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December 14, 2023

One of my most useful lessons as a Texas rookie was never admitting that I held a graduate degree from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. From church fellowships to the Texas schools where I now taught, understating your achievements was the only way to go. Even in San Antonio, Military City, USA, my story was strange: a Vietnam-era draftee improbably accepted at Harvard en route to teaching on the West Point faculty?  While teaching cadets, I also completed my doctoral dissertation. Published in 1990 as a book by Yale University Press, it won a national award and even led to my selection as Dean of the National War College. But to avoid all that yadda-yadda, I deflected most casual questions, simply becoming “The Colonel.”

Privately, however, I understood that much of my success reflected Harvard’s uncompromising standards of excellence. Meeting those standards, both in the classroom or in grunt-level research across far-flung archives - was just how you paid the high price of excellence. Or so I thought until Harvard’s current president, Claudine Gay, began demolishing every known standard of leadership through sequential actions that have now dragged on for over two months. When the Harvard campus exploded with violent demonstrations favoring Hamas, she defended the 31 student groups who noisily pledged their support for a new intifada. Just last week, called to Capitol Hill to defend her leadership, she offered only well-coached non-answers before settling down to a tedious defense of “context” that immediately went viral. Even afterwards, she never conceded the short fuse between hate-speech and mob violence; nor did she acknowledge that Jewish students entitled to her protection had good reason to fear for their lives.

At the same time, nagging new questions arose about Ms. Gay’s fitness to serve as Harvard’s president. Although the University finished dead last in a recent survey rating free speech, new allegations were raised about controversial racial policies, like diversity, equity and inclusion. (DEI). In an interview with the  Washington Examiner , Heritage Foundation senior education fellow Jay Greene charged that DEI had helped Gay’s rise at Harvard. "DEI is something that Harvard has institutionally committed to, and that's part of why she was selected as its president…(But) Claudine Gay personally has used DEI as a tool for eliminating potential critics and clearing the path for her rise to the top…So DEI is not just an ideological worldview — it is also a tool, a club that is used to defeat one's enemies."  Jeremiah Poff, 13, 2023

Most alarming was Aaron Sibarium’s report in the December 11 th  editions of the  Washington Free Beacon . “Harvard University president Claudine Gay plagiarized numerous academics over the course of her academic career, at times airlifting entire paragraphs and claiming them as her own work, according to reviews by several scholars.” In compiling its report, the  Free Beacon  claimed to have “worked with nearly a dozen scholars to analyze 29 potential cases of plagiarism. Most of them said that Gay had violated a core principle of academic integrity as well as Harvard’s own  anti-plagiarism policies ..” Another academic expert observed, "The question here is whether the president of an elite institution such as Harvard can feasibly have an academic record this marred by obvious plagiarism," said Alexander Riley, a sociologist at Bucknell University. "I do not see how Harvard could possibly justify keeping her in that position in light of this evidence."

Yeah, but what do the experts really know? On Tuesday. December 12, the Harvard Board issued a momentous decision. "Our extensive deliberations affirm our confidence that President Gay is the right leader to help our community heal and to address the very serious societal issues we are facing…In this tumultuous and difficult time, we unanimously stand in support of President Gay," the 13-member board added. Madeline Halpert , BBC News,

In place of Harvard’s formerly uncompromising standards, its Board has sounded a new and most uncertain trumpet, ironically just yards from where George Washington once took command of the fledgling Continental Army. Harvard’s decision effectively erases those memories as well as its motto of Veritas, (Truth). By ignoring Ms. Gay’s appalling leadership performance and substituting the neo-orthodoxies of political correctness and DEI, Harvard betrayed its own history in a saddening Day of Infamy; its explosive impact will be remembered as long as there is a college bearing that formerly august name. 

Colonel (Ret.) Ken Allard is a former West Point professor, Dean of the National War College and NBC News military analyst .

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