Harvard is no more like other American universities than rich people are like the rest of us. This is partly because the place is truly richer than other universities. At Harvard the consequences of opulence are to be seen in the brilliant quality of its faculty, its ability to restore a flagging department to the first rank by calmly making offers to the best people at other institutions (who rejects a Harvard offer?), the high ratio of space to people, and the quasi-luxury in which the undergraduates live. The suites shared by two students at Harvard would be cut up among four to six Stony Brook students. For someone like myself, a visitor for a year whose academic associations in the past have been with Columbia and Stony Brook, what is still more striking than the sense of ease and spaciousness (there are windows in the Widener stacks!) is the tone of rational civility which adorns both student and faculty relationships. There is a gentleness of manner, a courtesy toward opposing opinion, a human respect and tolerance which, alas, I have not elsewhere encountered in anything like the same degree.
But if all of this is accurate, how could “it” have happened here? The “it” at issue is the same d...
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