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Tilting at Windmills

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February 23, 2006
By: Kevin Drum

LARRY SUMMERS, R.I.P....So why was Larry Summers finally forced to resign as president of Harvard? The Washington Post chalks it up to lefty political correctness: the faculty hated him because he was mean to Cornel West and because he implied that women were too dim to do high level math and science. Matt Yglesias says it's because he tried to take power away from Harvard's biggest academic fiefdom, and the fiefdom didn't like it. Richard Bradley says it's because Summers was too cozy with the power politics of Washington DC and never fit in to the ways of Cambridge. Professor B says it's because he was a jerk.

That sure is a lot of reasons. I'm surprised he lasted five months, let alone five years.

Kevin Drum 11:47 AM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (118)

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Comments

Frankly, I think it's because the faculty are too busy, self-involved, chronically unaware, or cowardly, to notice they should have been defending Summers. Maybe they'll catch on over the next few years.

What terrible role models the faculty were/are, no courage in sight other than the extremists and their agenda.

Evil occurs when good men do nothing.

Posted by: jerry on February 23, 2006 at 11:54 AM | PERMALINK

L'cureuil Gant is suprised that anyone outside the faculty of Harvard cares at all who the President if Harvard is.

Posted by: cureuil gant on February 23, 2006 at 11:55 AM | PERMALINK

I'm going to hate myself for saying this, but Prof. B is the correct one. Summers is a jerk. The faculty, I imagine, knew well that he was right about women and about West, though I'm sure some were alarmed by it. And he did get pushback from deans for his machinations. But he was too cozy. Sure, all of that's true. But what exasperated this was Summer's almost complete political tone-deafness. He never understood that you can catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar. You can even catch flies who disagree with your goals.

Posted by: Bah Humbug on February 23, 2006 at 11:57 AM | PERMALINK

http://www.yaledailynews.com/article.asp?AID=31998

Although one might expect the Yalies to be snarky, they are sorry to see Summers go. Their editorial take is that Summers tried too hard to revamp and stiffen the undergrad curriculum at Harvard. Harvard is notorious for some of its smart kids doing little to skate through. Interesting article in the Atlantic by a former Harvard student a few years ago. . .

Posted by: troglodyte on February 23, 2006 at 12:06 PM | PERMALINK

clearly he was too imperious for a President of a university.

I remember Giamatti walking around in New Haven campus like any of us faculty members. He definitely never showed up in a Limo, did not have a PRess Secretary, and lived in a very modest house on Prospect Street.

Summers is no Giamatti.

Posted by: lib on February 23, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

BLAOW, how ya like me now? I got twenty years in, bitch.

The Bok--there can only be one.

Posted by: Derek Bok on February 23, 2006 at 12:08 PM | PERMALINK

There are two pieces at the New Republic site that offer much more depth and information about why Summers left. Neither piece supports his removal.

Posted by: kimster on February 23, 2006 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

Based on things I've read I would have to say that the schmuck factor was the main reason for Summers' downfall. If he hadn't been such an abrasive rhymes-with-trick there might not have been such a push for his ouster, even if all his policy positions were the same.
Condoleeza Rice got away with being an abrasive rhymes-with-hunt at Stanford, but Summers wasn't so lucky at Harvard.

Posted by: Peter on February 23, 2006 at 12:25 PM | PERMALINK

Watching him on many interview shows, mostly 1980-mid 90s, I began to feel that Cornel West was an over-rated gas bag. Someone needed to confront him.

Posted by: Keith G on February 23, 2006 at 12:33 PM | PERMALINK

Condoleeza Rice got away with being an abrasive rhymes-with-hunt at Stanford...

So - you think the Stanford faculty would welcome Secretary Rice back as President of Stanford now?

I'd guess... no. She is seriously damaged goods; a demonstrated incompetent and liar.

Posted by: Wapiti on February 23, 2006 at 12:35 PM | PERMALINK

I kinda like this explanation:

http://onthecommons.org/node/833

Jonathan Rowe
.....
Summers is an economist, which means he thinks he knows how the world works. Like many in his field, he has not a small view of himself and of the belief system he professes. This was part of his undoing.
Economists tend to strut in the corridors of academia. There is a pretense of practicality about them, of dealing in hard reality, unlike those sob sisters in sociology and the dreamers in romance lit. Economists get called to Washington. They work in the U.S. Treasury, as Mr. Summers did. As universities become more commercial, and more enmeshed in the world of corporate biotech and the like, it is not surprising that the Harvard board would think a Lawrence Summers was the man.
Yet the practicality of economics is largely a ruse. The world it assumes has become increasingly remote from the one we actually inhabit.
.....

Although this certainly fulfills the 'jerk' explanation:

Summers once explained to a Harvard dean why he wanted to move funds from the sociology department to the Kennedy School of Government, where it would go to economists and political scientists. In general, economists are smarter than political scientists, and political scientists are smarter than sociologists, the dean recalls Summers saying.

Posted by: CFShep on February 23, 2006 at 12:48 PM | PERMALINK

Regarding Rice's poor relations with the faculty, it's well known that a Provost will leave the university as soon as he/she gets a better offer at another university, so you know that the presence of troublesome Provosts is only temporary. Presidents can stay as long as they want, as long as the faculty and alumni association doesn't race a huge stink. And, sure enough, Rice was only Provost for 6 years.

Posted by: Constantine on February 23, 2006 at 12:50 PM | PERMALINK

I don't know if it is the reason he left, but Summers certainly *was* a jerk. He tried to (and sometimes he succeeded) take away research grants from the professor who won them and give them to a professor he liked better. As the daughter of a physics professor, that is truly appalling behavior.

He also infuriated many big donors, which I suspect was more more relevant to his departure.

Posted by: EmmaAnne on February 23, 2006 at 12:53 PM | PERMALINK

Summers had a personality problem -- at times it almost seemed as if he had a mild case of Asperberger's syndrome, in that he was shockingly unaware of other people's emotional reactions to him and was unable to put people at ease. The president of a university is above all a politician and a diplomat, and Summers, unfortunately, was neither.

Posted by: Stefan on February 23, 2006 at 12:55 PM | PERMALINK

I think this is a clear case of that thing called overdetermination.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 23, 2006 at 12:56 PM | PERMALINK

Stefan is spot on, as is Professor B. But I'd say the main problem is that the Harvard president is supposed to be the beard for the Overseers, who really do run the world. They are the abrasive, arrogant masters of the universe, and people like Neil Rudenstein are supposed to put a kinder, gentler face on the union busting and $8/wages that now pervade the university. It gets embarrassing when your pig underwear shows like that. Watch for a kinder, gentler replacement--and no change in university labor policies...

