February 26th, 2024
What moral courage.

[Derek Bok] said the issue of tackling legacies had become more urgent than when he ran Harvard, because the competition for places had intensified and the evidence for reform had strengthened. He said he was unconvinced that abolition would weaken fundraising efforts, but in any case “there comes a moment when it becomes more important to do the right thing”.

And now that Harvard has a fifty billion dollar endowment, I think it’s time we dipped a toe in the water! Fuck it man! Let’s do the right thing!


Update: You’ve got 50 bill and hoard it. This poor little widow had only one bill and she made medical school free in perpetuity for all students at Albert Einstein! You could easily do that for some of your schools, but you’re about rich, not poor, people.

January 30th, 2024
‘[T]he sponsors … are hoping to pressure Congress to remove federal funding and the tax-exempt status of some universities.’

Curiouser and curiouser. The title refers to a number of pro-Israel billionaires who recently sponsored a fund-raiser for the North Carolina Republican leading the federal harassment of Ivy League universities for their purported anti-semitism.

These same lads – shockingly – are going after the manifold tax breaks that make it possible for Harvard University both to be designated a non-profit organization AND be worth around eighty billion dollars … or something like that number… I mean, there’s the endowment, whose amount we know; but there’s also real estate, about which we don’t know — so this is UD‘s probably pretty lame estimate of Harvard’s pile of dough…

… What the fuck make it a hundred billion. There are other assets. Make it five hundred billion. Who the fuck knows.

Anyway, a lot of these pro-Israel billionaire guys are working against their own interests, cuz they’re the very moneybags who have over the years given SOOOO much of their loot to Ivies like Penn and Harvard that they’re practically running the places, but they couldn’t have given so much and gotten so powerful without the tax breaks against which they’re now militating! Ya falla?

January 4th, 2024
‘A correction was made on Jan. 4, 2024: An earlier version of this article misstated the size of Harvard’s endowment: It is $50 billion, not 500 million.’

An understandable error! Most people cannot comprehend/believe that one university’s endowment is over fifty billion dollars; and Harvard will be at one hundred billion before you know it, which will be that much harder to assimilate as a reality.

Even a New York Times opinion writer (plus, UD assumes, a bunch of editors who reviewed her column) finds herself rendering a reasonably large endowment as an amount in the hundreds of millions, rather than as an amount exceeding the GDP of 120 nations.

Here’s a simple trick to help you remember: Just repeat aloud ten times FIFTY BILL FIFTY BILL with a stress on the b.

January 2nd, 2024
Doff we now our Gay appointee

She has resigned.


[T]he important question for Harvard was never whether Gay should step down. It was why she was brought on in the first place, after one of the shortest presidential searches in Harvard’s recent history. How did someone with a scholarly record as thin as hers — she has not written a single book, has published only 11 journal articles in the past 26 years and made no seminal contributions to her field — reach the pinnacle of American academia?

So here’s UD‘s take on that one. Although it sounds unpleasantly snobby and snippy to say things like “has not written a single book,” it’s true that in many fields (not all), books are the currency, and UD too was surprised that one of the world’s preeminent universities chose as president someone with, yes, a “thin” scholarly record.

Yet if Gay hadn’t plagiarized throughout her career, UD would have let the thinness go, mainly because Gay seems to have moved from scholarship to administration pretty early, and if you’re a brilliant administrator (I have no idea whether she was), it’s arguable that you can be expected to ease up on your writing.

And listen — excellent essays can often have greater accessibility and impact than books. Think of ground-breaking essays by S. Huntington, J. Nash, R. Putnam… If one of Gay’s had been – not as staggering as those, but interestingly original, and seriously influential – UD also would have had no problem. A great essay, in any field, can sometimes demonstrate your scholarly quality better than a book. So for me the thinness is not about the lack of a book in particular; it’s about the lack of some form of impactful intellectual work.

