Back in September, from the VP for Alumni Affairs and Development at Harvard:
As the academic year begins at Harvard, I wanted to share with you this welcome message that President Bacow sent to the campus community earlier today.
Underneath, a message from El Presidente Larry Bacow:
Some of my reading this summer took me deeper into Harvard’s history by way of personal anecdotes and recollections, and I wanted to share with you an observation about the role of the University made in 1957 by my predecessor Nathan Pusey… “it is possible to think of Harvard as a kind of island of light in a very widespread darkness…”
The guy with a free house in Harvard Square and a job that requires a Ph.D. then bravely advocates for open borders:
Since May, the obstacles facing individuals ensnared in the nation’s visa and immigration process have only grown. Various international students and scholars eager to establish lives here on our campus find themselves the subject of scrutiny and suspicion in the name of national security, … Although our nation to this day still struggles to make good on its founding ideals, countless people from different parts of the world have long looked to its shores with hope—for the chance to learn, for the chance to contribute, for the chance to live better and safer lives. My father and my mother were two of them, and they taught me that this country is great because it opens its doors wide to the world.
Not just as a university president, but as the son of refugees and as a citizen who deeply believes in the American dream, I am disheartened by aspects of the proposed new criteria for people seeking to enter our country. They privilege those who are already educated, who already speak English, and who already have demonstrable skills.
While sitting in his university-owned rent-free mansion and earning over $1 million per year running the non-profit organization, he’s not afraid to compete with Hondurans who lack education, the ability to speak English, and any demonstrable skills!
Now that we’re a little deeper into the semester, Dr. Bacow has pivoted. To alumni on November 21:
Today, I am pleased to announce the formation of a new university-wide initiative on Harvard and the Legacy of Slavery, which will build on the important work undertaken thus far, provide greater structure and cohesion to a wide array of university efforts, and give additional dimension to our understanding of the impact of slavery. This work will allow us to continue to understand and address the enduring legacy of slavery within our university community.
Second, the initiative will concentrate on connections, impact, and contributions that are specific to our Harvard community. Harvard has a unique role in the history of our country, and we have a distinct obligation to understand how our traditions and our culture here are shaped by our past and by our surroundings—from the ways the university benefitted from the Atlantic slave trade to the debates and advocacy for abolition on campus.
Can a single university live up to both the September and November letters simultaneously? Why does an immigrant from Asia, for example, care about what whites and blacks were doing in the U.S. back in the 1700s? (and what happened to concern for the Native Americans? Dr. Bacow’s mansion is sitting on land stolen from the Wampanoag. Didn’t the university benefit more by stealing from Native Americans than from enslaving Africans?)
Are the messages consistent? In “Yes, Immigration Hurts American Workers,” Harvard professor George Borjas concluded that the benefits of low-skill immigration to high-skill wealthy Americans such as Dr. Bacow come primarily at the expense of low-skill American workers, including “many blacks” who may be descended from slaves: “Somebody’s lower wage is always somebody else’s higher profit. In this case, immigration redistributes wealth from those who compete with immigrants to those who use immigrants—from the employee to the employer. … The total wealth redistribution from the native losers to the native winners is enormous, roughly a half-trillion dollars a year.” If Harvard is in the vanguard of institutions advocating for lower wages for African-Americans (by allowing employers to replace them with immigrants; the September email), how can it also be in the vanguard of institutions trying to “address the enduring legacy of slavery” as Dr. Bacow proposes in the November email?
More concretely, if white and black students at Harvard get together to sing “Kumbaya,” what do the Asians and Asian-Americans (who all look same) do?