Posted by: andree on February 23, 2006 at 1:05 PM | PERMALINK

What many people do not seem to realize is that academic politics is a world on its own, and respect and support in academia does not come from the same sources as in business and normal politics. Look, many academics believe that in order to rise quickly and high you have to at the very least give up things that are really important, like fighting for new ideas and creating new worldviews. In Popper's model I guess it would be considered creating anamolies to challenge accepted worldviews. To rise quickly in academics you have to give in on many of these things, kiss up and kick down, and stomp on those on the way up the ladder. Knowledge and the creation of knowledge becomes an afterthought. It was not a good thing that he got tenure at 28. People who were probably more deserving but less political didn't get tenure at all. He kissed up to the right people. It is not a good thing that he was in the Clinton Treasury Department. Do you know the political comprises he probably had to make to get there. I think what the faculty is saying if you want to be President fine, but then limit yourself to raising money and doing what you do best which is getting your nose as brown as possible with donors. But not Summers. All of a sudden he wanted to be considered one of the world's great academics. And he wanted to be protected by other academics. Not because of anything he did, anything he created, but because he felt he had the power and declared himself a great academic. I think the attitude of the Harvard faculty, and faculty in general, is screw you. You made your bones on other people's backs. If now you want to change the rules of the game screw you.

Posted by: Wilbur on February 23, 2006 at 1:08 PM | PERMALINK

So - you think the Stanford faculty would welcome Secretary Rice back as President of Stanford now?

I'd guess... no. She is seriously damaged goods; a demonstrated incompetent and liar.

I'll bet Condy Rice could beat Hillary in '08.

Probably won't run, though. It'd be interesting to see where the black vote would go.

Posted by: sportsfan079 on February 23, 2006 at 1:22 PM | PERMALINK

You can't be mean to Cornell West. Afterall, he is Harvard's monument to Affirmative Action. Critiquing Affirmative Action is akin to defaming the Islamic prophet.

Posted by: Freedom Fighter on February 23, 2006 at 1:25 PM | PERMALINK

Hugh Hewitt's interview of Prof. Alan Dershowitz on this topic can be read at radioblogger.com. Dershowitz calls Summers' forced resignation a coup by a small clique of hard left professors. He also says that Summers was supported by most undergraduate students as well as by most of the faculty of the professional and graduate schools.

It's a shame that a moderate Democrat can be forced out of the presidency of Harvard because his views were too offensive to the hard leftists on the faculty.

Posted by: DBL on February 23, 2006 at 1:27 PM | PERMALINK

I'll bet Condy Rice could beat Hillary in '08.

I wasn't aware that Senator Clinton had expressed any interest in becoming President of Stanford.

Posted by: Stefan on February 23, 2006 at 1:28 PM | PERMALINK

He also says that Summers was supported by most undergraduate students as well as by most of the faculty of the professional and graduate schools.

Speaking as an alum, no, he really wasn't. Not a very popular man.

Posted by: Stefan on February 23, 2006 at 1:32 PM | PERMALINK

I think the other commenters here have it right - he was a jerk, a tone-deaf jerk who didn't know anything about the finesse involved in being president. I feel like in the last few years there has been a decline in the skill of diplomacy in our country, or at least in the appreciation of this skill. When I was in Brazil a few years ago I remember thinking it was funny how every Brazilian I talked to loved Clinton and abhored Bush, even though their policies toward Latin America are almost identical. But somehow Clinton had the ability to screw people over and still have them thanking him for it. The same goes for University politics. It is easy to get your way if you know how to treat people diplomatically.

Posted by: J.B. on February 23, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Harvard should close up shop and start over for granting an advanced degree to one george bush, an obvious illiterate.

Posted by: Pechorin on February 23, 2006 at 1:34 PM | PERMALINK

Harvard should close up shop and start over for granting an advanced degree to one george bush, an obvious illiterate.

Look, that was the Business School. They run their own little shop. We don't know what goes on down there south of the Charles and, frankly, we don't want to know.

Posted by: Stefan on February 23, 2006 at 1:39 PM | PERMALINK

"Professor B says it's because he was a jerk."

Did anyone else but me think KD meant Prof. Bainbridge? Me, I always think of BitchPhd. as "Dr.B." Though I'm always happy to hear what both of them think

Posted by: smartalek on February 23, 2006 at 1:46 PM | PERMALINK

As an academician, my main question is who really gives a fuck who is president of Harvard?

On top of that, I couldn't care less what the WaPo thinks about higher education, their insights into are probably as accurate as something they might say about the election of a pope, and they are going to echo wingnut talking points as a reflex.

One other point --university presidents tend to be the glitzy picture of power but provosts are the ones who run things anyway because they actually know what is going on. Presidents forget that at their peril.

Posted by: Ba`al on February 23, 2006 at 1:48 PM | PERMALINK

J.B. says: "But somehow Clinton had the ability to screw people over and still have them thanking him for it."

Yeah, but look at shot gun wielding Dick Cheney!

Posted by: manowar on February 23, 2006 at 1:54 PM | PERMALINK

Wilbur gets it exactly right in a comment above.

University administrators have to earn the respect of their faculty. There is a certain way you have to earn it. Some people skip steps and cut corners, and it usually ends badly.

Posted by: Ba`al on February 23, 2006 at 1:55 PM | PERMALINK

I posted this on Brad Delong's site the other day:

The MSM has overlooked this nugget re: the Summers resignation:
Apparently, the January 2006 "Institutional Investor" ran an article by David McClintick (Harvard '62) critical of Summers - and one that has fueled recent faculty unhappiness with him.
The Harvard "Crimson" gives some background:
http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=511201
"Six months after the University paid $26.5 million to settle a government lawsuit implicating Harvard economist Andrei Shleifer, controversy over the case has erupted anew and fed the Facultys current uprising against Shleifers close friend, University President Lawrence H. Summers...
[An] article, in the January [2006] issue of Institutional Investor magazine, suggests that Shleifers relationship with Summers shielded the professor from the consequences of the scandal while at Harvard...
A number of people have contacted and asked me about [the article], said Harry R. Lewis 68, the McKay professor of computer science. People I havent heard from in years...have called me up and said, Is it true?
Lewis is writing a book about Harvard, which claims, in a passage quoted in McClinticks piece, that the 'relativism with which Harvard has dealt with the Shleifer case undermines Harvards moral authority over its students.'"

Something up with which the Harvard Corporation would not put...lol

Posted by: ricardo on February 23, 2006 at 1:57 PM | PERMALINK

If West was on "over-rated gas bag," then he fit right in.

Posted by: Slothrop on February 23, 2006 at 2:07 PM | PERMALINK

As an academician, my main question is who really gives a fuck who is president of Harvard?

This does indirectly raise the question of whether Harvard has as much sway over American society as it did, say 30 years ago, or 100 years ago.

I'm guessing its clout today is about where it was 30 years ago, but not nearly the equal to its clout 100 years ago.

How universities maintain their cachet over the decades is an interesting topic. In the US, I mainly have the impression that there's VERY little movement in overall prestige -- maybe NYU has made a big thrust ahead.

But I gather in Britain anyway, for whatever reason, things do change -- I have the impression that even Oxford's reputation is but a shell of its former self from only 30 years ago.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 23, 2006 at 2:16 PM | PERMALINK

Summers' treatment of Cornell West was oafish, capricious, and ultimately self-defeating. West was a University Professor, the highest, most prestigious title Harvard confers on a faculty member. A university professor can teach any class he or she chooses, just design the syllabus and have students show up, or not.

Think about it from West's point of view. What the fuck would an economist know about Afro-American studies? Summers singled out West for individual oversite of West's work. How would you feel if you were that professor? I also think his heavy-handed treatment of West and other faculty served as a disincentive for any faculty member considering coming to Harvard.

Finally, his comment about women in math and science is at best ignorant and at worst sexist and ignorant. He was rightly castigated for this.

