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Harvard again becomes the focus of balancing diversity with meritocracy

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Six months after the Supreme Court ruled against Harvard and invalidated race-based admissions, the elite ivy league is at the forefront of another battle around race.

Charles Blow, a Black NY Times columnist, wrote a lengthy piece this week criticizing those who shone a light on former Harvard president Claudine Gay’s plagiarism and lack of true academic accomplishment. Gay, who resigned from her prestigious post nearly two months after not assuming responsibility at a Congressional hearing for clamping down on anti-Semitic protests at Harvard – and defending such speech as free expression – will continue to serve as a tenured professor, earning nearly a $1 Million paycheck.

Calling his column “The Persecution of Harvard’s Claudine Gay,” Blow argued that the campaign against her was never truly about her testimony or accusations of plagiarism. “Diversity, equity, and inclusion, or D.E.I – the effort to assist and support the underrepresented – turns out to be the ultimate target.”

Blow’s statement is blatantly false. After George Floyd, many Americans were repulsed by problems of systemic racism in America when qualified minorities were overlooked in favor of others. The practice existed in corporate America and even in something as fundamental as obtaining a home mortgage or small business loan. In the color-blind society that Martin Luther King dreamed about, such discrimination was inherently un-American. The laudable goal of D.E.I. was to level the playing field as long as it was applied measurably without discrimination. However, as we have repeatedly seen, bad actors are open to leveraging DEI to promote and retain underachievers after depriving more qualified individuals, tantamount to reverse discrimination.

Claudine Gay made it to the pinnacle of academic appointments by becoming the president of Harvard University, a name globally synonymous with excellence. When Harvard alums die, their epitaphs often mention the Harvard diploma in the first line. Leading such a distinguished academic institution requires extraordinary achievement, befitting the brand’s promise for nearly 400 years.

Consider Larry Summers, a Harvard president who served between 2001 and 2006. Summers became a full professor at Harvard when he was just 28 years old. He then left to become the Chief Economist of the World Bank. The American Economic Association awarded him the John Bates Clark Medal for his research. In 1999, Summers became the Secretary of the Treasury. In 2009, he became President Obama’s White House National Economic Council Director. When he stepped down as Harvard’s president involuntarily, a long line of eminent personalities lamented his move.

Our point is not to compare the accomplishments of two Harvard leaders, but Claudine Gay had none of Summers’s achievements. She is a professor in African-American studies, a department that Summers set up during his tenure as Harvard’s president. Her only administrative positions were at Harvard.

When such a lackluster leader was found to have repeatedly plagiarized the few research papers she had ever published, it became clear that she was not a qualified hire. It also became clear that she became Harvard’s first African-American president not because of her accomplishments but despite her lack thereof.

So, Mr. Blow, many Americans want to expend effort to assist and support the underrepresented – as long as they are worthy, strong candidates. “I see Gay as getting her post at Harvard because she was a diversity, equity and inclusion candidate, not on the basis of strong academic qualifications,” read a Dec. 21 statement by Vernon Smith, a Harvard graduate and winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in economics.

Only one person can be Harvard’s president at any given time, so if Gay was chosen, it was probably at the cost of someone eminently more capable. Most Americans are equally repulsed by D.E.I. efforts that promote less-qualified minority candidates, disfavoring more-qualified non-minority candidates.

Over at MSNBC, Joy Reid, another Black female journalist who thrives on discussing race and airs Black grievances daily, said that “Gay’s resignation was the result of a coordinated anti-diversity program and not due to plagiarism or her controversial answers at that Congressional hearing.”

Stop the race-baiting, Mrs. Reid. You, too, are wrong. Our criticisms of Mr. Blow apply to you as well.

Editor’s note:

Business Insider published a story on Thursday that Bill Ackman’s wife, Neri Oxman, engaged in plagiarism during her 2010 doctoral dissertation at MIT. Ackman, a wealthy hedge fund manager, has been Gay’s leading critic. Business Insider’s journalistic justification is to point out Ackman’s hypocrisy, although Ackman himself has not been accused of plagiarizing.

In response, Ackman has said he would invest in having the work of all MIT professors reviewed for plagiarism and the results published on X.

We could use your help. Support our independent journalism with your paid subscription to keep our mission going.

