Harvard-related fun news: Next Tuesday, on October 9th at 10 am, Czech President Václav Klaus will host Larry Summers at the Prague Castle. Two important politically incorrect economists who know me in person. ;-)When I was at faculty of Harvard, I also got familiar with many undergraduate students, went to the (usually Harvard) Pub with some of them, and deduced a realistic picture what they look like and what they care about.
There is a very high percentage of highly talented young people among them. (Philip Streich from Howard Georgi's house who tragically died a week ago in a family farm accident was probably one of them: an Intel Foundation bronze medal winner, a graphene company CEO since his teenage.) On the other hand, when it comes to aptitudes, I believe that the average Harvard undergraduate doesn't differ "strikingly" from the average student at other colleges that are just OK. Those folks are later unusually successful as well – but I tend to think that the Harvard diploma (and the contacts they develop over the years in the college) may be more important for that than their actual skills and hard work.
While the Harvard faculty is insanely super duper left-wing, Harvard students are much more moderate. This is manifested in many ways. For example, they would largely endorse Larry Summers when the far left (for readers who are U.S. conservatives: Larry doesn't belong to this set, according to Harvard's conventions!) organized the witch hunts against him. Of course, Harvard students are far less ideological and more practically oriented than the Harvard faculty. After all, we could say that they're normal kids with pretty normal interests.
While they drink stuff and have lots of sex, they are publishing an "adult" daily newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, too. I feel that the students – because everyone knows that they pay tuition etc. – have a significant impact on the Harvard policies. And Harvard University is a sort of a role model for many other U.S. universities, institutions, and even corporations. So you may want to follow what those kids think. They are kids who are programmed to "control the world" and to be pro-actual-establishment in every single dimension you may think of. So they're still highly politically correct – especially the self-proclaimed spokespeople of the student body. When it comes to students whom the Harvard environment naturally converts into spokesmen, think of slick, superficial, and self-centered folks like Sean Carroll; he used to be a Harvard graduate, not undergraduate student, but you may still get the idea.
I will discuss divestments – decisions to sell all holdings related to XY whenever XY becomes politically inconvenient or politically incorrect.
In 2002, a community of Harvard's anti-Semites and outcast Semites decided to ventilate their anger with the most functional country in the Middle East by proposing that Harvard isolates itself from the "dirty Jewish state" and that its management company should sell all its holdings related to Israel.
Many people at Harvard supported the move. Alan Dershowitz was one of the brave exceptions who were fighting the bigots. The discussion continued for years and the divestment wasn't coming. However, it was suddenly revealed in August 2010 that Harvard had sold all its Israeli holdings even though two days later, Harvard stated it wasn't divestment (because Harvard stated it wasn't one), it was just financially indistinguishable from one. ;-)
Clearly, the management company chose to please the anti-Semites while verbally pretending to be a "neutral party". Still, Harvard has helped to legitimize the efforts to treat Israel in a bad way – in a way that no rogue state in the region could ever be treated. The direct impact of the decision on Israel was negligible, of course; however, the indirect impact caused by the "legal" anti-Israel attitudes seen at Harvard may be significant.
Now, the climate
In 2009, some Harvard students founded a college chapter of Students for a Just and Stable Future which – despite the vague progressive name – is just another climate alarmist organization. They want Harvard to sell all its holdings that are related to fossil fuels and perhaps any other carbon-dependent industry, too.
Five days ago, the Crimson published an editorial which said that Harvard students should help the alarmist cause by all other means but the divestment was a bad idea because in the past, all proposals for a divestment were restricted to companies linked to human rights violation (I guess that the implicit assertion was that the most respectable country in the Middle East when it comes to human rights, Israel, may also be criticized for human rights violation).
However, two students who are fighting for the "just and stable future" were allowed to publish a response today. So they scream that the divestment is necessary, repeat some usual alarmist talking points, and – now, this is the shocking point – they argue that global warming is a human rights issue, indeed. Holy cow.
I know that there are many sensible people among the students at Harvard but the environment and its habits just immediately downgrades them to "also students" who are obliged to be quiet. Be sure that I have met a couple of Harvard undergraduates who complained that they were heavily harassed for their world view – especially those who were practicing Christians. This is apparently the "good", semi-officially sponsored harassment.
Kids who propose to launch a war against fossil fuel companies – which belong among the pillars of the modern civilization – should be intensely spanked by their parents at least for half an hour. At Harvard, some of these deeply confused, spoiled frats not only fail to be spanked but they indirectly influence the thinking in the whole American society. Many of us are underestimating how much harm stupid kids at disproportionately influential places may do.
And that's the memo.