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Ron Unz for U.S. Senate

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Overseers Petitioners Challenge Harvard Policies

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AS CAMPAIGN ANNOUNCEMENTS GO, it was as splashy as could be: a page-one story in The New York Times of January 15, headlined “How Some Would Level the Playing Field: Free Harvard Degrees.” The article detailed a plan by five people to petition for slots on the annual ballot for Harvard’s Board of Overseers election under a common campaign theme, “Free Harvard, Fair Harvard.”

That the effort, helped by its catchy theme, would attract high-profile news coverage at the outset should be no surprise: its quarterback is Ron Unz ’83, who describes himself as a physicist by training and software developer by profession. (Unz created financial-services applications and founded and sold a company.) Of relevance in the current circumstances, he has published political and policy-advocacy media (The American Conservative and the Unz Review—an online articles archive and blog), and he is a veteran of California electoral politics (he sought the Republican gubernatorial nomination in 1994). Unz is especially known for engaging in that state’s high-stakes initiative process, where he was involved in campaigning against Proposition 187 (an anti-immigration measure; Updated January 28, 1:45 P.M.: Ron Unz notes that the proposition passed, but was subsequently ruled unconstitutional upon court review and was therefore overturned; the text previously indicated that the measure had been defeated by voters) and in a successful campaign to dismantle bilingual schooling (Proposition 227).

The issues raised in the shorthand language of the statements defining the petitioners’ campaign—which seeks to alter an expressed core value of the University, and its financial model—merit detailed discussion. This article accordingly reports on their objectives and the slate itself, and then directs readers to contextual information on the substantive matters.