December 26th, 2023
Update, FWIW, on Claudine Gay

I have heard from a source that is reliable but a step or two removed from the situation that the Harvard Corporation has asked President Gay to resign and she has refused. Gay has apparently said that if she is fired, she will sue. Gay has retained her own counsel. I can’t 100% confirm the above is true, but if it is, I am sure the Board is concerned about what may emerge in legal discovery in the event of litigation.


Sounds plausible, I guess. In general folks are sniffing far too eagerly around the SOOOOper secret Harvard Corporation…. You remember Bagehot: “Its mystery is its life. We must not let in daylight upon magic.” When people leave you alone every day to play to your heart’s content with fifty billion dollars, you’re unlikely to want that situation to get fucked up.

October 17th, 2023
And as for all the super-moneybags taking hundreds of millions in donations back from Harvard…

… because of that school’s perceived inadequate response to the Hamas atrocities, you know how this blog — which for years has condemned anyone giving anything to an institution currently hoarding close to fifty four billion dollars — feels. Same goes for other obscenely overendowed Ivies. If this event helps narcissistic hedgies discover legitimate uses for their charity, tant mieux.

July 28th, 2023
‘[Harvard] could use some [of] the school’s $53 billion endowment to vastly reduce tuition, which is a barrier to many students. (By the way, how in the world do we permit an institution with that sort of accumulated wealth to declare itself a not-for-profit, tax-exempt entity?)’ 

A question we’ve asked for lo these many years on this blog.

July 11th, 2023
Now that we’re paying attention to legacy admissions, people are quoting…

Charles William Eliot, who was president of Harvard from … 1869 to 1909? Forty years???


In a 1904 letter to a friend, Eliot wrote:

I am inclined to think that you would be more tolerant than I of the presence of stupid sons of the rich...


Not a peep all this time from the far more tolerant subsequent presidents…

July 3rd, 2023

70% of Harvard’s donor-related and legacy applicants are white, and being a legacy student makes an applicant roughly six times more likely to be admitted.


[E]lite places become these little islands where rich people pass down their advantages to their kids. They marry each other. They invest massively in their kids. Their kids then go to these exclusive schools. They move to the same few metro areas. And people who don’t grow up in these kinds of resource-rich families are really left behind. We’ve created a caste society based on who gets into what exclusive colleges.


After the death of affirmative action as (per SCOTUS) unfair preference, the complex business of legacy admits seems also to be circling the drain.

The word “legacy” covers not merely people admitted to selective schools because close relatives attended; it also can involve super-rich people donating (or likely to donate) multiple millions to buy a seat at these schools for their children. And it can have to do with talented athletes (most of them from expensive private secondary schools) admitted for their athletic rather than academic skill. It usually exhibits a mix of some of these elements.

Let’s look at a notorious case that in fact contains every one of these elements.

George Huguely, currently rotting in jail for killing his ex-girlfriend, was a legacy admit to the University of Virginia. “George III, George V’s grandfather, went to Sidwell Friends and the University of Virginia.” A friend of Huguely’s at the expensive, prestigious prep school he attended comments: “He was not a great student, but he didn’t care.” He was a great lacrosse player.

A hopeless alcoholic from a young age (Huguely’s father showed him how), Huguely boasted several booze-related arrests, including a quite serious one in Lexington, Virginia while he was a UVa student:

Officer Rebecca Moss discovered Huguely wobbling drunk into traffic near a fraternity at Washington and Lee University. She told him to find a ride home or face arrest. He began screaming obscenities and making threats. [Apparently he said “I’ll kill all you bitches.“]

“Stop resisting,” Moss said. “You’re only making matters worse.”

Moss and another female officer tried to subdue Huguely. He became “combative,” the police chief reported. Moss stunned him with a Taser, put him in a squad car, and took him to the police station.

At his court hearing a month later, Huguely said he didn’t remember much about the night and apologized. He pleaded guilty to public swearing, intoxication, and resisting arrest. He was fined $100 and given a 60-day suspended sentence.

