Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Harvard forgery

by Barry Pump, DI columnist

If you've ever wondered how to get into Harvard, the answer may just surprise you: Lie. It seemed to have worked for Kaavya Viswanathan, who is now a sophomore at the institution.

Viswanathan, 19, published a book, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. I'm sure it's intellectually challenging. But the Harvard Crimson has reported, and now the New York Times has confirmed, that Viswanathan copied large parts of her work from author Megan McCafferty's Sloppy Firsts and Second Helpings.

Viswanathan used her writing "talents" to get into the prestigious university, after her parents hired a personal coach who recognized her "abilities" and got her in touch with a literary agent. Oh, what it must be like to be so disadvantaged!

The thing that kills me is that these uppity types who would do anything to get into Harvard have done just about anything to get into the place. Harvard, drunk with self-satisfaction, seems to have rewarded mediocre minds with great ambition accordingly. It shows that original thinking is not what the Ivy League is all about. And the reason all this matters is that all "lesser" universities follow Harvard's lead, so we shouldn't be surprised if Iowa, when trying to compete with the big boys, does its level best to attract a plagiarist to Iowa City itself.

Woody Allen was right: Even Harvard makes mistakes.

In other news from the Ivy League, waiting to be co-opted by a Big Ten or Pac 10 university near you: Cornell University has an image problem and needs better marketing. To this group of go-getters, and to its incoming president, all I can say: Good luck, David!

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