Peter Salovey must be fretting.
The longtime president of Yale University has done everything in his power to pander to the forces of woke identity politics. He changed the name of Calhoun College at Yale because students didn’t like that it was named after John C. Calhoun, a supporter of slavery in the early nineteenth century.
Salovey covered over or ripped out artwork across the university that a specially appointed committee deemed insensitive or offensive. He shoveled tens of millions of dollars into “diversity” initiatives in an effort to appease student crybullies.
But Salovey has one insuperable handicap. He is white.
In the great racial sweepstakes of the day, that is (if I may so put it) an insuperable black mark. Harvard understands this. Which is the world’s richest university has just named Claudine Gay, a black woman, to be its next president.
Would she have been appointed had she been white? To ask the question is to answer it.
Gay will take office this summer, just when the Supreme Court will decide an important affirmative action case against the university.
How can Salovey compete with Gay? Is he thinking fondly of Al Jolson? I suspect that one way or the other, Salovey will have to leave the presidency of Yale soon. As a fully paid-up member of the racialist sisterhood, Yale will have to emulate its cousin in Cambridge if it is to maintain its bona fides as a suitably progressive institution in the vanguard of virtucratic fatuousness.
It will be hard to do better than Claudine Gay. Plaudits to Penny Pritzker, head of Harvard’s search committee. Name sound familiar? Yep, she was Obama’s commerce secretary, finance chair of his presidential campaigns. She is also the sister of J.B. Pritzker, the current Illinois governor.
The New York Times reports that some 600 people were considered for the top spot at Harvard. Gay, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, had all of the key credentials. As I say, the conditio sine qua non was race.
Beyond that, though, Gay is the right kind of black, which is to say she is all in on the Critical Race Theory, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion bandwagon.
As Francis Menton explains in “Goodnight, Poor Harvard!” — a wide-ranging outline of Gay’s career — she has long been “the enforcer-in-chief of wokist orthodoxy at Harvard.” For example, she worked to bury complaints that one Harvard scholar, Ryan Enos, had falsified data in a study about public housing. Why? Because Enos had come to the right, i.e., the left-progressive conclusions in his study.
At the same time, Gay went out of her way to destroy the career of the economist Roland Fryer because, though black, he published a study showing that there were “no racial differences” in the use of force by police.
“In other words,” Menton observes, “Fryer’s research was becoming threatening to the racial justice crowd at Harvard, not the least to Claudine Gay.”
When Fryer was implausibly charged with sexual harassment by an assistant whom he had fired, Gay asked Harvard’s president to revoke his tenure. That didn’t happen, but Gay helped engineer his suspension without pay for two years as well as the shuttering of his research lab.
Quoting from a 2020 article in Harvard magazine, Menton shows how Gay has devoted herself to the work of promulgating “racial justice initiatives” designed to “to address racial and ethnic equality — including faculty appointments and the addition of an associate dean of diversity, inclusion and belonging.”
A dean of “belonging?” I’m afraid so.
In an embarrassing PR video released by Harvard, Gay speaks of pursuing a “bold agenda of reckoning and repair inspired by the groundbreaking report of Harvard and the legacy of slavery.”
Forget about Martin Luther King Jr.’s call to judge people by their character rather than the color of their skin. Gay is part of the racial spoils system that wants to exploit the “legacy of slavery,” now and forever. Her own scholarship, such as it is, is little more than an accumulation of racial grievance mongering. The chief point is that black voter turnout is greater in districts where they are the majority. The unspoken but implicit gravamen is that we should therefore create more black-majority, i.e., more Democratic, districts.
By devoting themselves to the racialist agenda of woke identity politics, super-rich progressive institutions like Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford — the Ivy and near-Ivy educational establishments — have embarked on a slow-motion form of intellectual and moral suicide.
Their riches make them essentially unaccountable to public scrutiny — a scrutiny they hold in contempt because it issues from an unenlightened commitment to such antique values as impartial judgment and colorblind justice.
Which is why it is likely that the best we can hope for is an increase in the velocity of their self-immolation. The elevation of race hustlers like Claudine Gay is an important step in this acceleration.