On May 5, 1941, in the bleakest days of World War II, with most of Europe under Nazi or Communist domination, Life Magazine devoted its cover story to Harvard University. The article began portentously:
The names of Alexandria, Padua, Paris, Heidelberg, Gottingen, Oxford and Cambridge are deathless, because each in its time has been a world center for man’s learning and his search for truth. To that roll has been added the name of Harvard, America’s oldest, the New World’s greatest and the world’s richest university. Today it stands alone. On the European continent the universities have been engulfed by a tyranny that recognizes no truth but the perversion of propaganda …. In the fourth year of its fourth century, Harvard must re-examine the purposes that justify its existence, count its resources and consider how it shall serve man in his unknown future.
The article deemed Harvard mankind’s academic beacon, its last best hope to preserve the flame of free inquiry in a darkening age.
Things haven’t quite worked out that way.
Visit Harvard today and one sees, not the last best hope for free inquiry, but an environment hostile, if not toxic, to the Bill of Rights and the values underlying them.
The latest symptom occurred in the aftermath of a demonstration calling for the abolition of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). The demonstration was staged by Harvard College Act on a Dream, an immigrant advocacy group. It attracted a crowd of about one hundred people. The Harvard Crimson, the main campus newspaper, published a generally sympathetic story, quoting several of the organizers, one of whom happened to be a Crimson editorial executive.
And there the story, like the event, would have quickly faded — but for the inclusion in the article of one, seemingly routine sentence: “ICE did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday night.” Continue reading