Buying Respectability

Matt Yglesias:

[Marty Peretz is] scheduled to be honored by Harvard University since a lot of his famous and important friends got together a bunch of money to give to Harvard in exchange for Harvard honoring their friend. Since Harvard is in the business of raising money, they have every intention of keeping the money and going ahead with the honoring[. . . .] Itís really too bad that Harvard has chosen to take this tack. [. . .] My alma mater is doing a disservice to their brand and to public understanding of the issues by deliberately obscuring things in this manner.

It would be more honest to say that Harvard is a business run for the benefit of its faculty and administrators. The business model of this business is the exchange of prestige in exchange for money. Peretz has friends who have money that they are willing to exchange for some prestige, and Harvard intends to take the money. It is what it is.

Good post from Matt. He's been out in front on calling Peretz out for a lot of years now.

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    Harvard has no need for cashish either... (none / 0) (#1)
    by kdog on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 09:18:01 AM EST
    they are sitting on 24.7 billion...with a B.

    I'd imagine they could stop charging tuition for 100 years and still be flush....never mind selling their "prestige"...lol.

    Here's my question: how does Harvard (none / 0) (#3)
    by oculus on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 11:21:56 AM EST
    endowment get an 11% return?  

    They're connected... (none / 0) (#4)
    by kdog on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 11:29:59 AM EST
    and it's a rigged market...all those "prestigous" alums with insider info would be my guess.

    Remember "too big to fail".


    The Harvard model is emulated (none / 0) (#2)
    by Cream City on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 10:12:26 AM EST
    widely elsewhere.  Google "the entrepreneurial university," for example, for discussion of this.

    I see it as administrators figuring out that they can run entire universities as college athletics has been run for decades -- as free farm teams for a lot of professional teams, especially in football and basketball.  (Note: baseball teams have their own farm-team system; why not those other sports?).

    Too many campuses have become -- largely owing to the huge decline in tax support in recent decades -- essentially farm teams for big business.

    Yes, universities have become (5.00 / 1) (#5)
    by KeysDan on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 01:02:57 PM EST
    big business.  Qualifications for a University president have long been based on fundraising capabilities and evaluations have been made accordingly.  Moreover, fundraising expectations are a major part of the deans and directors of the academic units responsibilities.  I would quarrel a bit with Matt Yglesis's statement that the university is a business for the benefit of faculty--for the business-pressure brings more of a burden than benefit for those faculty interested in teaching and the scholarship of teaching and learning.  There was once a time when "publish or perish" was the coin of the realm, but publication in and of itself is secondary to publication based on sponsored or funded research. How much money is brought in is important (Administration keeps a substantial overhead of research grants).

    Indeed, I sometimes wonder if Albert Einstein's work on mass energy equivalence in 1905 would make it today, since it was not extramurally funded.  Of course, Universities do have some standards on acceptance of money, for example, in 1997, Yale rejected several $million offered by author Larry Kramer for an endowed chair in gay and lesbian studies (four years later, a reconciled gift was made).


    buying respectability (none / 0) (#6)
    by cpinva on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 05:33:29 PM EST
    is a time honored tradition in the US, nothing new to see here. the nouveau riche do it by becoming big charitable contributors, throwing huge galas, etc., all designed to gain entre' in to "high society". sometimes it works, mostly it doesn't.

    "My alma mater..." (none / 0) (#7)
    by Jacob Freeze on Fri Sep 17, 2010 at 09:15:06 PM EST
    Obviously Marty Peretz isn't the only alum who bought a little prestige from Harvard, and not even the only alum in that article!

    "My alma mater," says Matt Yglesias, and why exactly was it important for us to know where Matt Yglesias went to school?

    But unfortunately a Harvard education didn't make Yglesias smart enough to see through the phony arguments for invading Iraq, a catastrophic blunder that Yglesias promoted while he was still accumulating prestige in Cambridge, Mass.

    Of course Ivy-League legacy boys like me, George W. Bush, John Kerry, and Al Gore always knew that the "education" at those diploma mills is just a joke, and we partied non-stop for four beautiful years!

    But some of us still didn't cheer for invading Iraq, like Matt Yglesias.