Plural versus possessive at Harvard

In Teaching Information Security there was a discussion of the fact that young people at a Florida state system university rejected the distinction between plural and possessive. A friend sent me the following:

Trying to wrap my head around my MBB offer

My first two years at Harvard, I was really focused on getting a good offer once I graduated. I think Harvard really acculturated me to the idea that one of those offers is one of the big goals of undergrad.

This summer, I got a full time offer from one of the big three consulting firms, for way more money than I thought, around $140k in total comp.

When I read the offer letter, I felt deeply ambivalent. Obviously I am stoked, and really want to work at the firm. However, it feels weird to make many times more my friends who are graduating from great non-ivy’s and more than my parents, who both make six figures.

For those of you who have received similar offers, how do you feel about salary? And for those who have already graduated, how has your thinking evolved?

(For those who are more familiar with honest labor, “MBB” is for McKinsey, BCG, and Bain. Separately, doesn’t he/she/ze/they realize that $140k will soon be the price of a Diet Coke?)

Note the highlighted section above, in which the fresh Harvard graduate struggles to write “Ivies”.

From Hussain Altamimi, a young person bright enough to work as a legislative assistant for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the Democratic Party’s primary thought-leader (Fox):

Israel is a racist European ethnostate built on stolen land from it’s indigenous population!

(Can anyone think of a country besides Israel that was built on land stolen by Europeans from an indigenous population? Are the people in the country that you’re thinking of doing anything to restore the land to the rightful indigenous owners?)

Is it time for Joe Biden to outlaw the apostrophe and save us from ourselves?


  • “California Prison Academy: Better Than a Harvard Degree” (WSJ, 2011): Harvard grads can expect to earn $49,897 fresh out of college and $124,759 after 20 years. … As a California prison guard, you can make six figures in overtime and bonuses alone. … Over 120,000 people apply every year, according to the state Legislative Analyst’s Office, but the academy only enrolls about 900. That’s an acceptance rate of less than 1%. Harvard’s is 6.2%.
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Harvard and MIT: Love Asians, but don’t let them into your school

My inbox has been filling up lately with emails regarding purported hate crimes against Asian-Americans. Somewhat curiously, these emails are coming from institutions that explicitly discriminate against Asian-Americans (see “A Ceiling on Asian Student Enrollment at MIT and Harvard?”, for example, and Students for Fair Admissions v. Harvard).

Harvard graduate Tom Lehrer wrote about this in his song “National Brotherhood Week“:

it’s Fun to eulogize the
People you despise
As long you don’t let them in your school.

From Larry Bacow, President of Harvard:

For the past year, Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders have been blamed for the pandemic—slander born of xenophobia and ignorance. … Footage of individuals being targeted and assaulted has driven home a rise in aggression and violence across the nation. Today, we continue to reel in the wake of eight murders in Georgia—six of the victims of Asian descent—and to contend with events that shock the collective conscience.

(If only six of the victims were of Asian descent, what’s El Presidente’s theory for how this was an anti-Asian hate crime? The murderer hated Asians, but was not intelligent enough to distinguish between Asians and non-Asians?)

Harvard must stand as a bulwark against hatred and bigotry. We welcome and embrace individuals from every background because it makes us a better community, a stronger community.

I long for the day when I no longer have to send such messages. It is our collective responsibility to repair this imperfect world. To Asians, Asian Americans, and Pacific Islanders in our community: We stand together with you today and every day going forward.

(Is there, in fact, anyone who blames “Pacific Islanders” for COVID-19 or coronapanic? Readers: Have you heard someone curse Samoans, Fijians, or Tongans for causing the deaths of 82-year-olds in Maskachusetts?)

From Martha Tedeschi, director of the Harvard Art Museums, where the paychecks keep coming despite the museum being closed.

I am reaching out to the extended museum family of the Harvard Art Museums in the face of Wednesday’s breaking—and heartbreaking—news of the deadly shootings and violence against women of Asian descent in Atlanta. I want to state my own shock and horror—sentiments I know so many of you share—that once again we are confronted by a wave of racist violence that makes it impossible for so many communities in this country to feel safe. Anti-Asian hostility has a long history in the United States. … want to say emphatically that the Harvard Art Museums stand firmly against Anti-Asian racism. It feels only moments ago that I was writing to you about the murder of George Floyd and so many others and the importance of banding together in support of our black and brown communities.