I say good riddance to a brilliant economist who was a horrible university president.

Posted by: Mike B. on February 23, 2006 at 2:35 PM | PERMALINK

Is there some rule that there be only one reason? Could it be, say, a mixture of Summers' jerkdom and some professors' resistance to change? Or would that be too complex?

Posted by: Bobarino on February 23, 2006 at 2:44 PM | PERMALINK

Mike B. - You are wrong for the following reasons: (1) Summers spoke to West in private. It was solely West's decision to make that conversation public. How can you call that "oafish" and "capricious?" How in the world was Summers supposed to convey to West what West was supposed to be doing to earn his paycheck? If you were West's boss, what would you do?

(2) In that conversation, Summers suggested that West spend more time on scholarly activities, and less time on pop culture. Again, please tell me what was wrong about that? Professors at Harvard are supposed to be great scholars, writing seminal research papers - that's what they get paid for - University professors even more so.

(3) How would West know if he'd been singled out? His conversation with Summers was private - how would he know whether or not Summers was having private conversations with other under-performing professors? How would you even know that today?

This all boils down to West playing the race card after getting caught napping on the job.

You should also note that the current Chairman of the African American Studies Department at Havard, Prof. Gates, is a supporter of Summers.

However, I thank you for your comments because you confirm that Summers was forced out not because of any personality shortcomings but primarily because he offended the multicultural leftists on the faculty. If you doubt that try this thought experiment: Would Summer have been forced out if he had not raised questions about whether or not the success of women in science might have some genetic basis, or if he not suggested that those who applied double standards to Israel might be guilty of anti-Semitism, or if he had not called for the return of ROTC and a culture of patriotism to the Harvard campus? I don't think so and you don't either.

Posted by: DBL on February 23, 2006 at 2:51 PM | PERMALINK

> And, sure enough, Rice was only Provost
> for 6 years.

6 years is actually quite a long time to hold the chief operating officer position for an organization the size of Stanford. At a Cisco or General Electric you can move from area to area, making progress (or just getting your jollies) in each one, but after 6 years at one fairly small place you aren't going to be able to do anything, much less grow.

Cranky Observer

Posted by: Cranky Observer on February 23, 2006 at 2:54 PM | PERMALINK

DBL, had Summers not made those specific comments, he would have been called out on some other comments he made as a pretense for galvanizing opposition against him.

Learn the difference between proximate causes and ultimate causes.

Posted by: Constantine on February 23, 2006 at 2:56 PM | PERMALINK

6 years is actually quite a long time to hold the chief operating officer position for an organization the size of Stanford.

But this was my point-- not to claim that Rice's tenure was short for a Provost, but to point out that no matter how bad she was, the faculty knew that she would be gone after a few years-- you can ignore the Provost, and before you know it, he or she will go away for greener pa$ture$. By contrast, a difficult president can stay for more than a decade or two unless there is serious, organized opposition to him from at least a couple of separate interest groups.

Posted by: Constantine on February 23, 2006 at 3:02 PM | PERMALINK

Boy, he certainly sounds like a jerk to me!

I found this to say it all "Summers once explained to a Harvard dean why he wanted to move funds from the sociology department to the Kennedy School of Government, where it would go to economists and political scientists. In general, economists are smarter than political scientists, and political scientists are smarter than sociologists, the dean recalls Summers saying."

I decided not to pursue an academic career because I had seen first hand the petty, personal politics of academia. At the elite peak, like Harvard, everyone thinks they are smarter than everyone else, and to disabuse them of that, or at least to call them on it, has to be the most stupid move a university president can make.

He should have known to treat every one of his tenured professors, including Cornel West, with kid gloves and to massage their tender, fragile, swollen egos. (Why do I see hemorrhoids in my mind's eye?)

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 23, 2006 at 3:05 PM | PERMALINK

"He also infuriated many big donors, which I suspect was more more relevant to his departure.

Posted by: EmmaAnne"

In think you'll find in the next couple of years that it is the other way around. Summers was supported by the sciences and the professional schools. His chief enemy was a sociologist and we know how much of a hard science that is.

The comment about women and math was a question, not a statement, and was a reasonable request for some research on the topic. The hysterical reaction by several women professors made his point rather well, although I'm not sure that was his point.

The Derschowitz interview should be read.

Harvard may well regret the action and may have a very hard time finding a first rate replacement. I suspect it will take years to see the outcome. Arts and Sciences have fallen into a PC hell the past 30 years. It's a shame.

Posted by: Mike K on February 23, 2006 at 3:15 PM | PERMALINK

Sounds like Summers wasn't so much tone deaf as just another bubble boy like Bush.

Hey, maybe Bush should hire Summers to be a sounding board. Neither would notice the other, so they'd both be in heaven. Heh!

Posted by: MarkH on February 23, 2006 at 3:26 PM | PERMALINK

A few comments.

First, Summers is an economist, sure, but so is the current president of Yale (Levin) and two long-tenured past presidents of Princeton (Bowen and Shapiro). All three of these presidents were uniters, not dividers. Economics as a scholarly discipline had nothing to do with their personal style. Yale has had some pretty abrasive Humanist administrators in the not distant past.

Second, University profs dont care much about a President's politics if they leave them alone to research and teach. I have personally known high-ranking university administrators whose personal political viewpoints could not have clashed more if they had been on PointCounterpoint, yet they worked together well. Its the professionalism that counts, figureing out how to do the job well.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 23, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

Is there some rule that there be only one reason? Could it be, say, a mixture of Summers' jerkdom and some professors' resistance to change? Or would that be too complex?

You're new to these parts, aren't you?

Posted by: frankly0 on February 23, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

The Wall St Journal had an entertainly curmudgeonly editorial yesterday that riffed on the theme that "a Harvard education isn't what it once was" and addressed itself to those readers of "the class of '65 or earlier" that remember the halcyon days. It also had what appeared to be a very well-informed account of events in the "real" part of the paper, i.e. the non-op-ed section

Posted by: aidan on February 23, 2006 at 3:34 PM | PERMALINK

I'm sure Nancy Hopkins' fragile psyche is now back in a fully bloodthirsty Dominance mode, and hoping for an executive position at a well known nearby large eastern ivy league university needing a more sensitive President.

Posted by: jerry on February 23, 2006 at 3:35 PM | PERMALINK

Ding, ding, ding - andree wins the prize as far as I am concerned.

Summers was, in a word, a "jerk".

Or to borrow a phrase from Dear Leader, he was a "major league asshole".

