Harvard Loves Diversity

"Harvard Loves Diversity," Weekly Standard, 25 March 1996.


A 58-page report from the president of Harvard on “Diversity and Learning” may not seem like hot stuff — and it isn’t, really — but it shows where American education is today. Since Harvard is run by liberals and has been for some time, it is no surprise that Nell Rudenstine should write a defense of the liberal policy of affirmative action. What is striking is that he calls up the names of old-time liberals from the days when dead white males were men, and proud of it.

Rudenstine’s report has not received as much attention as it deserves. It has not aroused much controversy among students, and the Crimson, Harvard’s student newspaper, found it lacking in fresh ideas. But the report was not meant to offer new ideas, and it has perhaps received as much attention as Rudenstine wanted. President since 1991, Rudenstine has kept a low profile, and this is his first venture into a hot political topic. Although he refers to controversy over diversity, he writes dispassionately, raises no new questions, and tries not to add to the controversy. He claims that since the 19th century, Harvard has sought diversity as can be seen in quotations from its best-known presidents — Charles W. Eliot, A. Lawrence Lowell, James B. Conant — all of whom actually used the precious word. Like an administrator ably deflecting public anxiety, and wary of increasing what he means to allay, Rudenstine reassures any skeptics that, with affrmative action, Harvard is merely doing what it has always done, which surely was done, and is still being done, for good reason.

Weekly Standard