(Do we think that George Floyd, with his minimal employment history, would have been a likely customer for a $20 ticket to Martha Tesdeschi’s museum? If not, what qualifies Martha Tedeschi to talk about those in Mr. Floyd’s socioeconomic stratum?)

What if we go downmarket and down the river? From L. Rafael Reif, President of MIT:

This message is for everyone. But let me begin with a word for the thousands of members of our MIT family – undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, staff, faculty, alumni, parents and Corporation members – who are Asian or of Asian descent: We would not be MIT without you.

(But, as noted above, “we also don’t want too many of you”?)

Bizarrely, for a school that claims credentials are important enough to spend years and hundreds of thousands of dollars acquiring, the president of MIT, with no credentials in criminology or political science, claims expertise in criminology and political science:

Across the country, a cruel signature of this pandemic year has been a terrible surge in anti-Asian violence, discrimination and public rhetoric. I know some of you have experienced such harm directly. The targets are very often women and the elderly.

These acts are especially disturbing in the context of several years of mounting hostility and suspicion in the United States focused on people of Chinese origin. The murders in Georgia Tuesday, including among the victims so many Asian women, come as one more awful shock.

Lumped in with the discussion regarding spa workers, because she happened to have identified (maybe?) as an Asian female:

Earlier this month, we lost an extraordinary citizen of MIT, ChoKyun Rha ’62, SM ’64, SM ’66, SCD ’67, a professor post-tenure of biomaterials science and engineering, at the age of 87. Raised in Seoul in a family that expected her to become a doctor, she came to MIT because she wanted to be an engineer. In 1974, she joined our faculty; in 1980, she became the first Asian female faculty member to earn tenure at MIT. Dr. Rha went on to build a remarkable career as a teacher, a mentor and a scholar.

It is difficult to imagine how alone she must have felt in her early years at MIT, when women students and Asian students numbered in just dozens. But the trail she and so many others blazed helped lead to the rich diversity of MIT we treasure today.

Is this an example of “All Look Same”? In the context of killings of spa workers in Atlanta, what’s the relevance of someone who defied her family by becoming an engineer rather than a doctor and never lived in Atlanta?

(Also, Rafael Reif says that she must have felt alone (how can he know?). If so, given that she stayed at MIT for four degrees and to work as a professor, isn’t that equivalent to calling her stupid? An intelligent person would have left MIT, presumably, and gone somewhere where she didn’t feel alone.)

Circling back to the title of this post… if the presidents of Harvard and MIT love Asians so much, why won’t they let them into their respective schools?

(If the answer is, “we just can’t find enough Asians whose personalities we like, notwithstanding their superb academic achievements,” here are some numbers from “The Rise of Asian Americans” (Pew, 2012): “The modern immigration wave from Asia is nearly a half century old and has pushed the total population of Asian Americans—foreign born and U.S born, adults and children—to a record 18.2 million in 2011, or 5.8% of the total U.S. population, up from less than 1% in 1965.”


Readers: Are you getting a lot of email from bureaucrats expressing their new-found love for Asians?

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Harvard applications up 42 percent as people desperately seek to join the credentialed elite

You don’t want to be working class or a small business owner in the US going forward. With Presidents Biden and Harris promising to direct a larger percentage of American wealth to the credentialed elite, e.g., working in higher education, government, health care, or Big Pharma, Harvard applications are up. “Harvard College Receives Record-High 57,000 Applications, Delays Admissions Release Date” (Crimson):

More than 57,000 students applied for a spot in Harvard College’s Class of 2025, marking a record high and forcing the Admissions Office to push back its decision release date by roughly a week, the office announced Thursday.

The College received roughly 42 percent more applications than last year, when 40,248 students applied for admission to the Class of 2024. This year’s record-high number of applicants comes two years after the Class of 2023 set the previous record with 43,330 applicants.

In theory, this means a 1 in 30 chance of being admitted (2,000 admitted annually). In practice, though, an Asian or white applicant who isn’t an athletic recruit will face much longer odds (see The $70 billion travel sports industry (rich whites and Asians getting their kids into college)).

