Seán Ono Lennon, the younger son of Beatles star John Lennon, recently made headlines with his remarks on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. Lennon expressed a strong criticism of DEI, rebranding it as “Dumb Evil Idiots” in a post on social media.
The statement was made in the context of a broader discussion where he suggested that those claiming to be fighting against these issues, are actually creating them.
His comments were a response to the resignation of former Harvard President Claudine Gay and part of a larger critique of DEI initiatives in society and institutions like Harvard.
Lennon’s comments also aligned with the concerns voiced by other prominent figures, such as billionaire Bill Ackman.
Ackman also took to social media to shed light on the dynamics at Harvard University, particularly in light of the resignation of its former President.
“When I saw President Gay’s initial statement about the massacre, it provided more context (!) for the student groups’ statement of support for terrorism,” he wrote. “The protests began as pro-Palestine and then became anti-Israel. Shortly, thereafter, antisemitism exploded on campus.”
In light of today’s news, I thought I would try to take a step back and provide perspective on what this is really all about.
I first became concerned about @Harvard when 34 Harvard student organizations, early on the morning of October 8th before Israel had taken any military…
— Bill Ackman (@BillAckman) January 3, 2024
Ackman’s in-depth analysis of the situation at Harvard echoed Lennon’s sentiment. “I ultimately concluded that antisemitism was not the core of the problem, it was simply a troubling warning sign – it was the “canary in the coal mine” – despite how destructive it was in impacting student life and learning on campus.”
Ackman, a well-known American investor and hedge fund manager, attended Harvard Business School, where he earned his MBA in 1992. He graduated magna cum laude with a degree in History in 1988.
“What I learned, however, was that DEI was not about diversity in its purest form, but rather DEI was a political advocacy movement on behalf of certain groups that are deemed oppressed under DEI’s own methodology,” Ackman wrote.
In December Gay was cross-examined by GOP Conference Chair Congresswoman Elise Stefanik (R-NY) on the University’s stance on free speech, and Harvard’s handling of hate speech. The discussion included the issue of over 30 Harvard student organizations, including Amnesty International’s affiliate, placing blame on Israel for some of Hamas’ actions.
Gay reinforced Harvard’s commitment to free speech, outlining its limits regarding policies against bullying, harassment, and intimidation, but did not comment on specific disciplinary cases. This led to significant backlash.
Gay ultimately resigned due to plagiarism issues in her work. “While President Gay has acknowledged missteps and has taken responsibility for them, it is also true that she has shown remarkable resilience in the face of deeply personal and sustained attacks,” Harvard wrote in a statement.
“While some of this has played out in the public domain, much of it has taken the form of repugnant and in some cases racist vitriol directed at her through disgraceful emails and phone calls. We condemn such attacks in the strongest possible terms.”
While Harvard University, like many institutions, has made concerted efforts to advance Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI), these initiatives have not been without controversy or backlash. Many argue that DEI programs can lead to reverse discrimination or prioritize certain groups over others.
Many have also raised concerns about freedom of speech and academic freedom. Additionally, there have been legal challenges to affirmative action policies in admissions at Harvard, with some alleging that they discriminate against Asian-American applicants.