Any Reason to be Encouraged by What’s Happening Today in Higher Education?

Mr. Rowe –
Regarding your earlier post – the one that called out the antisemitism on display in the Ivy League – I wonder if you’d share your thoughts on Harvard’s refusal to oust their president, as UPenn ousted theirs? Why do you suppose Claudine Gay hasn’t been fired for her comments before Congress? Also, do you see any reason to be encouraged – even just a little bit – by what’s happening today in higher education?
Marcus Theisen

Hi Marcus
First of all, thanks for using the words “oust” and “ousted” in the same sentence. It’s a good word, in part because it has no exact opposite in the language. (“Inst?” “Insted?”) I’m not sure why that pleases me, but it does. It’s also a fine way to describe a person who wasn’t exactly fired but who nevertheless had to go…

As for your question, it seems to me that Claudine Gay has not yet been “ousted,” because she is the living embodiment of Harvard’s commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. To say it plainly, Claudine Gay is a highly-educated black woman who also happens to be gay—four qualities that have nothing to do with a person’s character, integrity, or intelligence—but are nevertheless highly valued at Harvard. Firing her now would be an indictment of that value system, and so far, the board has been unwilling to do that. Even today, in light of the fact that she appears to have plagiarized several key academic papers that led to her ascendency, Claudine Gay is still standing. We’ll see for how long.

According to Derrick Johnson, the president of the NAACP, any criticism of Claudine Gay is an indication of “white supremacy.” Obviously, I disagree. I think failing to acknowledge what’s happening here is an indication of cowardice and a refusal to admit that DEI is now a faith-based requirement for faculty and students alike. Just as religious institutions require students and faculty to affirm their faith in God, Harvard and many other secular universities now require a similar expression of faith in all things DEI.

New York University’s Tandon School of Engineering requires that all faculty applicants include “a statement of your experience with inclusion, diversity, equity, and your plans for incorporating them into your teaching, research, mentoring, and service.”

California State University, Sacramento, requires applicants for a history job to submit a statement showing, among other things, how the candidate would “advance the History Department’s goal of promoting an anti-racist and anti-oppressive campus to recruit, retain, and mentor students.”

Northern Arizona University requires a diversity statement “that highlights an understanding of the role of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in a university setting. Please include examples from past experiences and reference plans to advance diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice in your teaching, research, and service.”

You can find dozens of other examples of DEI worship in American universities here but you’ll have a hard time finding an institution of higher learning that requires its students or faculty to write an essay on the merits of…merit.

I don’t mean to imply that Harvard and other universities don’t value things like work ethic, delayed gratification, a positive attitude, personal responsibility, and so forth. What I mean to say is that other things have become much more important to them. That was made obvious in Gay’s testimony, and more obvious by the excuses now offered up by her defenders. And that’s likely to have real consequences for Harvard. Congressman Dan Crenshaw has just introduced a bill that would strip federal funding from Harvard and every other university that requires their students to make written statements affirming their fealty to the tenets of DEI.

Personally, I hope the bill succeeds. A private university like Harvard is free to elevate whatever values they deem most important, but that doesn’t mean taxpayers should be forced to subsidize those values. Especially when those values are diametrically opposed to a meritocracy. Because if we “oust” our meritocracy, it will surely become an idiocracy—a very funny movie but a very sad and scary eventuality.

On a more personal level, Marcus, I’m encouraged by the popularity of my S.W.E.A.T. Pledge, which has become an antidote of sorts to all things DEI. It didn’t start out that way, of course. Ten years ago, The S.W.E.A.T. Pledge (Skill & Work Ethic Aren’t Taboo) was a simple statement of personal belief that I wrote to better articulate those qualities I wanted to encourage with our work ethic scholarship program. All of our scholarship applicants must sign The Pledge, and I’m delighted to report that over the years, many thousands have. I’m likewise delighted to tell you that The S.W.E.A.T. Pledge is now hanging in thousands of classrooms all over the country, along with countless break rooms on various job sites. It’s also at the heart of the MRW Work Ethic Certification Program, a new curriculum currently being taught in a few dozen sensible colleges. That, as you might imagine, has upset a lot of people, many of whom want to know why I would write such a “problematic” document in the first place and insist that all scholarship applicants sign it.

The answer is simple. I’m trying to elevate the notion of work ethic while reinvigorating the skilled trades. I want to make sure people who apply for one of my scholarships understand what’s most important to me and my foundation, and I’m doing so by requiring them to sign a pledge that elevates the meritocracy I hope to God we don’t lose entirely. To say it another way, I’m doing exactly what Harvard is doing, in reverse. I’m discriminating. Not on the basis of race, gender, or sexual preference, like they do, but rather on the basis of character, work ethic, and merit—qualities that any person can choose to embrace or reject, no matter what they look like, where they’re from, or how they identify.

Alas, unlike Harvard, the mikeroweWORKS Foundation does not have a 50 billion endowment or a fountain of federal funding to rely upon year after year. What we do have is support from companies who rely on a skilled workforce, and from those individuals who share our basic values. Thanks to their support, we’ve been able to assist 1,800 individuals with nearly $8 million in work ethic scholarships. If you’d like to help out in the new year, you may rest assured that your donation will help train the next generation of skilled workers. Specifically, those individuals who have signed the S.W.E.A.T Pledge, and desire to be weighed and measured on their merit.

No pressure. The world is filled with good causes and bloody do-gooders engaged in many worthwhile endeavors. But if you’re inclined to assist, you can do so at There, you can donate as extravagantly or as modestly as you wish. You can also purchase a variety of MRW swag, including your very own S.W.E.A.T Pledge, which will arrive just in time for President’s Day. Or, if you’d like something more substantial for your largess, you can buy a bottle of my grandfather’s whiskey at Which, if you watched the aforementioned Congressional testimony, you probably need.
Carry on,
Mike’s Facebook Page