An 18-year-old Beverly Hills youth who led student opposition to the merger of Harvard School, a prestigious Studio City boys school, with the Westlake School for Girls, died when his car careened off the Ventura Freeway and burst into flames, the California Highway Patrol said Wednesday.
The Los Angeles County coroner’s office identified the crash victim Wednesday as David Justin Rascoff, a co-editor of the school’s paper, the Harvard News. His car crashed Tuesday night as he returned from taking the final issue of the publication to the printers.
Rascoff, who had been accepted to Princeton University, played tight end on the football team and was a member of the student government.
He was well-known for his vehement opposition to the merger between all-male Harvard and the Westlake school in Holmby Hills. The controversial decision to merge the institutions was made in late 1989, but classes will not merge until this fall, when most will be consolidated at Harvard’s campus.
Critics such as Rascoff argued that the merger would dilute and weaken Harvard’s strong traditions. In a December editorial headlined “Westlake: Death by Bureaucracy,” he wrote that “one thing (if only one) is clear: Harvard and Westlake are guided by two radically different attitudes, conflicting philosophies that have crept into education, but originated in politics.”
He maintained that Harvard was an example of a more efficient institution comparable to a corporation, while Westlake was similar to an unwieldly liberal “Great Society” program. The editorial was controversial on both campuses and drew criticism from Westlake students.
A group of Rascoff’s friends met Wednesday night to plan a memorial award in his honor that would be presented to the senior “who has the courage to stand up for his beliefs,” said Stephen Kezirian, co-editor of the Harvard News.
“He always had the courage to say what he believed no matter how unpopular that made him,” Kezirian said.