Huguely bragged about the incident to [UVa] friends…

Some of these friends were, like Huguely, part of a drunk, entitled, obnoxious sometimes to the point of violence, rich lacrosse player culture where you don’t rat out buddies even if you know they’re really really dangerous and out of control. One assumes most of these friends laughed drunkenly along with Huguely as he detailed the latest incident in which he got away with… not murder. Not yet. But things were escalating, and some of his friends certainly knew he was threatening his ex-girlfriend and assaulting people he thought she was dating and just being a really scary violent crazy piece of shit.

It’s certainly worth asking what sort of subculture sees all of this and does nothing. It’s certainly worth asking how a non-academic, violent, total alcoholic with a criminal record was rewarded with an extremely competitive seat at one of the nation’s greatest universities. What did his prep school teachers and coaches, many of whom must have known or guessed how incredibly dangerous he was, write in their letters of recommendation about him? (Think also about poor drunk well-connected short-lived Paul Murdaugh, still a student in good standing at the University of South Carolina despite having recently killed a young woman and injured others while drunkenly at the helm of a family boat. Like Huguely, he already had a bunch of booze-related run-ins with police.

Two months after he was sprung from jail, a judge removed the only condition of his release — allowing him to travel outside the 14th Judicial Circuit, according to the news outlet.

Although he faced BUI charges, the state did not restrict him from drinking alcohol or driving a boat, the report said.

Another entitled rich kid given one free pass after another until… Well, one can’t help feeling for Paul Murdaugh. His own father murdered him.)


“I was drinking a lot all the time, all the way from my freshman year to my senior year,” Huguely said at his trial. “I was drinking all the time. It was out of control.”


Look. My point isn’t that legacy admits are murderers and degenerates. Most of them are pleasant well-meaning non-Ivy League material. But there’s a really anti-social pathology underlying the culture of lifelong consequence-free unearned social rewards of which some (not all) legacy admits are Exhibit A. The Varsity Blues criminal syndicate, and whatever current bogus athletics conspiracy has replaced it, is merely the crude extension of the basic legacy M.O. The socially acceptable con game of legacy admits makes the world safe for the scandal of Varsity Blues.


And can you think of anything more morally corrosive than knowing that your corrupt parents and a corrupt institution engineered your sorry ass into a seat at Harvard? Knowing that you’re little more than a cold hard cash epiphenomenon to the institution – does that bother you at all? Does it feel like a prefiguration of your entire entitled life? Here’s a bunch of nice people getting me into Harvard; here’s a bunch of nice people showing me how to evade taxes. And so it goes.


The tragedy of wealth-based admissions is that wealthy students are taking up seats from the poor, unconnected students who need them most. This is not a victimless crime.

…  [C]ollege leaders … sell access while squatting on multibillion-dollar endowments and spending vast sums of money on palatial campus buildings, leadership compensation, and administrative bloat.

And you’re paying for it:

… If a donor earns seven figures a year and lives in California, taxpayers can wind up subsidizing more than 52 cents of every dollar used to buy his child’s way into college. Even in states with less exorbitant tax rates, taxpayers routinely pick up more than 40% of the tab. That’s because these kinds of donations are wholly tax deductible: As long as there’s no explicit quid pro quo agreement, the IRS allows parents to write off their influence-peddling donations in full.

… Offering a special admissions track to the wealthy on the taxpayer’s dime impedes equal opportunity, rewards influence peddling, and robs the public. It’s time for a change. Colleges and universities should be places of opportunity, not institutions where background or wealth determine success. Wealthy applicants should have to earn their place in a university by the same rules as everyone else.

… We should press college officials to mean what they say about opportunity and equity, and to spend less time strong-arming wealthy donors. But at a bare minimum, we should get taxpayers out of the business of subsidizing campus shakedown artists.

And when I say pathology: Harvard is currently squatting on 53 billion dollars. It has yet more from other sources. And because the government, risibly, continues to consider it a non-profit institution, it enjoys amazing tax breaks. What sort of fucked up institution is still trading its integrity for more money under these circumstances?

