was also concerned that he had been a bit too candid in describing Harvard's highly esteemed African-American Studies chairman, Prof. Henry Louis Gates, Jr., as a "punk and a faggor." Jeffries, it appears, both threatened Morgan and had his own "bodyguard" seize a tape-recording Morgan had made of the interview.

Jeffries has now denied threatening Morgan or seizing his tape. Earlier this year, he denied that a speech he made at a black cultural festival in Albany was anti-Semitic (unfortunately for him, the conference was televised and that tape survives.) Finally Jeffries denies that--while serving on a CCNY search committee in 1985--he asked a candidate for an international studies post, Mitchell Seligson: "Why does a Jew like you want to teach at a college like this?" (Seligson eventually withdrew his name from consideration.)

Denial is apparently Jeffries' strong suit. And we don't doubt that before his fate at CCNY is resolved, He' ll have lots else to deny. The real question here isn't why Jeffries persists in insulting Jews or other whites, along with blacks who don't share his views. Bigots are bigots. What's curious is the determination with which educational administrators in New York City and state--like Harleston and Education Commissioner Thomas Sobol--continue to place Jeffries on search committees and key curricular revision panels.

Jeffries, after all, has published next to nothing; he has no academic reputation of which to speak. His chairmanship is an ongoing insult to the whole notion of black studies at CCNY.

President Harleston now professes "deep pain" that the public-at-large perceives CCNY as a hostile and anti-Semitic institution; he worries about the "impact" of Jeffries' statements on the "image of the college." It would be comforting if Harleston worries more about the reality of life at CCNY, and less about public perception--which, so far as we can tell, happen to be valid.

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