Conservatives make Harvard more powerful by voicing outrage at Kyle Kashuv’s rescinded admission. Instead, they should reveal Harvard for the fraud it is.
Kashuv’s Rescinded Admission
On Monday, Parkland massacre survivor and Twitter activist Kyle Kashuv announced that his acceptance to Harvard had been rescinded after Twitter mobs brought racist texts to the university’s attention. The Twitterati quickly seized on this, announcing Harvard had “canceled Kashuv” and that this is just the logical extension of Cancel Culture. Go to any Harvard University tweet over the last few days and you’ll see angry conservatives tweeting that they should #admitKashuv.
Regardless of what one thinks of Kashuv or his (quite literally) childishly disgusting remarks or the disturbing trend of people not being able to redeem themselves in the eyes of the mob, the Twitterati and outraged conservatives play right into progressives’ hands by being angry at Harvard.
That Harvard, a multi-billion dollar hedge fund with some classrooms attached, would prioritize virtue signaling above equality-of-opportunity should come as a surprise to nobody. This is an institution currently facing a scathing class-action lawsuit from Asian Americans on the grounds that it has routinely denied them acceptance due to their race. It’s a university that rescinded admissions for incoming freshmen two years ago after they posted “2 edgy 4 me” memes in a Facebook group. And it’s an institution whose students compete more heavily for a Goldman Sachs or Facebook internship than for opportunities that create actual change.
Harvard Is Idolized
But most of that isn’t because of Harvard. It has little to do with the institution itself. Harvard and other elite universities are trained in searching out and admitting conscientious, intelligent young people. These are the types of young people who will succeed no matter where they go and no matter what they do. University admissions offices just optimize for capturing them from 18-22 so they can later reference them for alumni donations and trot out admissions statistics for current alumni.
This is hardly cynical. The research bears it out. As recently covered in Bloomberg, actually going to an Ivy League school has a negligible effect on salary and career earnings. It’s not that Ivy League schools make people smart or set them up for lifetime careers they wouldn’t otherwise get. They just select for people who are more likely to successfully go into high-paying careers. As Bloomberg reports:
[A] 2011 study, which was popularized in this New York Times column, showed that future financial success for comparable students didn’t even hinge on where they were accepted, but did correlate with where they applied. The researchers speculate that applying to Harvard shows ambition, and ambition is correlated to financial success.
Actually going to Harvard doesn’t do anything magical as far as human capital goes. It’s this myth that it’s a shining exemplar of American higher education sitting on a hill in Cambridge that lends getting in (or having your admission rescinded) so much power.
Those interested in defanging the university cartel and the outrage culture that has captured it would do well to ignore Harvard, not glorify it.
Build Alternatives to Elitism
Peter Thiel compares the Ivy League to Studio 54: There’s a long velvet rope out front, and only a select few are let in. The longer that rope gets — and the more people fight to get in — the more comfortable the few inside feel. If you bribe the bouncers to get into Studio 54, it actually becomes more prestigious, not less. If you make a case that Harvard is corrupt and whip up an outrage mob over a Twitter personality you like not getting in, Harvard becomes more prestigious, not less.
The trick is not in glorifying Studio 54. It’s in building alternatives to Studio 54 that are just as or more prestigious. That starts by confidently walking away from Studio 54, taking your resources, and proving you’ll be just fine without it.
That’s easier in the case of Kashuv, who has a global network and personal brand, than a lower-middle-class Asian American who has nothing. He could take his name recognition and use it as an opportunity to show that all Harvard’s admission process does is select for people who would have been successful anyway.
Regardless, conservatives are playing into their opponent’s hands by holding Harvard in such high esteem. They make those who loathe them behind the velvet-roped doors more powerful.