Posted by: reader on February 23, 2006 at 3:37 PM | PERMALINK

I don't think I will read the Derschowitz interview. I have a reaction to him that screams "Self-promoting blowhard." Doesn't help that he's cited by the wing-nuts for his "sometimes torture is OK, ticking time bomb" excuse. If torture doesn't work to get good information (as many intelligence experts have said) what difference does it really make if the time bomb is ticking. I mean, if you KNOW there's a time bomb, just take the person who know who set it (whom you have in custody, right? or you couldn't torture him) and strap his body over it.
And bring along his wife and kids for good measure.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 23, 2006 at 3:47 PM | PERMALINK

"a Harvard education isn't what it once was" and addressed itself to those readers of "the class of '65 or earlier"

Yeah yeah. The halcyon days before they admitted women. The joke is that the author of that phrase at the WSJ probably graduated more than a decade later.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 23, 2006 at 3:51 PM | PERMALINK

reader - You may (or may not) be right that Summers was a jerk. However, even if true, that fact alone does not explain why he was railroaded out of the Harvard presidency. If he had been more obsequious to the multicultural leftists on the faculty, I doubt very much that the disputes over turf and money highlighted by Matt Yglesias would have done him in. Certainly none of the professors now counting coup are claiming that they were fighting to preserve FAS's prerogatives. The most vociferous of Summers's enemies on the faculty, the ones who sponsored the upcoming "no-confidence" vote, are all hard leftists. This is undeniable, so I am at a loss to understand why everyone here is so anxious to deny that multicultural politics was a key factor in the campaign against Summers.

I repeat what I said earlier: it's a shame that a moderate Democrat whose views are pretty mainstream can be driven out of the Harvard presidency because he refused to toe the multicultural line.

Posted by: DBL on February 23, 2006 at 3:54 PM | PERMALINK

How in the world was Summers supposed to convey to West what West was supposed to be doing to earn his paycheck? If you were West's boss, what would you do?

A university president is not the "boss" of a tenured professor. Academia functions differently than the business world, and a tenured professor such as West who runs his own department is in many ways his own boss over his own private fiefdom.

The Wall St Journal had an entertainly curmudgeonly editorial yesterday that riffed on the theme that "a Harvard education isn't what it once was" and addressed itself to those readers of "the class of '65 or earlier" that remember the halcyon days.

Ah yes, the glory days of the gentleman's "C," when Harvard and the other Ivies would routinely admit dilettantish prep school boys whose only claim to admittance was their family name. And, of course, before they admitted women in '69.

Posted by: Stefan on February 23, 2006 at 4:02 PM | PERMALINK

DBL, it was an open secret that the next no-confidence vote by the faculty was likely to pass by an even wider margin than before. Those who supported Summers previously became, over time, less inclined to support him than before.

Your problem is that you are substituting the phrase "leftists on the faculty" for "faculty in departments I don't have respect for." Yes, Summers had more support from faculty who, to many of us, we consider more "useful" (law, economics, sciences) and less from humanities departments, but that is because Summers was attempting to move resources from the latter departments into the former, already well-endowed, departments.

Posted by: Constantine on February 23, 2006 at 4:05 PM | PERMALINK

Constantine - I was a humanities major in college and grad school, so I'm at a loss to understand why you would think that I don't have any respect for the humanities. But it's undeniable that the loudest, most active opponents of Summers opposed him because they detested his refusal to kowtow to multicultural shibboleths.

Posted by: DBL on February 23, 2006 at 4:17 PM | PERMALINK

DBL, you're talking to a bunch of sociology and anthropology grads. This is the home of multicultural shibboliths. Hence the lack of sympathy for a guy trying to get a fine old institution back on track.

Not reading the Derschowitz interview is what I mean. Don't want to stress those Betz cells.

Posted by: Mike K on February 23, 2006 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Like it or not, the president of a university is more of political office than a lot of management positions. Summers was extremely inept at politics. End of story.

Posted by: Yancey Ward on February 23, 2006 at 4:24 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, OK, I WAS an anthropology major. But I'm a lawyer now, and it is the lawyer in me that doesn't respect Dershowitz.

And belittle us anthropoligists all you want, but a little more understanding of other cultures by Those In Power in the good ole' US of A wouldn't be a bad thing. Witness Dumbsfield's "Why wouldn't they want what we have here?"

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 23, 2006 at 4:30 PM | PERMALINK

But it's undeniable that the loudest, most active opponents of Summers opposed him because they detested his refusal to kowtow to multicultural shibboleths.

That's completely deniable. I deny it. There, see how easy that was?

DBL, you're talking to a bunch of sociology and anthropology grads. This is the home of multicultural shibboliths. Hence the lack of sympathy for a guy trying to get a fine old institution back on track.

I may not have been a sociology or anthropology concentrator, but my time at that fine old institution did teach me that "shibboleth" is spelled with only one "i."

Posted by: Stefan on February 23, 2006 at 4:32 PM | PERMALINK

I found Harvard alums at the Harvard club in NYC celebrating, so I'm not sure the alumni supported him all that much. But everyone knows this city is the People's Republic of NYC, so maybe that explains it...

as for Harvard not being what it was, my two cents: I declared a major in Classics in 1984, the same year Bloom published his screed "The Closing of the American Mind." When the Chairman of the Classics department welcomed all twelve or so of us, he gave a speech that was the perfect parody of that stupid book. He informed us that Harvard was approximately 350 years old, and that for the first 250 years of its existence the only subjects it taught were what we were about to study: Greek and Latin. Then he groused that lately, in the current century, all these faddish, newfangled, loony left fields of study had been added to the curriculum --English, Economics, History, Mathematics, Biology, etc. -- and he congradulated us on the foresight to avoid such trendy new fields of study and stick to the core curriculum. It was a hilarious and memorable speech.

Summers was basically an embarrassment to the institution. I agree with Kevin that I'm surprised he lasted so long.

Posted by: Diana on February 23, 2006 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

OT, but since it has been brought up, I must say I have never been able to understand why the conservatives are so afraid of 'multiculturalism'? What do they want instead? Colonialism? Ugly Americanism?

Posted by: lib on February 23, 2006 at 4:41 PM | PERMALINK

But it's undeniable that the loudest, most active opponents of Summers opposed him because they detested his refusal to kowtow to multicultural shibboleths.

Does this apply to the people from Harvard Law who opposed centralizing the funding from the various schools? Or people upset about He alienated lots of people. Between the Shleifer case, the Cornell West thing, his tone-deaf comments about women in the academy, his desire to end the "every tub its own bottom" policy, his habit of micromanaging grant awards, his pissing fight with the Dean of the FAS, and his obvious desires to emphasize physics and economics within Harvard College at the expense of the humanities and social sciences, who was left to give him support? Undergraduates, who have negligible institutional weight, conservative op-ed writers, who have none, and maybe more conservative alumni, leaving the Harvard Corporation to decide whether possibly irritating donors was worth witnessing the erosion of administrative talent and faculty goodwill that Summers engendered. It's damned hard to push through substantive change that major institutional players will resent in any case; doing it while gratuitously pissing people off is generally impossible.

Posted by: Steve on February 23, 2006 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK
OT, but since it has been brought up, I must say I have never been able to understand why the conservatives are so afraid of 'multiculturalism'? What do they want instead?

France.

Though, of course, they wouldn't put it in those words.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 23, 2006 at 4:47 PM | PERMALINK

Ah yes, the glory days of the gentleman's "C," when Harvard and the other Ivies would routinely admit dilettantish prep school boys whose only claim to admittance was their family name. And, of course, before they admitted women in '69.

You know, that's what we need in this country - a meritocracy. Just think what our government would be like if we had one...

Posted by: craigie on February 23, 2006 at 4:50 PM | PERMALINK

lib - It depends what you mean by "multiculturalism." If you mean a genuine appreciation for the greatness achieved by other cultures - studying Lao Tse and Mencius, reading the Tale of Genji, learning Sanskrit - that's pretty wonderful. If you mean (as most multiculturalists do) a contempt for Western civilization combined with a refusal to make judgments about the strengths and weaknesses of other cultures, well, that's another story.