TIPP Takes

Geopolitics, Geoeconomics, And More

1. US, Europe Embark On New Diplomatic Push To Quell Gaza War – Reuters

Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Europe’s senior diplomat Josep Borrell began a new diplomatic push to stop spillover from the Gaza war into Israeli-occupied West Bank, Lebanon, and Red Sea shipping lanes.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

Their Middle East visits came three months since Hamas militants from Gaza attacked Israel, triggering an offensive that has devastated the enclave, uprooted 90 percent of its population, and killed 22,600 people, according to Palestinian officials.


2. Israel Bombs Gaza After UN Warns Territory ‘Uninhabitable’ – AFP

With much of the territory already reduced to rubble, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said that “Gaza has simply become uninhabitable.”

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

The UN’s children’s agency warned that clashes, malnutrition, and a lack of health services had created “a deadly cycle that threatens over 1.1 million children” in Gaza.

Israeli forces were continuing “to fight in all parts of the Gaza Strip, in the north, center and south,” military spokesman Daniel Hagari said late Friday.


3. Russia Bets It Can ‘Outlast The Attention Span Of The West’ To Defeat Ukraine – RFE/RL

President Vladimir Putin is betting on a conflict that could drag on for years and “outlast the attention span of the West,” says Peter Roberts, a senior associate fellow at the U.K.-based Royal United Services Institute.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

The think tank focuses on defense and security.

Roberts says the West’s preferred way of fighting today – massive overwhelming force meant to achieve a quick victory – is not working in Ukraine, where Kyiv’s military is bogged down in a war of attrition with invading Russian forces.


4. NATO’s War Problem: Weak Armor – Asia Times

NATO has a huge problem that will take decades to overcome. Most simply, the armor vehicles NATO has won’t survive in a firefight with the Russians, notwithstanding that Russian armor is far from the best.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

Russia has demonstrated in Ukraine that in conventional warfare, it can knock out some of NATO’s best tanks and decimate Western armored fighting vehicles like the US Bradley and the German Marder.

What this means in practical terms is that NATO is not ready to fight against Russian ground forces: NATO’s key armor systems are vulnerable, its logistics are a mess, and its supplies of parts and ammunition are minimal.

If NATO keeps shoveling arms into Ukraine, it will further weaken its war-fighting capability, something that seems to have gotten scant attention in NATO capitals, including Washington.  The Ukraine war has exposed the weak-armor underbelly of NATO.


5. Analysis-Taiwan Election Poses Early 2024 Test Of U.S. Aim To Steady China Ties – Reuters

Taiwan’s election next week poses challenges for Washington no matter who wins, with a victory for the ruling party sure to exacerbate tensions with China. At the same time, an opposition triumph may raise awkward questions about the island’s defense policies.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

The January 13 presidential and parliamentary contests represent the first real wild card in 2024 for the Biden administration’s goal of stabilizing ties with China.


6. Taiwan Accuses China Of Gray Zone Tactics By Flying Balloons – RFA

After Taiwan spotted Chinese balloons flying over its main island, the Ministry of National Defense (MND) in Taipei accused Beijing of conducting ‘cognitive warfare’ against Taiwanese people just days before the general election.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

On Jan. 13, the Taiwanese go to polls in presidential and parliamentary elections, which are vital for cross-strait relations.


7. U.S. Must Keep Engaging With China, Ex-World Bank Chief Says – Nikkei Asia

With a resolution to the U.S.-China confrontation nowhere in sight, the U.S. must continue to engage with China on critical issues such as the international economy and climate change, former World Bank Group President Robert Zoellick said.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

“On the one hand, we need security deterrence to prevent aggression. On the other hand, we need to continue to work with China on issues, whether they be climate change, pandemics, or the international economy. And finding that balance, I think, is the challenge of our era,” Zoellick said in an interview in Tokyo.


8. Zhongzhi Enterprise Group: Chinese Shadow Bank Files For Bankruptcy – BBC

A major Chinese shadow bank has filed for bankruptcy because it could not pay its debts.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

On Friday, a Beijing court accepted the application from Zhongzhi Enterprise Group (ZEG), which has lent billions to real estate firms.

The struggling group reportedly told investors in a letter in November that its liabilities – up to $64bn (£50.6bn) – had outstripped its assets, now estimated at $38bn.


9. Balance Of Chip Power Still Tilts Toward Asia – Asia Times

China, Taiwan, South Korea, and Japan will all have more semiconductor production capacity than the United States at the end of 2024, according to the latest World Fab Forecast released by SEMI, the global semiconductor industry association.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

Semiconductor fabrication facility construction data shows that more than 80% of the world’s fab capacity is still in Asia, with this year’s estimated percentage slightly higher than last year’s.


