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When Kinsley Attacks

I meant to post this yesterday, but better late than never. It's a hatchet job on Yale that Michael Kinsley wrote as an undergrad--a colleague sent it to me after seeing my piece on Yale and Harvard. Subject matter aside, it's amazing how recognizable Kinsley's voice is. It's almost more satisfying than his professional work, since he's even less inhibited. My favorite passage:

For one thing, there's the presidency. Last Spring, I asked Brewster for an interview for the Crimson. He protested shyly that "What with Harvard looking around for a new president, perhaps it's not the best time for my name to be splashed all over the Crimson." But like it or not, Brewster's name has been mentioned (if not splashed) practically everywhere else. With the possible exception of S.I. Hayakawa, he is the best-known college president in America. With dozens of colleges looking for male leaders, his national reputation has followed three of the four steps traditionally ascribed to the rise and fall of a movie star: I "Who's Kingman Brewster?" II. "Get me Kingman Brewster." III. "Get me a Kingman Brewster type." IV. "Who's Kingman Brewster?" A Kingman Brewster type can be all things to all people. Most important, to alumni, he will keep things quiet. At a dinner last month the directors of the Associated Harvard Alumni--slavering in anticipation--asked student politicos from Faculty committees, "Would Harvard students fall for a Kingman Brewster?"

Would they? Would Harvard students be taken in by a grinning hypocrite who came glad-handing his way down to Lowell House to pacify the natives whenever they got restless? Some of Brewster's stunts seem so obvious as to insult the intelligence even of Yale. A year ago, for example, Brewster spoke in front of the Yale Political Union, an apolitical student forum, and gained national publicity for his proposal that any Yale president's term be "reviewed" by the Yale Coproration every seven years. Whatever that meant--since no president has tenure and can be fired at any time--Brewster's first seven years just happened to be coming to a close and, to no one's surprise he was allowed--nay, encouraged-- to remain at his post. In that same speech, however, he dismissed unilaterally the prowing pressure for student representation in university decisions. Students don't want power, Brewster revealed, they really want responsiveness (whatever that meant) from the administration. And he planned to supply them with all the responsiveness they could eat. Do Yale students want responsiveness? "Yes!" editorialized the Yalie Daily. Responsiveness is exactly what we want!

SOMETIMES they got responsiveness beyond their wildest dreams, most notably last May. Students announced a strike against Yale in support of the Black Panthers who were on trial in New Haven. Brewster announced he supported the strike. Or did he? At any rate, he didn't mind in the least if his students and faculty members skipped classes. And Yale would supply food and lodging to all those coming down to support the Panthers. He never said, of course, that he supported the Panthers. He never said he didn't, either. He did say he doubted the ability of black revolutionaries to receive a fair trial anywhere in the United States. Whatever that means.

--Noam Scheiber