Posted by: DBL on February 23, 2006 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

There was little love lost between Summers and my colleagues at Harvard in the sciences. Multiculturalism had nothing to do with it, and the being-a-jerk factor had a great deal to do with it.

Posted by: Marc on February 23, 2006 at 4:57 PM | PERMALINK

cmdicely:

:)

Bob

Posted by: rmck1 on February 23, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

You know, that's what we need in this country - a meritocracy. Just think what our government would be like if we had one...

Though curiously enough, when British sociologist (there's that dirty word again!) Michael Young coined the word "meritocracy" in his 1961 study "The Rise of the Meritocracy" he meant it in a perjorative sense. Young was afraid of a society in which those at the top would rule autocratically, with a sense of entitlement, while those at the bottom would be powerless to defend themselves against exploitation by the elite. Instead of a fair and enlightened system, the meritocracy would usher in a cruel and ruthless society -- which, actually, is in some ways a fair description of the pass that Republicans have brought us to. So maybe we've achieved that meritocracy after all....


Posted by: Stefan on February 23, 2006 at 4:59 PM | PERMALINK

"I may not have been a sociology or anthropology concentrator, but my time at that fine old institution did teach me that "shibboleth" is spelled with only one "i."

Posted by: Stefan"

Nah. That was typing school.

We had a similar controversy on a miniature scale a few years ago at a local junior college. The science and math faculty got sick of Humanities people spending all their time organizing student protests and "reading groups" instead of teaching required courses for kids who wanted to transfer to four year colleges, especially UC. They elected a professor of chemistry as president. He started trying to corral the Humanities types back into the classroom where there were waiting lists of kids for required English classes, etc.

The whole thing wound up in the LA Times and there was huge row.

I was there a lot at the time taking some computer science classes in the excellent department they had. There was a real culture clash and I suspect the same is at work at Harvard.

Dartmouth has had a more active revolt the past few years and elected three new trustees that have the Humanities types in a panic now. I pay more attention to Dartmouth.

Here's Marty Peretz' take on the situation.

Posted by: Mike K on February 23, 2006 at 5:06 PM | PERMALINK

Who the fuck cares what Marty Peretz's take on it or anything else is?

Posted by: SqueakyRat on February 23, 2006 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

I love it when the Left eats its own!!!!!!!

This was a twofer .
#1. Successful moderate Democrat (from only winning dem administration in living memory) fails completely in his effort to reign in the radical/far/academic left.
#2. Academic Left illustrates for all the world to see.its inherent anti-intellectual, anti-liberal, totalitarian impulses cannot be controlled even by one of its own.
(and at Americas pre-eminent academy to boot!!!)


BEE-U-T-..FULL!!!!!!

Posted by: Fitz on February 23, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

"Summers once explained to a Harvard dean why he wanted to move funds from the sociology department to the Kennedy School of Government, where it would go to economists and political scientists. In general, economists are smarter than political scientists, and political scientists are smarter than sociologists, the dean recalls Summers saying.

LOL - what Summers really meant was, economists are more right-wing than political scientists, and political scientists are more right-wing than sociologists.

Summers was a bit too obvious a representative of anti-affirmative action, anti-diversity, anti-feminist thinking. (His follow up comments on the women-in-science issue showed that he was not so much attacking women as genetically inferior, as he was accusing them of being poor scientists because they didn't like to run their lives like their more careerist male colleagues.)

That's why the right-wing hetero-fetishists here love the guy. Reach for the violins.

Posted by: john wesley hardin on February 23, 2006 at 5:48 PM | PERMALINK

Just shows to go ya', I would never have guessed cmdicely could be funny. France, indeed. True on several counts, too.

Posted by: David in NY on February 23, 2006 at 5:51 PM | PERMALINK

Summers was a force for evil at the World Bank so it is unikely that he changed his stripes at Harvard. It was surprising, however, that he was actually ousted. Being a dick is normally a good qualification for a university president, but especially if one has a background in used car sales.

Posted by: shoebeacon on February 23, 2006 at 5:52 PM | PERMALINK

Comments are pretty funny. You folks are a trip. "Anti-feminist thinking" is a pretty good term. Sort of an anti-oxymoron.

Summers is your guy, not mine. "Political scientists are more right-wing than sociologists." I'll drink to that.

Posted by: Mike K on February 23, 2006 at 5:55 PM | PERMALINK

Oh ya(& I love thisin Kevin Drums Original Post itself)
This illustrates how the left (in this case WaPo editorial) has internalized it own memes and is intellectually slavish to all the dogmas of radical feminism.

and because he implied that women were too dim to do high level math and science

Summers says one thing.. and the Left heres another.

Its simply a verifiable scientific FACT that men are better on average in math & science.. : once you get three standard deviations out there on math aptitude tests, you find more boys than girls.

Throw in the fact that women have wombs, want to employ them, and then spend time with the product.


Well helljust neuter the guy, hang him and run him out on a rail.


This really is to good.

Posted by: Fitz on February 23, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

"Summers says one thing.. and the Left heres another."

What the hell does this sentence even MEAN?!?

Fitz may be good at science and math, but his deviations sure aren't standard.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 23, 2006 at 6:19 PM | PERMALINK

Any idea who might end up replacing Summers? I know it seems as if most of the other Ivies end up hiring presidents of Big Ten universities (it's a shame most of our best public institutions are still considered a step down from elite private colleges), but I don't think Harvard's ever taken that tack.

Posted by: Vincent on February 23, 2006 at 6:20 PM | PERMALINK

Condi Rice?

She's got that academic administration experience AND she's a person of color & so can offset the anger at pushing away West.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 23, 2006 at 6:25 PM | PERMALINK


Get this

From the original no-confidence motion filed by the faculty of arts a sciences which contained this explanatory note

''Mr. Summers' apparently ongoing convictions about the capacities and rights not only of women but also of African-Americans, third-world nations, gay people, and colonized peoples."


The beating heart of the Left is the University..
No wonder the Democrats cant get electedwith a base like this!

Cal Gal

Oh sorry (spell check mistake)
"Summers says one thing.. and the Left HEARS another."

Posted by: Fitz on February 23, 2006 at 6:27 PM | PERMALINK

Fitz: Oh, okay:-)

Summer's problem re women & math & science wasn't a spell-check mistake, but a hear-check mistake.

He didn't realize what he was going to sound like.

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 23, 2006 at 6:33 PM | PERMALINK

She's got that academic administration experience AND she's a person of color & so can offset the anger at pushing away West.

Sorry, no. We prefer a certain basic minimum standard of competence. We don't want to take the chance that she'll ignore a memo titled "Yale Determined to Attack."

Posted by: Stefan on February 23, 2006 at 6:39 PM | PERMALINK

From Alan M. Dershowitz article (intitled)

Coup against Summers a dubious victory for the politically correct

Now that this plurality of one faculty has succeeded in ousting the president, the most radical elements of Harvard will be emboldened to seek to mold all of Harvard in its image. If they succeed, Harvard will become a less diverse and less interesting institution of learning governed by political-correctness cops of the hard left. This is what happened in many European universities after the violent student protests of the late 1960s.

