Marty Peretz is finally receiving some long overdue recognition: Harvard’s Committee on Social Studies in its forthcoming 50th anniversary celebrations will pay homage to the man. Participants in the 50th anniversary celebrations include: Michael Walzer, Stanley Hoffmann, Marty Peretz (who will speak over lunch), Amy Gutman and Harvard President Drew Faust. But questions are starting to be raised as to whether it should go forward.
Does Harvard University really want to have an undergraduate research fund named after someone who would espouse such hateful views? Would all those people who contributed money and who will presumably show up for the event have done so if Peretz made a similarly grotesque statement about blacks or Catholics?
Please note that this isn’t an issue of academic freedom or free speech, as nobody is questioning Peretz’s right to say whatever hateful things he wants. But at a moment in our nation’s history when religious tolerance is being openly challenged, one would hope that premier academic institutions would be setting a positive example. It will be a sad day for Harvard if it turns a blind eye to Peretz’ reprehensible attitudes and pockets the money. And in the absence of a heartfelt public apology by Peretz himself, you’d think all those admirers would be having second thoughts.
James Fallows has also waded in, insinuating that Peretz should step down from his role at the New Republic:
I can’t at the moment think of another mainstream publication whose editor-in-chief has expressed similar sentiments — whether about Muslims or blacks or Jews or women or any other class — and not had to apologize or step down. Or a national political figure: compare this with Trent Lott’s objectively milder statement about Strom Thurmond, which cost him his job in the Senate leadership. Peretz can of course say whatever he wants. It’s a free country, and he is entitled to the “privileges” of the First Amendment, much as I might think he is abusing them here.