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Writing 101 and the Harvard Corporation

 … Harvard, which compels its undergraduates to master expository writing in their freshman year, cannot find the language to defend itself [in its letter about Claudine Gray’s resignation]. The corporation does not apologize or explain. Instead, it throws up its hands in prayer: “May our community, with its long history of rising through change and through storm, find new ways to meet those challenges together, and to affirm Harvard’s commitment to generating knowledge, pursuing truth and contributing through scholarship and education to a better world.”

The clouds of mystification gather early. Can a nearly 400-year-old entity that began as a seminary for young Protestant men and grew into a global educational brand with a $50 billion endowment be said in any meaningful sense to constitute a community? The sentence then succumbs to a storm of clattering prose and conceptual incoherence. It’s hard to know just what or how many things Harvard is committed to, or what new ways of affirming that commitment might be found.

Margaret Soltan, January 3, 2024 3:46PM
Posted in: bad writing

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2 Responses to “Writing 101 and the Harvard Corporation”

  1. Rita Says:

    In her resignation letter, Gay wrote that she has a “deep sense of connection to Harvard and its people” and “I believe in the people of Harvard.” The people of Harvard? Like Harvard is a country on the verge of electing her to office rather than an institution that has just fired her. This woman clearly not only writes but thinks in boilerplate banalities, and not even contextualized ones, despite her now-infamous insistence on “context.” So no, evidently no one there is able to articulate what they are doing or why Harvard exists, and now the beatings will continue from the public until competence improves.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Rita: See Robert Reich on how Harvard is trapped by its megawealth (ie the billionaires who continue to grow its 50 billion plus endowment increasingly control the school). I don’t agree with some of Reich’s takes on the Gay thing, but he’s right to point to the Hedge Fund with a University Attached problem at Harvard.

    It’s laughable for Gay and the Corp. to write as though Harvard is an earnest commonwealth, and AO Scott in his NYT piece has a lot of fun with this.

    I have long felt that Drew Faust, who wrote editorials about American greed, was appointed largely as a counterpoint to Hedge Fund Guy, moonlighting hedgie, Epstein and A. Shleifer buddy, L. Summers, who lost a few billion when prez, taking wild fundie bets on the market with Harvard’s money. The Corp. must have decided things had gone too far in the direction of the actual reality of Harvard, and Drew was there to change the optics. But the money excess/corruption at Harvard was always a story ready to break, and all the Gay attention is breaking it.

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