Desert me…

We’re just like that. We deceive each other. This Wheeler whippersnapper, this latest Great Deceiver … So in love with him was Harvard…

Harvard’s just like everybody else. It has its idealizations, and if you can simulate them…

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I’m going to remind you, in this post, of some of Harvard’s Great Deceivers — students, professors, overseers. Just some of the people University Diaries has covered over the few years of this blog’s life.

Nothing special about Harvard, mind you. All universities, all over the world, are taunted, hurt, and deceived. I’m using Harvard as an example.

A particularly strong example, actually, because Harvard has immensities of money and power, and therefore as an institution it should be better equipped than others to protect itself against deception.

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But look at the Wheeler thing. He was about to graduate. He almost made it all the way through. He got this close to totally lying his way to a Harvard University degree.

Blair Hornstine was another matter. She was admitted to Harvard, and then, before she arrived, Harvard revoked the offer. She had cheated her way to valedictorian of her high school, plagiarized articles she claimed to have written in her local newspaper…

Hornstine was solidly on the Wheeler track to success, in other words, but a lawsuit she filed against a competing candidate for valedictorian was so disgusting that it hit all the papers, and Harvard began looking more closely at her.

Harvard kept Kaavya Viswanathan, even though by the time she was a sophomore she was a world-famous plagiarist.

Faculty deceivers? Charles Ogletree, Laurence Tribe. Alan Dershowitz (he has denied it). Most of the faculty plagiarists come from the law school. Lee Simon came from the medical school.

Overseers? Doris Kearns Goodwin.

So many. And others, you have to figure, who won’t get caught.

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Words of wisdom, UD?

Only a few.

First, since we’re always hurting and deceiving each other, and since, given the potential rewards, you can expect idealization simulators to be particularly active at places like Harvard (as Jayson Blair was active at the New York Times), those places in particular have to be vigilant. Where were the people entrusted with Harvard’s integrity while Wheeler was doing his thing?

Second, since Harvard doesn’t punish faculty and overseer deceivers (in a couple of cases it announced it was going to do something or other to them, but it didn’t tell us what, so that doesn’t count), it shouldn’t be surprised to find deceivers among its students. The Crimson rightly points out that if you’re known to be an oligarchy that protects its own, you can expect to attract the malsain, or at the very least to predispose your students toward cynicism.

For the public face of Harvard and for internal relations as well, it is crucial that the university maintain more consistent disciplinary rules for instances of academic dishonesty. Until then, the glaring double standard set by Harvard stands as an inadequate precedent for future disappointments.

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He isn’t true, he beats me too, what can I do?

You can examine your idealizations. You can stop using double standards.

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UPDATE: Another list. And what about that guy… that Iranian-American…? Hold on.

Name’s Nemazee. (Scroll down.)

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UPDATE AGAIN: The Harvard Crimson interviews a guy who knows a lot about admissions procedures. How did Wheeler slip through?

Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, said that Harvard could not be wholly blamed for Wheeler’s ability to slip through the admission process.

“There is not any institution in this country that can afford to or does verify everything people submit. It’s just not a practical possibility,” Nassirian said. “You can’t really fault Harvard for not calling every high school and obtaining a duplicate copy of every transcript and every recommendation people submit.”

True. But here’s something you can blame Harvard for. In order to get their cherished, lowest-in-the-world admit number each year (6.9% is the 2010 figure), Harvard sends out tens of thousands of You-oughta-apply-to-Harvard letters every year. Harvard knows perfectly well that almost none of the people it sends these letters to will get in; it also knows how astonished and flattered these same people will be to get such a letter… How likely they will be, in their youthful naivete, their cluelessness as to how Ivy League schools select students, to indeed apply…

These pawns, these soon to be heartbroken pawns, are crucial to Harvard’s ever-escalating number of applicants. Rejecting this enormous crowd makes for a hell of an admit number.

If these useful rejects were smart, they’d agree to apply only if Harvard guaranteed them, say, a one hundred dollar payment for doing so. They are a crucial part of Harvard’s maintenance of its market position, and should be rewarded as such.

Anyway… My point, in connection with the Wheeler fiasco, involves the impossibility of Harvard maintaining much control over the application process, given how many people they’ve told to apply.

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2 Responses to “So taunt me. And hurt me. Deceive me.”

  1. DM Says:

    Lowest in the world, really? Compared to the elite Indian IIT Delhi? Or the ENS in Paris?

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Good point, DM. I don’t know the numbers for those places.

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