Today I sent an e-mail to David Ellwood, Dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

I doubt that I'll get any type of meaningful response.

Dear Dr. Ellwood,

I have read in various publications that Jason Richwine was granted his PhD by your institution in 2009.  What astounds me is that he was granted this degree even though his dissertation was essentially based on the discredited field of eugenics.

How did this happen in your institution?

Now, I'm not a political scientist.  Just a middle-aged former naval officer with a B.S. in aerospace engineering and an M.S. in electrical engineering, (who now happens to have the privilege of going back to school for a PhD in Biomechanical Engineering). I mention my background so that you can better understand the basis of my following comments.

I don't pretend to understand your world or the position that you hold at Harvard.  I imagine that the politics of your job are quite grueling.  I do not envy you.

I have been in positions of authority for which I was responsible for the untoward actions of my subordinates, even though I have had no direct control over them.  In every case, I accepted responsibility for their actions.


Simply this: I was their CO and I set the tone for everyone in my command.  I was always responsible, no matter the circumstance.  

This is not a popular sentiment these days since very few people will even accept the consequences of their own actions, let alone those of other people under their direct or indirect control.

Perhaps I'm an artifact in that sense.  It's an outdated belief system in many respects and I admit that I'm a bit of a "throwback."

However, I am hoping that you can remember a world when these beliefs held sway.  I don't know if the academic world can even connect to this way of thinking, (perhaps it is only a residue from my time in the military and is meaningless to everyone else).

Three members of your department signed off on Jason Richwine's dissertation:

George J. Borjas (chair)
Richard J. Zeckhauser
Christopher Jenks

They work for you.  They represent you and your institution.

Are you proud of Jason Richwine's work?  Are you proud of your professors for signing off on it?  A dissertation that could be shredded by any first year genetics student?   Under the guise of academic freedom, I'm sure it's somewhat defensible in the realm of political science, (but certainly not in the world of real science).  

I don't expect a real answer from you.

In fact, I expect a standard form generated response that does not address any of the points that I have made above.

I doubt that you'll even read and digest this email at all.  So in that sense, I'm probably wasting my time while clogging up your in box.  In spite of that knowledge, I still feel compelled to send you my thoughts on the matter.  

My standards are high.  I hope yours are as well.

Best Regards,


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