Thursday, July 30, 2009


As someone who was flat-out rejected from Harvard, (not even wait listed!) I couldn't help but feel a little schadenfreude when I heard that they're going broke -- as reported in Vanity Fair this month.

But this is only half true.

Truthfully, Harvard's not in any real danger of losing its hat. Worse comes to worse, some of their anticipated buildings won't open; some hires won't be made; they won't be able to offer the financial aid they thought they could. (And Harvard's financial aid is extraordinarily generous -- which is, of course, admirable.)

But, most importantly, while the administration might be going through some hard times, they (unfortunately) have the human capital that they'll never have to really worry.

Unless Harvard's faculty is found engaged in some sort of child slavery ring, smart people are still going to want to teach there, and smart people are still going to want to attend. How many presidents graduated from Harvard? How many Nobel Prize winners? How many titans of industry? How many Natalie Portmans?

Everybody wants proximity to that. Brands do have an impact.

Which is sort of a shame because I think that the Harvard brand is overrated -- as is the rest of the Ivy League.

I really don't think that the books in the Harvard library make you any smarter than they do at, say, NYU. Or at Texas A&M, for that matter. An inquisitive person will find the right books, and a smart one will appreciate them, regardless of what university he's at.

You might be taught by brilliant men and women who have Fields medals and Nobel prizes -- but can they really teach? Are you really drinking these professors in, or are you sharing the class with 200 other kids who are grubbing over a decent grade? (One thing that I admired about Dartmouth was the class size was reasonably small.)

And while I've known some very, very brilliant Harvard students, I've met my fair share of idiots from Harvard, too. There were certainly brilliant students at Dartmouth -- and some students that you had to wonder how they managed to fill out the application. (Some of these Dartmouth kids might have regressed upon first setting foot in a fraternity -- but that's a different discussion.)

Let's not forget one very important thing: our 43rd president when to Harvard and Yale