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May 16, 2009


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A friend of mine went to law school at Harvard. When he got his diploma, identifying the school in Latin as Universitate Harvardiana, his father (a very witty man with a very charming Middle European accent that makes him seem all the wittier) expressed mock chagrin: "You mean I just spent all that money to send you to Harvard, and now everyone is going to think you went to Indiana?!"

Orin Kerr

I googled around a bit, and it seems that the "diploma riot" was initially intended to be a joke -- a bunch of students put on togas and protested *in Latin*. You can find a description here:

From a letter of the editor of the Harvard Magazine, here's description of the guy who started the "riot":

He was Philip Alston Stone ’62, a son of Oxford, Mississippi, and a true godson of William Faulkner. His novel, No Place to Run, was published by Viking Press our freshman year. The fifth-reunion class report noted that, "At Harvard, Phil’s celebrity as a novelist, his wit, and his enormous comic talent quickly brought him renown as a raconteur….His finest performance was the night of April 26, 1961, when, on the steps of Widener, he delivered the Latin oration denouncing the hated English diplomas. Attired in two Quincy House curtains and a wreath of oak leaves, he spoke the language of Cicero in the accents of Earl Long. Few who were there that night will ever forget the great pause in ‘Linguam anglicam amamus, sed…’ Phil revelled in the crowd’s delighted roars."

John Sando ’62
Bethesda, Md.

It seems that things got out of control the next night, as the University President who made the decision to switch was genuinely unpopular because he ignored student wishes: The issue, although trivial, apparently tapped into some more serious complaints students had about the University.

That's what a bit of googling suggests, at least.


I love this, Orin!

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