Posted by: Fitz on February 23, 2006 at 6:49 PM | PERMALINK

Yale *is* determined to attack! Never mind Condi's memo.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 23, 2006 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

Yale *is* determined to attack! Never mind Condi's memo.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Yale is absolutely hands-down the finest school in Connecticut.

Posted by: Stefan on February 23, 2006 at 7:42 PM | PERMALINK

The Bok--there can only be one.

Would that one be Derek or Sissela?

Posted by: anandine '77 on February 23, 2006 at 7:50 PM | PERMALINK

Even Beinart thinks they are daffy.

Condi Rice graduated from college at 15 and some dope here doesn't think she is "competent."

I love it.

Posted by: Mike K on February 23, 2006 at 7:56 PM | PERMALINK

Heres essentially the same point (as Dershowitz) by Charlotte Allen

His tenure has been tumultuous, to say the least. But in the end, it was not his criticisms of divestment from Israel, nor his clash with African-American studies professor Cornel West, nor his supposedly heavy-handed involvement in Harvards curricular review, that cost him his job. Rather, Summerss fatal misstep was to question feminist orthodoxies. He dared to speculate that the reason why there are so few women who are top scientists and engineers might have something to do with innate gender differences. The speculation enraged liberal professors (it made MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins feel physically ill), and they staged a coup d'tat well, actually, they simply clarified who exactly is in charge at Harvard.


Someone cant keep there left wing under control.
Lose canons aboard the U.S.S. Democrat.
They have been punching holes in your ship since the 73 convention.
Now they have tenure!

Posted by: Fitz on February 23, 2006 at 8:03 PM | PERMALINK
Condi Rice graduated from college at 15 and some dope here doesn't think she is "competent."

There is a difference between being "very intelligent" (what it generally takes to graduate from college at 15), and being "competent" for any particular job.

Though, in any case, Rice didn't graduate at 15, she started college at 15, she graduated at 19.

Posted by: cmdicely on February 23, 2006 at 8:04 PM | PERMALINK

I like this from Martin Peretz
Summers's arrival at Harvard was bracing. The Harvard Corporation had finally decided to bring the university into modern times, and it had chosen an at once dazzling and sober intellectual to do it. You could feel the walls of the faculty club tremble.


The Democrats wont go anywhere until they do a thorough housecleaning of the radicals in their Universities.
As long as the Lefties are steering the intellectual ship, their inertia will pull the rest of the supposedly thinking liberals away from mom and pop middle America.

Score so Far

Radical Left - 2 (Howard Dean & Summers Head)

DLC Big Fat Zero


Posted by: Fitz on February 23, 2006 at 8:19 PM | PERMALINK

He's an asshole. Or, to be more exact, a prick.

Posted by: Jimm on February 23, 2006 at 8:21 PM | PERMALINK

Condi Rice graduated from college at 15 and some dope here doesn't think she is "competent."

Yeah, generally, when you fail at your job (which in her case was the national security of the United States) then you're considered not competent.

Oh, and she didn't graduate college at 15. Hitting the bottle a little early today, isn't he?

Posted by: Stefan on February 23, 2006 at 8:38 PM | PERMALINK

Again: from Martin Peretz

in forcing Summers's resignation, the FAS, in an alliance of frightened souls and hyped-up orators, has pulled off a coup--facilitated by the fact that hard scientists, true social scientists, and serious humanists lack the inclination to go to conspiratorial caucus meetings....

true social scientists & serious humanists brings to mind this blog.
If the issue is social or cultural the wing nut left takes over the thread, and start regurgitating what their professors taught them in college.
Its really a lot like what has happened at Harvard.
It takes me or that McAristotle fellow (and a few others) to remind everybody that we do indeed have a normative cultural tradition, shared history, and discernable norms.
Every one else is stuck back in the sexual revolution narrative or post-modern nihilism.

(ah are precious humanities, I suppose the timeless passing on of knowledge will just have to skip a generation.)

Posted by: Fitz on February 23, 2006 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

That "OUR precious humanities"

(indeed)

Posted by: Fitz on February 23, 2006 at 8:52 PM | PERMALINK

Few things have been funnier today than reading Fitz, with his atrocious spelling, syntax, logic and grasp of reality, decry the poor state of higher education....

Posted by: Stefan on February 23, 2006 at 9:05 PM | PERMALINK

Summers indeed is an arrogant jerk. What worked for a third-rate yuppy mill like Boston University could not possibly last at Harvard. When John Silber came to BU in the early 1970s, he was quickly voted down by the faculty. He ingnored the faculty. Then he was voted down by the trustees--he replaced the trustees. By the mid-80s, he was running a dictatorial machine with sycophants and cronies at all meaningful (or, perhaps, meaningless) posts, collecting the highest university salary on record and using the university endowment as his personal investment bank. Summers is very much in the Silber mold, although he's a bit less angry and I don't know if he's an alcoholic (Silber is one). Perhaps he'll get more angry now that he's been handed his walking papers by Harvard.

The opposition to his candidacy for Harvard P started early but got no traction. The Cornel West episode had less to do with political correctness than with Summers's Platonic outlook on those around him. Summers is intellectually arrogant, which meant that not only did he look at everyone else as being beneath him, but he was the final arbiter of what was an was not appropriate. Early on he determined that Afro-American studies was not an appropriate department to have at Harvard. West was just one of many episodes where he attempted to get rid of it. To some degree he succeeded--the best minds in the department left for greener pastures, such as Princeton, Yale and Stanford.

The idiotic comment about women in science (and make no mistake about it--the comment was idiotic, despite protestations from his defenders who tried to misrepresent his intent as a "suggestion" for future research) became a rallying cry for the opposition. And suddenly Harvard faculty realized that what Summers did to the AfAm department, he could do to any other department. This is what happened at MIT, when Provost John Deutsch (of the CIA security breach fame) shut down the Applied Biology department, and, similarly, what happened at BU when Silber decided that the School of Nursing was not an appropriate use of BU's resources. Silber also later shut down the football team over a personal belief. Harvard simply did not want to wait for Summers to put it in a similar position. Actually, this is not entirely true. Summers demolished the traditional focus of the Ed School, demanding that the school promote the business model of education. As faculty left, it will now take years to recover.

Another reason why Summers could not last was that, unlike Silber (and Deutsch, by the way), he failed to surround himself with power-hungry sycophants who could protect his turf. Lucky for Summers, Harvard could not afford the institutional embarrassment of a short-term president (unlike BU, which fired one of its most recent presidents the day before he was to officially take office). So Summers was given a chance to mold into the office. He never quite fit. His ego always spilled overboard. Finally, the faculty and the corporation got fed up with his antics.

WaPo is completely full of shit, taking a page from the National Review in its analysis of Summers's departure. Bradley is imagining a problem where there wasn't one--Harvard produces politics, not cozies up to it. Matt appears to be closer to one of the reasons for the parting of the way, but, I would side with Professor B's analysis. Kevin's description of the latter pretty much sums up Lawrence Summers in a nutshell.