April 14th, 2023
Harvard Delights and Disgusts

Let’s start with delight: One of UD‘s heroes, Steven Pinker, has started a defense of free speech group among faculty there. Everyone’s got an eye on Stanford and Oberlin and multiple other stagers of politically coercive campus melodrama, and all self-respecting centers of free inquiry need to take an explicit stand against these enemies of freedom. UD’s beloved University of Chicago is a pioneer here; Harvard and other schools follow UC in strong unmitigated statements, rules, and organizations deployed to resist right and left ideologues – some of whom, grotesquely, were hired by these same universities – who are always trying to shut/shout down free thought and free expression. Harvard’s Council on Academic Freedom (which includes econ prof Jason Furman, whose Cambridge house UD knows well, because for years it was owned by her buddy Peter Galbraith) rightly anticipates, and readies itself to fight, mindless and destructive fanaticism.

On the disgust front, there’s yet another greedy egomaniac who can’t think of anything to do with three hundred million dollars other than give it to an institution worth significantly more than fifty billion dollars in order to get his name on a building and get some tax benefits. Vomit.

Not to mention.

March 2nd, 2023
‘Outgoing university president Lawrence S. Bacow has referred to calls to remove the Sackler name from our buildings as “inappropriate,” citing “legal and contractual obligations” as an insurmountable challenge. And yet other institutions who have moved to reject Sackler money or remove their name from buildings have been able to rise to this challenge. As Claudine Gay begins her tenure as president this summer, there has never been a better time to cut ties with the Sackler family once and for all.’

Ah, but unlike those other institutions, Harvard struggles with a 54 billion dollar endowment, and cannot be expected to overcome the legal and sand blasting hurdles that other institutions have overcome.

January 11th, 2023
When you’re staring straight in the face at, say, a BILLION dollar reduction in your endowment, you need to take action.

Harvard’s goal of a one hundred billion dollar endowment is in serious jeopardy this morning, as outside pressure on the Kennedy School threatens to alienate donors. The school denied a fellowship to a distinguished human rights advocate for fear that his critical remarks about Israel would offend Jewish benefactors, which would in turn significantly set back the Hundred Bill. for Harvard! campaign. But free speech advocates are fighting back in defense of the controversial candidate for the fellowship.


Lord knows why anyone is critical of Israel.


Harvard’s response to the controversy has been quick. “We’re already well on our way to 55 billion,” commented Gerald Symington, head of the HBH campaign, “and doubling that is far from an impossible dream. Imagine what just one school with a modest enrollment could do with that sort of money! We can’t afford to let Israel critics derail us from our dream.”


Oh, okayyyyy…. We’ll give him the fellowship after all. But he better watch his mouth!

November 29th, 2022
‘He chastised prosperous donors for giving disproportionately to Ivy League schools, rich hospitals and well-endowed museums, all while getting tax breaks for their donations. Why not share more of that wealth, he asked, with community colleges, low-income health centers, small arts groups and other struggling organizations?’

Pablo Eisenberg, a hero of this blog (UD has forever shrieked at super-icky moneybags who give their hundreds of millions to Harvard), has died.


(By the way — Harvard’s current endowment woes – it has only just reached 53.2 billion dollars – have energized its alumni network to organize a massive, unprecedented, Save Our School campaign, with outreach via Go Fund Me pages in addition to traditional methods. “Our rainy day fund is down to 10.5 billion,” warns Sam Bankman-Fried, an MIT grad who nonetheless accepted a position as head of Harvard fund-raising because “Harvard is the lifeblood of Cambridge; when it goes, the city itself is imperiled.”)


And as to how to convince people who give their money to Ivy League schools, rather than to the sort of places Eisenberg lists in my headline, to redirect their money… Well, you need to understand the cohort you’re talking about, first of all.

Let’s consider, for example, billionaire investor Marc Wolpow, who gives money to fat cat Wharton. What do we know about Marc?

Here’s our most recent information.

