According to some useless rankings just released, Harvard is once again the top university in the US. It’s apparently been twelve years since they could make this dubious claim and, prior to that, they could make it only sporadically. I’m not sure what the administration thinks of such accolades, but having been enrolled as a student during one such year, I know the students don’t particularly care.
This particular year was early into the Clinton era, when grunge was trying to stomp out the memory of Big Hair and the last remnants of Nancy Regan-style anti-drug messages were getting more desperate. (Example: all of the phone books that year featured an ad on the back with a sign saying in thick, black, hand-painted letters “Mom and Dad, I do drugs”, with a kicker line below it saying something like “Real signs of drug use are not so easy to spot”.) Few students in that environment could have cared less what the U.S. News and World Report had to say about them.
Well, except the Harvard Lampoon, who staged a “we’re #1”-style rally on the grand steps of Harvard’s main library. A good number of the Harvard Band had been involved, so it was pretty festive, especially after the champagne started flowing. Like most Lampoon humor, it went way over the top, with speeches, massive posters and guys in mascot like costumes (one of them, for some reason, the “Mac Tonight” guy). The only reason I remember any of this, though, is that almost lost among a sea of huge banners with big “#1”s on them and messages like “Harvard: the Harvard of the U.S.”, was a small sign in thick, black, hand-painted letters saying “Mom and Dad, I do drugs”.