Posted by: buck turgidson on February 23, 2006 at 9:22 PM | PERMALINK

Getting in pretty late now, only because I've been separated from the Internet for three days now I understand how infants feel when someone takes the pacifier away ;-)

I agree that being a poor diplomat and having a lot of friction with the faculty is not an ideal recipe for success as a university president. But those who don't think the Cornel West affair, the women-in-the-sciences thing, and the like have a great deal indeed to do with this are dreaming. There must have been innumerable "pricks" who have held university presidencies without no-confidence votes being called, much less succeeding.

[Aside: I realize nearly everyone here cares about the Ivy League to excess, apart from the people who posted "Who cares about who's the president of Harvard?" I don't much care for Cornel West, based on a small but reasonably, er, diverse sample of his work (some early highly-technical philosophical stuff I had to read for a seminar many years ago, a couple of books meant for the general public, and a TV interview or two). But his first name has only one "l" in it. Especially if you're defending the man, but even if you're not, don't mangle his name; Cornell University may one day thank you. This has been a public service announcement. Thank you.]

Posted by: waterfowl on February 23, 2006 at 9:29 PM | PERMALINK

"Summerss fatal misstep was to question feminist orthodoxies."

Well, he certainly didn't question the white male orthodoxies!

Posted by: Cal Gal on February 23, 2006 at 9:31 PM | PERMALINK

OK, this is just something I've wanted to say for a long time, but it's a tangent of sorts, so feel free to skip.

Summers didn't say that women were genetically inferior at science; he said that women were underrepresented in the top eschelons of elite university science faculties, and wondered why, and threw out a number of possible explanations.

I think I've said before, and will say again, that the whole faux-crisis is silly. Remove barriers to women's advancement in science, and you will get most of the women with an aptitude and vocation for science to study it. And I don't mean "stop studying things with hard answers and put more emphasis on 'flows' and 'curves' and all those other indeterminate, quintessentially-feminine things" that people like feminist science historian Luce Irigaray and co. were pushing 10, 15 years ago. I mean let them do whatever they like, just don't stop them.

(Back in my MechE-student days I was very interested in "flows." I wanted to design sailplanes when I was a teenager. Whether that was "masculine" or "feminine" I don't know. I do know that the tensor calculus in my continuum mechanics course involved all those tedious and exacting manipulations of abstract symbols that Irigaray and the like think so off-putting to women. So did every course involving flows of any kind. And if you think it's a neglected subject, it's not; because it's an intensely practical subject. How fluids behave around solid objects is one of the most-studied subjects in engineering and physics, because when you have to get an object through a fluid or a fluid through an aperture or a pipe you need to know how it will react to what conditions. Irigaray was once for all I know, still may be one of the big names in what is called "Science Studies," basically the sociological analysis of how science works. I don't know what she's done since, because reading only a few of her articles in translation was enough for me.)

But here's the other point. We have had many articles lately noting, finally, that when the male/female ratio in top undergraduate university programs is 45/55, and often even more skewed, there may be a problem. At the same time, we're being told that there's still a crisis of not enough women in the sciences and engineering. And still no one to the left of National Review seems to have noticed that if there are more women than men on campus, and many more men than women in hard sciences, there's an enormous imbalance the other direction everywhere else.

Or rather, perhaps, they notice but don't care. I mean, we're talking about underrepresentation of men here, and since when has that ever been a problem?

End rant. I just get so bloody tired of this stuff.

Posted by: waterfowl on February 23, 2006 at 10:00 PM | PERMALINK

At the end of the day, the only job of any college president is to raise lots of cash and shut up about everything else. The fact that you know other things about Summers indicates that he didn't do his job.

Posted by: pjcamp on February 23, 2006 at 10:15 PM | PERMALINK

You know, can we at least agree that if Summers truly was dismissed because he didn't kiss the hem of political correctness, he didn't do a bangup good job of being a clear cut case of that?

I mean, his being an all-around asshole just confuses the issues pretty awfully, don't you think?

It leads some of us to conclude that we have no idea why Summers "really" was canned.

Posted by: frankly0 on February 23, 2006 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

I was just checking to see if you were paying attention. Condi Rice graduated at 20. Everybody knows those blacks are slow. Larry Summers graduated at 21. Another dummy.

My high school girlfriend got a degree in aeronatical engineering and worked on the Gemini and Saturn programs. But I still had to tutor her in math and for her SAT.

Posted by: Mike K on February 23, 2006 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

DBL ...
be right that Summers was a jerk. However, even if true, that fact alone does not explain why he was railroaded out of the Harvard presidency. If he had been more obsequious to the multicultural leftists on the faculty.

Summers was not railroaded.

Nor was he some sort of martyr to PC/multicultural/leftist excess.

Summers was patronizing, condescending, arrogant, and especially -- decided to prove his (supposed) alpha-male status by humiliating Cornel West.

Very stupid move.

Very transparent, too.

Problem is, Cornel West much smarter than Summers. He's also far more articulate, has a social-intelligence quotient light years higher than Summers', and is easily more accomplished. I say this as someone who is vehemently anti-PC.

I say transparent because Summers was clearly trying to exploit the ongoing (at least in some quarters) culture wars -- misguided though they be. Everybody knew what he was doing.

Even the Harvard Pres is only the second-biggest babooon relative to the Overseers. So you have to go after the weakest and most=marginalized baboon in the troop you can find -- to Summers' distorted vision, it was West. (This metaphor courtesy of William Burroughs.) It was a Sistah Souljah moment: Summers was policing the boundaries, making an example.

Problem was, it backfired, and badly. Everyone knew what he was doing. He was factually incorrect about Cornel West's work, status, and activities.

And West handled it in the best possible way. After all, it was just a lynching of the guy who looked to Summers like the most vulnerable one out there, who was most obviously (to him) thinking and working outside the bounds of thinkable thought.

Ooooh, scary -- to an economist.

Summers came out looking like very much the

Posted by: SombreroFallout on February 23, 2006 at 11:56 PM | PERMALINK

> I've said it before and I'll say it again: Yale is absolutely
> hands-down the finest school in Connecticut.

Two points! But U. Conn has better basketball . . .

Posted by: troglodyte on February 24, 2006 at 12:16 AM | PERMALINK

> And still no one to the left of National Review seems to have
> noticed that if there are more women than men on campus,
> and many more men than women in hard sciences, there's an
> enormous imbalance the other direction everywhere else.

Some of us have noiticed. You dont take Quantum Mechanics if you want to meet girls.

More seriously, there are still soft barriers to women's advancement all through the scientific academy. A significant number of women overcome these barriers, but they are still there. The most pernicious barrier is the mis-guided ego support we give young women, when we say its OK to drop out of science and math in the face of personality problems with teachers and temporary setbacks in study. Folks are much more likely to tell a young man to suck it up and tough it out.

But science hasnt been able to draw US-born undergrads of both genders for some time now. How can you compete when you promise them a lifetime of hard, rewarding work if it is so easy to achieve the good life being a real estate speculator? FLipping condos is so much easier than differential equations.

Flipping Condis, though, might be more interesting. But I leave that to Stanford Alums.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 24, 2006 at 12:38 AM | PERMALINK

You dont take Quantum Mechanics if you want to meet girls.

Hence it's motto "Quantum Mechanics: It's Where the Boys Are!"

Posted by: Stefan on February 24, 2006 at 12:41 AM | PERMALINK

Look, the details of the politics don't matter. Summers' mistake was in overestimating the power of his office. A university president isn't like being president of the US. It's a much weaker office, and a successful university president will not sacrifice his political capital on angering the department chairs, the faculty, the donors, the students, and pretty much everyone else.

