“The Harvard iteration of the Occupy protests is ironically, appropriately, and unwillingly now the most exclusive Occupy protest in the country.” ~ Harvard Keeps Occupy Harvard Harvard-Only, by Adam Clark Estes, The Atlantic Wire
I have often discussed the Occupy Movement with my step-daughter, Grace (to whom I sometimes refer as my daughter, so don’t get confused). So you can imagine my interest and excitement (and I think hers, too) when she told me that there was going to be an #OccupyHarvard.
She explained to me that there was going to be an Occupy-style protest encampment in “The Yard”; that the campus was in lockdown, and nobody knew when they were going to be let out of the library and back to their dorms; that they had police and security at the Yard gates (unheard of before this!) checking IDs of students and staff to be certain that no ‘outside agitators’ would sneak in. Then she laughed when she told me that some of the kids at the schools were wearing “We Are The 6.2%” t-shirts; a jibe at their unintended exclusivity. I was a little puzzled by this and where the connection was, until she explained it to me. You may be, too, so please stick with the story until I come back around to it.
Harvard is often thought of as a Liberal Elitist bastion. This seems oxymoronic when you deconstruct it, since the “elite’ would be, by definition, the 1%. On the other hand, Liberals are normally thought of by many on the Right as the hat-in-hand, wealth-redistributing, unwashed masses; i.e., the 99%
And yet, this oxymoronic idea of Harvard as a Liberal Elite is largely accurate. (And this may be the only time in history that you’ll see ‘Harvard’ and ‘moron’ in the same sentence.
There’s no question that the Top 1% is well-represented at Harvard. Children of the rich, powerful and/or famous are plentiful. You can literally trip over them. This is certainly at least partly because of their families’ money and connections, but there is also the legacy aspect; children of alumni have ‘a foot in the door’ in the application process.
On the other hand, Harvard has made a substantial and demonstrable effort to improve its student demographics, and this has both immediate and long-term social impact. As an example, I’d like to use my step-daughter.
We are not a Top 1% family. We’re certainly in the top 50%; maybe the Top 33%. (For those keeping score at home, that puts us squarely in the Bottom 99%.) We have no prior connections to the Ivy League. Grace is only the second generation of her family to attend University.
Grace is smart, works hard, and has a generous soul. Partly as a result of those qualities, she was granted the great good fortune to be among the 6.2% of applicants to Harvard who are ultimately accepted. And make no mistake: When you’re competing with the top 10% of high school graduates from around the world, luck plays a significant role.
Because of that great good fortune, Grace will have many doors opened to her which might otherwise have remained not only closed, but invisible. She will not be handed anything on a silver platter, but because of the school she attended, the friends she’s made, and the professors she has learned from and known, she will have opportunities she might otherwise never have had. Further, should she have children, they will have the advantage of a legacy application; not a shoe-in, but a leg-up.
By dint of hard work and a large dollop of good luck, Grace will likely be among the 99% who are fortunate enough to be upwardly mobile.
By now you may be asking, What does all (or any) of this have to do with OccupyHarvard?
It’s this: Over the days and weeks to come — however long OccupyHarvard endures or is permitted to endure — you will likely hear many snide, sarcastic, self-righteous comments about how this student body of pampered, elite children from rich, powerful elite families are ‘playing at protest’, before going back to their gilded lives at their privileged school.
I don’t think so, and I don’t believe that.
I’ve had the opportunity — privilege, even — to meet many of these kids and their families. They’re almost all good people; considerate, friendly, appreciative of where they have arrived in life, and cognizant that luck played a role along with their hard work. Many of these people are in the top 2%, but weren’t born into it. They know how hard it is to make ends meet, perhaps from their own lives, or their parents or their grandparents, and the families have managed to impart some understanding of that to their kids.
I see Harvard today as a true melting pot, made up of kids from all ethnicities, income levels and social classes. That sort of regular interaction helps kids develop understanding and empathy for the circumstances and tribulations of others.
I see it when I visit. I hear about it from my kid. And I believe that these 6.2%-ers are deadly serious about supporting the 99% from which so many of them have come.
See full original article here: Harvard Keeps Occupy Harvard Harvard-Only
- Occupy Protest Shuts Down Harvard Yard, Jose A. DelReal, The Harvard Crimson
- Protesters take over Harvard Yard, Mary Carmichael, The Boston Globe
- Dispatches from Dewey (er, Harvard) Square: Harvard shuts its gates on the 99 percent, The Next Great Generation, Boston.com
- Harvard Endowment Rises 21% on Hedge-Fund Gains, Gillian Wee, Bloomberg