Washington Babylon — October 12, 2009, 11:30 am

Repression at Harvard: First they came for the scrambled eggs

From The Awl:

Harvard University and the New York Times are the high church bishoprics of the money culture’s permanent counter-reformation: elite northeastern institutions that compulsively monitor each other for any sign of declension, heterodoxy, or waning prestige in a time of corrosive status anxiety….So last week, when Times education correspondent Abby Goodnough took the measure of Harvard’s economic woes, she recurred to the paper’s puckish, purse-lipped house style deployed in any contretemps over the absconding of elite institutional cash: She doggedly hunted down the lifestyle sacrifices exacted on Harvard’s overprivileged student body.

“At Harvard,” the online headline for Goodnough’s dispatch ruefully announced, “Leaner Times Mean No More Hot Breakfast.” Noting that the college’s mammoth Faculty of Arts and Sciences is cutting $75 million in anticipation of a two-year budget shortfall of $130 million, Goodnough marvels that the cuts are “extending beyond salary and hiring freezes to measures that affect what students eat, where they study, and other parts of their daily routine.” The barely thinkable psychic cost of these cutbacks to the student body’s lavish dining-and-cramming infrastructure is, Goodnough continues, that “the euphoria of fall in Harvard Yard is dampened.”

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

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Nobody in academia had ever witnessed or even heard of a performance like this before. In just a few years, in the early 1950s, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student — a student, in his twenties — had taken over an entire field of study, linguistics, and stood it on its head and hardened it from a spongy so-called “social science” into a real science, a hard science, and put his name on it: Noam Chomsky.

At the time, Chomsky was still finishing his doctoral dissertation for Penn, where he had completed his graduate-school course work. But at bedtime and in his heart of hearts he was living in Boston as a junior member of Harvard’s Society of Fellows, and creating a Harvard-level name for himself.

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