How to Create A Harvard in Your Country

December 6, 2021

This excerpt from Chromatic: Ten Meditations on Crisis in Art and Letters is written by 2020 Wall Scholar, Michelle Stack, Associate Professor in the Department of Educational Studies at UBC. Illustrations are by April dela Noche Milne.  Order your copy today!

1. To the nations with no top universities, follow the advice of rankers and aspire to be the beacon of excellence: America. On your way, look to the next tier, if you must: the U.K., Australia, and Canada.

2. Make sure everyone understands world-class knowledge (i.e., what is counted by rankers) must be written in English and of interest to American and U.K. publishers.

3. Hire super-expensive Nobel Prize winners. Preferably go for ones with connections to pyramid-type schemes (e.g., Ignarro and Herbalife).

4. Raise pay for executives. Do this by raising tuition and increasing the number of insecure faculty positions.

5. Encourage GoFundMe campaigns to feed homeless students who can’t pay the rising tuition fees and eat. Also give them workshops on how to budget. And provide them with a mindfulness app.

6. Publish lots of stories about bringing in dogs during exam time for reducing stress among students.

7. Work with admissions coaches to compete for the wealthiest students but, for goodness’ sake don’t get caught (see Operation Varsity Blues). If you do, hire the top PR firm to get you out of the situation quickly.

8. Actualize your aspirations by creatively counting your full-time faculty members. Higher numbers are, of course, better for rankings. Go through a similar exercise of innovative organizational change in calculating student debt, graduation rates, money spent on students, etc.

9. Hire celebrity academics. Ignore cautions from their peers; they might not be respected in their fields but they bring in dollars and visibility (see Paolo Macchiarini at the Karolinska Institute).

10. Make sure to accept money from the super wealthy and in return let them influence hiring and research agendas. See MIT’s relationship with the Koch brothers for excellence in this regard.

11. Have a stellar alumni list that includes activists in the dark money network, war and corporate criminals. They often provide substantial largesse to their alma maters. See Harvard’s Jeffrey Skilling, who was the proud CEO of Enron. He is in jail now, which doesn’t often happen to the Harvard graduate.

Or Henry Kissinger, who brought even greater fame to Harvard as a talented war criminal and covered the country alphabet with his bombs and coups, from Argentina, Bangladesh, Cyprus, Cambodia and right up to Zimbabwe.

Or Stanford alumni and multibillionaire Charles Schwab, who has generously donated millions to get rid of Obama and help Trump, another Ivy Leaguer, with his legal fees.

12. Have task forces on racism and hire advisors to run them. Do not provide them resources for the work. When people complain nothing has been done, blame the advisors. Fire them and announce a new task force.

13. Spend money on marketing your greatness. Branding is key. Highlight your Nobel Prize winners, celebrity academics, and money-makers. Rankers have consultants to help you in this area.

14. Find ways to keep climate change academics busy so they don’t anger key investment partnerships with fossil fuel companies. Same for those who do research and get all hot under the collar about big pharma.

15. Show you are deeply committed to the future of the planet by putting out regular press releases stating your institution’s unwavering support for climate action.

16. Get rid of the humanities (or at least close a few of their departments). They don’t bring in revenue, and they encourage critical thought that is not conducive to the mission of being a top-ranked university.

17. Set clear guidelines for hiring, tenure, and promotion committees that spell out in no uncertain terms the definition of high interest. Sadly, too many confuse high impact for society (e.g. research on racism, corporate malfeasance and human rights) with high impact sensitive to the aspirations of large donors. Correct this misunderstanding with vigour.

18. Ignore steps 1 to 17 and respond to global crises at your own peril.