An aerial photo of the mostly-shut campus (May 2020 by Tony):

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Harvard hires for the Department of Ethnicity, Indigeneity, and Migration

“[Faculty of Arts and Sciences] unveils anti-racism agenda” (Harvard Gazette, August 20, 2020):

Calling on the FAS community to be “relentless, constructively critical, and action-oriented,” Gay said that she would: restart the search for four new senior faculty in ethnicity, indigeneity, and migration (EIM); establish a new visiting professorship in EIM; appoint an inaugural associate dean of diversity, inclusion and belonging; expand the Inequality in American postdoctoral fellows program; initiate a study of racial diversity among senior staff; and create a task force to examine the FAS visual culture.

What happens when you kick everyone off campus five months earlier?

“The calls for racial justice heard on our streets also echo on our campus, as we reckon with our individual and institutional shortcomings and with our faculty’s shared responsibility to bring truth to bear on the pernicious effects of structural inequality,” she said. “I am clear-eyed that the work of real change will be difficult, and for many it will be uncomfortable. Change is messy work. Institutional inertia will threaten to overwhelm even our best efforts. If we are to succeed, we must challenge a status quo that is comfortable and convenient for many.”

A lot of echoes in those empty buildings! The mostly-empty campus will have some new signs:

Finally, Gay outlined the charge for her new Task Force for Visual Culture and Signage. Led by Dean of Arts and Humanities Robin Kelsey, the group will be comprised of faculty, students, and staff, and will pursue a comprehensive study of FAS’s visual culture and articulate guidelines for evolving imagery across campus.

What if the new professors of Indigeneity suggest giving the campus back to the rightful owners of the real estate, i.e., perhaps the Wampanoags or the Massachusetts (the tribe, not to be confused with the current Commonwealth of Maskachusetts)? Will Harvard dip into its $40+ billion (thanks, Donald Trump!) endowment to pay rent on the Native American-owned campus?


  • Not everyone at Harvard got the memo regarding the benefits to natives of migration. From a Harvard economics professor: “Yes, Immigration Hurts American Workers”
  • also from Harvard’s econ nerds, “Effects of Immigration on African-American Employment and Incarceration” (NBER): For white men, an immigration boost of 10 percent caused their employment rate to fall just 0.7 percentage points; for black men, it fell 2.4 percentage points. That same immigration rise was also correlated with a rise in incarceration rates. For white men, a 10 percent rise in immigration appeared to cause a 0.1 percentage point increase in the incarceration rate for white men. But for black men, it meant a nearly 1 percentage-point rise.
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Looks like I picked the wrong week to sell stock in a coronavirus testing company (Harvard)

“Harvard will allow some students on campus this fall so long as they take coronavirus tests every 3 days” (CNBC):

Tuition will not be lowered from $49,653, although students enrolled remotely will not pay room and board fees.

Harvard said it hopes to invite seniors to campus for the spring semester assuming conditions allow the college to maintain 40% residential density.

Students will have to undergo Covid-19 testing upon arrival and every three days afterward.

Any exceptions in Victimhood Nation?

Upperclassmen will be able to petition to return if they don’t have sufficient technology at home or have challenging family circumstances.

Let the Victim Narratives compete!

Where will they get all of the swabs?!?

Harvard Yard on April 1:

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Elite versus Non-Elite access to COVID-19 testing

Email received from the president of Harvard, Larry Bacow, today at 1:15 pm:

Earlier today, Adele and I learned that we tested positive for COVID-19. We started experiencing symptoms on Sunday—first coughs then fevers, chills, and muscle aches—and contacted our doctors on Monday. We were tested yesterday and just received the results a few minutes ago. We wanted to share this news with all of you as soon as possible.

Two days from first symptom to test result.

Text message from an M.I.T. Ph.D. in engineering, today a little earlier:

Yes, a friend of mine in Boston had to wait 6 days to get tested, then another 4 days for the result

Ten days from symptoms to result (positive, unfortunately, and then the rest of the family caught it too, casting doubt on the 10% household transmission stat that has appeared in some articles; everyone is recovering without hospitalization).

Conversation this morning with some Harvard Medical Students:

At Partners [the Harvard-affiliated goliath of Boston-area hospital systems] we can’t order a coronavirus test unless the patient is admitted.