10. Iran Guards Commander Challenges ‘Enemy’ Naval Presence In Region – Reuters

The commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Hossein Salami, vowed to reach “the enemy” far and near as tensions soar on key shipping routes where Tehran’s allies have been attacking vessels.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

Salami did not name the enemy, but 22 nations have agreed to participate in a US-led coalition to safeguard commercial traffic in the Red Sea from attacks by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi movement.


11. US Intel Confirms Islamic State’s Afghanistan Branch Behind Iran Blasts: Report – Reuters

Communications intercepts collected by the United States confirmed that Islamic State’s (ISIS) Afghanistan-based branch carried out twin bombings in Iran that killed nearly 100 people, sources familiar with the intelligence said.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

ISIS harbors a virulent hatred for Shi’ites – Iran’s dominant sect and targets of its affiliate’s attacks in Afghanistan – whom it views as apostates.


12. Iraq Prepares To Close Down US-Led International Coalition’s Mission – Reuters

The Iraqi government is forming a committee to prepare the closing down of the US-led international coalition’s mission in the country, Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani’s office said.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy
Iraqi PM Mohammed Shia al-Sudani

Al-Sudani’s statement came a day after a US strike killed a militia leader in Baghdad, prompting anger among Iran-aligned groups that demanded the government end the presence of the coalition in Iraq.


13. Euro Area Flash Inflation: Base Effects – Nordea

Inflation ticked up in the final month of last year on base effects. The inflation downtrend remains intact and will likely allow the ECB to normalize policy rates through the year but will likely not be fast enough to prompt a March rate cut.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

The main reason for the uptick in inflation was the base effect from falling energy prices in Dec ‘22, and the downtrend is likely to be intact despite today’s higher print.


14. Why Is Germany’s Economy Struggling – And Can The Government Fix It? – Guardian

Railway staff, lorry drivers, farmers, and others threaten to strike, as Germany faces.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

More than halfway through its four-year term, 82% of German voters are less than happy or not at all happy with the performance of Olaf Scholz’s embattled and divided coalition, made up of the center-left SPD, Greens, and neoliberal FDP.


15. U.S. Calls On N. Korea To Refrain From ‘Provocative, Destabilizing’ Action Following Artillery Firing – Yonhap

Matthew Miller, the State Department’s spokesperson, made the call, reiterating the U.S. harbors “no hostile intent” towards the North.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

“In particular, we encourage the DPRK to engage in substantive discussions on identifying ways to manage military risks and create lasting peace on the Korean Peninsula,” he added.


16. Death Toll From Central Japan Quake Reaches 100, 211 Unaccounted For- Kyodo

The death toll from the powerful earthquake that struck the Noto Peninsula and surrounding areas in central Japan on New Year’s Day reached 100 Saturday, with over 200 still unaccounted for, local authorities said.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

The magnitude-7.6 quake caused extensive structural damage and fires in Ishikawa Prefecture on the Sea of Japan coast, and city officials in Wajima, one of the hardest hit areas, believe there are about 100 locations where people are still trapped under destroyed buildings and awaiting rescue.


17. One-Third Of Japan’s Unmarried Adults Under 50 Have Never Dated – Kyodo

A recent survey found that more than one-third of unmarried adults in their 20s to 40s have never been in a relationship, and one-fourth have no intention of ever getting married.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

At 34.1 percent, the ratio of single men and women who have never had a romantic relationship was at a record high since Recruit Holdings Co., a staffing service group, began conducting surveys on people’s views on marriage in 2017.


18. Fat Flies Live Longer On a Diet At Any Age – UConn Today

Old, obese flies get healthier and live longer if put on a diet, University of Connecticut researchers report. If the effect holds for humans, it would mean it’s never too late for obese people to improve their health with diet.

Harvard Again Becomes The Focus Of Balancing Diversity With Meritocracy

UConn School of Medicine Genetics and Genome Sciences Chair Brent Graveley and other researchers on the team looked at the genes expressed by the high-calorie flies and contrasted them with the low-calorie flies. Genes that control physiological and metabolic adaptation are different between the groups.

“The remarkable finding of this study is that even after living a significant portion of their lives on a high-calorie diet, flies can gain the benefits of life span extension by simply switching to a low-calorie diet,” Graveley says.


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