Back in the day, the president of Harvard stood up to an unaccountable, unAmerican, evil conspiracy. I also count Joseph Welch, a Harvard Law alum, (and coincidentally, another Iowa boy) as one of my heroes in the same national battle. Of course, the stakes then were limited: only the survival of American liberty and the constitution, and academic freedom were on the table. Now Harvard has the chance to take a stand against another oppressive, unaccountable, force. Like McCarthy, the NCAA is mistreating a powerless youth as is its conventional practice ,and with its pervasive and typical stupidity, but to do the right thing puts the prosperity of the big-time college sports industry, not to mention Harvard’s own teams’ legitimacy as determined by this secretive cabal, at risk.
It is a “well-known fact” that a university without a top-class, winning, intercollegiate sports program is doomed to academic mediocrity. I am on a search committee at my own school, and we only had 370 applications for the position, (including a batch of star, top-class finalists). This pathetic showing must be attributable to our football team’s losing season, right? (What great scholar, after all, would deign to be associated with a place like Chicago, or Cal Tech, or MIT?) As Harvard has caved on this one, it would appear they either believe this nonsense, or they think college sports as ordained by the NCAA is a higher value than the ones Pusey defended. But they are wrong either way: if Nocera’s reporting is correct, things have changed a lot in Cambridge, and not for the better. [Disclosure: I have four degrees (don’t ask) from Harvard and my daughter has another. I’m not ‘proud of Harvard’, because I didn’t make it or even change it much when I was there; I hope Harvard is proud of me. I spent some of the best years of my life there as a student and on the faculty. I wish Harvard well, and I think it’s a wonderful institution, but I know it to have flaws and shortcomings, and it will have fewer if they are ventilated and confronted.]