[Separately, the “emergency” is not so urgent as to have ruffled the feathers of the Massachusetts state government’s license raj. One of the Harvard students is 4th year and will soon be eligible for a medical license here in Massachusetts. “I don’t know how I’m going to get licensed,” he said. “There are a ton of forms that I need to give to the state and they all have to be notarized. Where will I find a notary?” I.e., the emergency is not so dire that they’re willing to give a provisional license to anyone whom Harvard Medical School verifies is a recent graduate, then sort out the rest of the paperwork after the plague has abated.]

As of September 2019, President Bacow was a cheerleader for more low-skill immigration to the U.S.. Email to the Harvard community:

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. They fail to recognize others who yearn for a better future and who are willing to sacrifice and work hard to achieve it. Had these same rules been in place when my parents each immigrated, I doubt they would have been admitted, and I would not be writing this message today.

My parents, like most immigrants, loved this country in part because they had the experience of growing up someplace else. They appreciated its aspirations of freedom and opportunity for all, and never took these ideals for granted. But they were also not uncritical of their new home. They wanted it to be the very best place it could be, a goal to which we all should aspire. Indeed, it is the role of great universities to foster an environment that encourages loving criticism of our country and our world. Through our scholarship and education, through our encouragement of free inquiry and debate, we ask not just why things are as they are, but how they might be better. To be a patriot is also to be a critic and not to accept the status quo as inevitable.

The new academic year is a chance for all of us to commit ourselves to creating a community that welcomes and embraces people from across the nation and around the world, people whose distinctive voices and varied experiences are essential to our common endeavor.

At the time the email was sent, every Harvard building that I needed to access was locked down with 100% ID checks at the door by security guards assisted by RFID readers. None of the new migrants would be welcomed into a Harvard building to use the restroom or eat in the cafeteria. The University provided Bacow with a mansion in one of America’s most desirable neighborhoods; he wouldn’t be competing with the new arrivals for housing. So maybe the U.S. could grow to 400 million and Bacow’s day-to-day quality of life wouldn’t suffer.

But why would President Bacow want to see a vastly -expanded-through-low-skill-immigration United States given that it was already taking 2-4 months in the Boston area to get a non-emergency appointment with a physician, a sign of a health care system that would snap during the next breeze of demand? I guess we now know the answer: he never had to wait.

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Water cooler for the world’s smartest non-Asian people

This is the month when non-Asians find out if they got into Harvard College. What happens when the world’s smartest mostly-white people pour themselves some water by opening a tap and letting gravity fill up a cup? Apparently, the result has been dramatic enough to generate some sales for Brother label maker tape:

(From Smith Campus Center, formerly “Holyoke Center”.)

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What folks at Harvard are reading

A recent selection from the Harvard Book Store

For the kids…

Lying to children:

(I don’t know how many people over age 50 would agree with “It feels good to be yourself” and certainly many of us would need a week to recover from sitting on the ground in those positions.)

The books popular with shoppers in Cambridge do not suggest a high degree of self-doubt, but just in case:

What about the #1 example of wrongness in our society?

On the unfortunate fact that not every American voter follows the lead of the coastal elite and the required “nonviolent rebellion” that is necessary to erase the illegitimate votes:

A 1973 book on now-discredited second-wave feminism (also known as “equality feminism”):

(In the 50-year interval since this was published, the term “Woman” now needs a definition!)

Without women (assuming the term “women” can be defined), we would not have Mickey Mouse (perhaps the Nine Old Men actually identified as women?):

More gender binarism on parade:

For those who don’t know where to start…

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What are Asians at Harvard doing while whites and blacks sing Kumbaya?

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?


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Asians all look same to Harvard and the Federal judge

In yesterday’s post on Judge Allison Burroughs ruling that it is legal for Harvard to engage in race discrimination, I wrote

why is it okay for the judge to imply that a group of Asians is lacking in diversity? “In her decision, Judge Burroughs defended the benefits of diversity … ‘The rich diversity at Harvard and other colleges and universities and the benefits that flow from that diversity,’ she added, ‘will foster the tolerance, acceptance and understanding that will ultimately make race conscious admissions obsolete.’” Isn’t the implication that if we assemble white and black Americans we have “rich diversity,” but if we assemble a group of Japanese, Korean, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai, Cambodian, Burmese, and Indian students we have a boring monoculture?

A reader pointed out that there is already a web site for the Ivy League admissions officers and their Obama-appointed friends on the Federal bench:

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