The wealthy head of [a] multi-billion dollar private equity firm is under investigation by Nantucket Police and the state Environmental Police for purposefully untying a 32-foot boat from a slip at Old North Wharf, allowing it to drift out of the Easy Street Basin and into the ferry lane. 

The suspect is Marc Wolpow, the co-CEO and co-founder of the The Audax Group, who allegedly found an unknown boat in the slip he uses on Old North Wharf on the morning of Sunday, Oct. 16…

After Wolpow untied it, the boat drifted dangerously past Steamboat Wharf, got pushed northward in the wash of the car ferry the M/V Woods Hole, then collided with the $5 million, 70-foot Viking sportfishing boat “El Jefe” causing damage to that vessel. It eventually ran aground near 22 Easton Street. 

Reached by phone this week, Wolpow declined to comment. 


Here’s what’s shocking about this story:

1 Just anyone reached Wolpow by phone.

2 Wolpow declined to comment.

Why allow just anyone to get past your protection squad and reach you by phone? That’s nuts.

Even more bizarre is Wolpow’s refusal to say the obvious about his behavior.

Heard of property rights, asshole? [“Asshole” here refers to the person who got through to Wolpow’s phone.] It’s my fucking slip, I own it, and I don’t have to look at some cheap shitty boat some person decided to put in it. Do you think I want Nantucket boat owners to think I have a cheap shitty boat? It’s my right to do whatever I like to cheap shitty boats and I think the fucker who put it in my slip will think twice before he does it again. Oh, and fuck you for calling me.

Getting a person of this sort (Marc Kasowitz, Howard Marks, Vinod Khosla, Noam Gottesman, the Heliport Guys, stop me when you’ve had enough) to give money to what he inevitably is going to consider cheap shitty recipients will be very difficult indeed.

February 28th, 2022
Admittedly, UD’s primary Harvard-professor interest has long been Alan Dershowitz; but lately, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, she finds herself thinking quite a lot about Harvard economist Andrei Shleifer.

You remember Shleifer.

Some U.S. neoliberal advisers to Russia in [the Yeltsin] era even served as role models for [oligarchic] corruption. A personal adviser to [Anatoly] Chubais was Andrei Shleifer, a Russian-born émigré and tenured Harvard professor, who ran the Moscow office of the Harvard Institute for International Development, which had the main Russia contract from USAID. Shleifer was prosecuted in 1997, after it was revealed his wife operated a hedge fund that speculated in privileged information based on Shleifer’s official work. Harvard paid fines totaling $26.5 million to settle the case, and Shleifer paid $2 million.

Shleifer must be buddies with a lot of the guys now being blacklisted all over the world. Is there a story there?

December 22nd, 2021
‘He went on to offer detail about his financial arrangements with the Wuhan university: A portion of his salary was deposited in a Chinese bank account and the remainder — an amount he estimated as between $50,000 and $100,000 — was paid in $100 bills, which he carried home in his luggage.’

Plus “I didn’t declare it, and that’s illegal.”

UD has already, uh, sung the praises of Harvard 大人物 Charles Lieber here. He has now been found guilty (max. sentence five years) of

two counts of making false statements to the U.S. government about whether he participated in Thousand Talents Plan, a program designed by the Chinese government to attract foreign-educated scientists in China. They also found him guilty of failing to declare income earned in China and failing to report a Chinese bank account.

See, you’re not supposed to take millions and millions of OUR dollars for your scientific research and secretly subsidize it with millions of dollars from our rich, interested-in-our-secrets, non-friends.

But for UD the real fun here is the whole vulgar bag-man thing, the image of Hahvahd lugging its piles of dirty cash onto airplanes. Will the TSA discover (sweat sweat) the C-Notes in my Louis Vuitton steamer trunk?


It’s very University of Miami… And yet a closer look at Harvard yields Jeffrey Epstein’s stable of over-age girls, Andrei Shleifer’s Moscow Adventures, Larry Summers’ hedge fund presidency, etc. Let’s not give ourselves airs.

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