You can argue if you wish that Summers was right, and his opponents were wrong, in some of the disputes that he got himself into. Irrelevant. He got into too many wars.

Posted by: Joe Buck on February 24, 2006 at 12:51 AM | PERMALINK

A university president should never micromanage to the extent that he decides to transfer funds from one DEPARTMENT to another one. That is what deans are for.

The fact that this guy tried to do this suggests how clueless he was as to how things work.

A university president tells me (a department chair) what I should or should not be doing in my classroom or lab, or the proper direction for my department, and I tell him to kindly go to hell.

Posted by: Ba'al on February 24, 2006 at 12:56 AM | PERMALINK


> You can argue if you wish that Summers was right, and his
> opponents were wrong, in some of the disputes that he got
> himself into. Irrelevant. He got into too many wars.

> A university president should never micromanage to the
> extent that he decides to transfer funds from one
> DEPARTMENT to another one. That is what deans are for.

True words. You cant get an institution to adopt change easily, and you need troops. To think otherwise is to misunderstand how things work. Grandstanding to the peanut gallery wont get the job done. Being a faceless bureaucrat isnt required, but you need to pick carefully the battles that you choose to fight publicly.

Id rather do research.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 24, 2006 at 1:09 AM | PERMALINK

Fitz, etc. - re: Summers and women

First off, the background for this was that after Summers showed up, the % of women being offered tenure nosedived. He promises to do something about it. Then, when he's invited to speak at a conference about women&minorities, instead of talking about, say, Harvard policies- presumably something he knows about - he goes off on research - sociology, genetics, etc. - way outside his expertise (economics, and supposedly administration). He makes a hash of it, not suprisingly. He dismisses any meaningful role for discrimination based on la-la land economic theory. He has one good point - the demands of a high-powered academic career doesn't mesh with family life, but goes nowhere with it. The entire thing is one great big reason why he - and Harvard can't really change a thing and nothing is really their fault.

But make up your own mind - his comments are here.

What Fitz is trying to get at is the following idea - mostly expressed by Summers: Guys show more variability on a number of traits, on both ends of the bell curve - say, more geniuses and more idiots - while women are more clustered in the middle. Physics and math are hard. Therefore, since you're more likely to get a few men being way, way up there on whatever attributes - for example, math ability -makes a top-25 research university physicist, so guys are going to be way overrepresented. (Also, little boys like building bridges while little girls like playing with dolls.)

One problem (of many) is that recent research suggests that the leak in the pipeline - where women drop out of these fields, silly, not Iraqi oil infrastructure! - is between high school physics classes and getting a bachelor's degree in physics. If women can get past that part, they end up (as I understand it, may be wrong) as faculty members in a reasonably representative way. It's hard to imagine that you need so much mental mojo - top-25-research-university-physicist quality, or close - to get a undergrad degree in physics . . .

Posted by: Dan S. on February 24, 2006 at 1:57 AM | PERMALINK

And really, the whole multiculturalism thing is silly. Look, I'm not saying that a few folks didn't go overboard, as a few people will always tend to do when you get these sorts of swings - blame it on youthful enthusiasm - but honestly, there's just this ridiculous picture of multiculturalism that has little relation to reality.

Posted by: Dan S. on February 24, 2006 at 2:02 AM | PERMALINK

The comments of Dan S. on the bell curve and math aptitude are useful and have been disseminated, but could lead to a misunderstanding. Maybe the preponderance of males in top-tier math departments is influenced by the larger number of 3-sigma fellows that are born more facile. However, you dont need to be so exceptional to be good at math and science, even at the university professor level. In most science departments there should be more women than now, if aptitude were the only determinant.

I rant on this because it is common for undergrads to assume that one must be unusually talented to add and subtract without recourse to finger-counting. The lowered expectations that typical US-born students (male and female) have for their own math abilities is simply depressing.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 24, 2006 at 5:39 AM | PERMALINK

As long as girls are doing better in high school than boys, and more girls are going to college than boys, I'll argue that the fainting feminists at elite universities are abandoning their brothers, sons, nephews, and friends, to further prosper (compete unfairly) in their already lucky careers. The arguments does tend to revolve around tenure decisions, and benefits, for near-elderly female faculty and rather ignores the real problems boys are having.

Posted by: david on February 24, 2006 at 9:33 AM | PERMALINK

Summers was a prick and thought he had more power than he did.

To be a university president, one must have the wisdom of Socrates, the deviousness of Machiavelli, the strategy of Hannibal, and the diplomacy of Metternich.

Summers had none of the above. Result: Summer == toast.

Posted by: tzs on February 24, 2006 at 10:48 AM | PERMALINK

I think President Clinton would make a fine president of Harvard. I suspect his views on the kinds of matters for which Larry Summers was pilloried are pretty much the same as Summers's views, but Clinton is a far better salesman. If he had to call a shirker like West on the carpet, the shirker would leave Clinton's office chastised but happy.

How about it guys? Bill Clinton for Harvard President!

Posted by: DBL on February 24, 2006 at 11:56 AM | PERMALINK

Clinton would be a good University pres, but all wealthy alums who had their taxes raised in 1993 would balk at him. Until the roof caves in on Dubya's economy, maybe. So Bill is a long-term campus play.

Posted by: troglodyte on February 24, 2006 at 12:17 PM | PERMALINK

'"Anti-feminist thinking" is a pretty good term. Sort of an anti-oxymoron.'

So, anti-feminists don't think? Because that's what your use of 'oxymoron' implies. Good on you, then.

Posted by: cgeye on February 24, 2006 at 1:56 PM | PERMALINK

Let Harvard play around with its obscene multi-billion endowment to find a new president.

Posted by: Vincent on February 24, 2006 at 2:48 PM | PERMALINK

Just about everything the traditional media has published on the Summers affair has been terrible. Journalists assume that just because they immediately associate Summers with anti-feminism, that's what brought him down. Bull.

And the blogosphere isn't self-correcting on the subject, because everyone is reading the same restricted information.

Seriously, if you care, go read the undergraduate-written Harvard Crimson. They at least have the focus and space to cover things adequately.

Cornel West has little to do with it. Nancy Hopkins and IQ have little to do with it.

Non-ideological academic politics are the real issue. And, insofar as any incidents can be singled out, they're the resignation of Dean Kirby and Summers' efforts to protect taxpayer rip-off artist and fellow Harvard economist Andrei Shliefer.

http://thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=511600

Posted by: theo on February 24, 2006 at 6:06 PM | PERMALINK

What is it with Harvard economists and Godwin's law?

From theo's Crimson article above:

Glimp Professor of Economics Edward L. Glaeser said last week that the Institutional Investor article [about the "tawdry Shliefer affair"] is a potent piece of hate creationnot quite The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, but its in that camp.

From an earlier article:

Calls for the University to divest from Israel and a Harvard student groups fundraising activities are examples of developments on campus in the last year that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not in their intent, Summers said to students and faculty attending the first Morning Prayers of the term.

Maybe the righties who bemoan political correctness at Harvard should look into the economics department, it seems like quite the PC hotbed.

Posted by: agum on February 24, 2006 at 6:14 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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