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CTyankee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 04:13 PM
Original message
Disgusted and outraged. Help me "get over it"
Marty Peretz in this week's New Republic is on a rant about Larry Summers and brought up the whole women in science issue again and tried to make it a question of Summers' academic freedom being threatened by "political correctness" and "hysteria."

I tried to get a link for this, but you have to be a subcriber. Damnit.

I'm so angry to see this brought up again: Poor Larry Summers. All he did was mention to Harvard faculty (including women scholars who had fought for a study of why there are so few female profs in the sciences)that maybe there was something to the idea that women just aren't biologically suited for the sciences. He was just sayin'. Geez, the poor guy, run off by the mean ole faculty and those pesky wimmin!

I'd love to get my hands on a real good put down of Summers' remarks and just shoot an email to that jackass Peretz. Aaargh!

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oldcoot Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 05:06 PM
Response to Original message
1. About academic freedom
It is incorrect to assume that university employees have unlimited academic freedom. Professors, teaching assistants, part-time instructors, administrators, and others are often required to sign documents stating that they will follow certain rules (including those involving respecting diversity). For example, professors cannot fail students because they were born the "wrong" race or sex. However, if a professor did a study that provided evidence that women are not biologically suited for the sciences than one could argue firing the professor is infringing on his or her academic freedom.

As president of a university, Summers does not enjoy many of the same protections as a tenured professor. Universities often reserve the right to fire their presidents for a variety of reasons such as the inability to raise funds for the university and Summers's remarks might have reduced his effectiveness as a fund raiser. One additional concern for the university is the fact that Summers's remarks may have made it easier for disgruntled former employees and applicants to sue over sex discrimination.

You could also bring up the fact that Harvard is a private university and has the same rights as any other private business to protect itself from bad PR.
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LostinVA Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 05:17 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Staff, faculty, AND students also must comply by Title IX
which covers alot of no-nos. So no, there don't have unlimited freedom.
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MADem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 05:20 PM
Response to Original message
3. This article???

I know something about the Harvard academy's propensity for self-pampering and self-importance. And the problem with Larry Summers is that he never joined what the American cultural critic Harold Rosenberg devastatingly called "the herd of independent minds." I'd encountered Summers a few times before his return to Cambridge--most memorably when both of us skulked around a Nashville hotel suite on November 7, 2000, waiting for NBC to decide whether Al Gore or George W. Bush had been elected president. 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. Well, the walls of the club that serves the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), anyway. This is an important distinction. There are other faculties at Harvard--law, medicine, public health, business, et cetera--and it's hard to find more than a handful of professors at these places offended by what Summers has said or done. They, in fact, have been cheering him on. So, 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.

It is important to note that the last Harvard president who left under duress was Nathan Pusey. The Corporation eased him out in 1971 in response to a coalition of angry lefty faculty (I ruefully confess I was one of them) and a volatile student body, somehow blaming Pusey for Harvard snobbism, the Vietnam war, and American racism. This time, the coup was no alliance of professors and undergraduates. In fact, several polls showed that most undergraduates and graduate students wanted Summers to stay on. The Harvard Crimson was on his side. When the news wafted through campus that Summers was going to resign, a crowd of several hundred mobbed Massachusetts Hall, shouting, "Five more years!" He'd been called "Larry" by the students almost from the beginning. This was not false intimacy, but affection and appreciation. They understood that, in a very deep sense, he was on their side--and there are sides. Larry taught freshman seminars and regular lecture courses. Since he came, the average debt of graduating seniors has fallen by more than half. He started a desperately needed curricular review that many faculty did not want, and they sabotaged it with a combination of committee truculence and their relentless campaign against him.

One complaint against Summers is that he was not tactful. But tact is not the issue. It's conviction that's the issue, and many FAS faculty do not like his convictions. His conviction that rotc at Harvard should not be held hostage to the Vietnam war. His conviction that a university professor--the highest professorial rank, held by only 19 individuals--should do real scholarship and actually give grades to his students. (This is the famous case of Cornel West, who left for Princeton and now travels the revolutionary circuit, most recently cheering on Venezuela's dictator, Hugo Chvez.) His conviction was that agitation for universities to disinvest from companies doing business with Israel was more than faintly anti-Semitic.

Then there was the controversy over the aptitude of women in science and the hysteria among the politically correct that would deny academics (and a university president, in particular) the right to cogitate in public over an intellectually controversial issue. How many conversations have I heard in Cambridge bewailing the fact that politicians are not honest in their views? Well, believe me, when Summers tried to raise a hypothesis--one of many, and not necessarily his own view--on the fraught question of why women are so underrepresented in physics and mathematics, the enraged did not want to hear his honest thoughts. They wanted him to be silent. They wanted him to behave like a politician. ....

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mandyky Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 05:24 PM
Response to Original message
4. Since there are women in scientific fields.
NOONE can say women are just not biologically suited for science.

Maybe women are actaully scientists instead of teaching science. You know that old saying "those who can, do; those who can't teach. LOL

Larry Summers wouldn't let it drop, so they dropped him.
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LizMoonstar Donating Member (392 posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 05:29 PM
Response to Original message
5. my thoughts:
one, isn't it not his job to do science-y stuff, but to do administrative-y things?

two, maybe women aren't 'biologically suited' for science. the same science you use to get to that says that, among other things, men aren't 'biologically suited' to drive cars. i don't see anyone trying to say that maybe men shouldn't drive, or that that's why they have more accidents, but there's just as much evidence for that as for the other.

point being, one, even if it's true at all, it's an average, and just as there are female bodybuilders who defy the biological average, same applies here. two, again, even if it's true, we all do things we aren't biologically suited for every damn day, so why would it matter? it's the naturalistic fallacy - just because something is natural, doesn't mean it's right or good. kind of like dying from the plague is natural, but bad. so once more, even if it does end up being true, which I don't expect it will, who gives a damn? society is largely about going against the natural to create the cultural, so why should this be any different?
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MADem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 05:30 PM
Response to Original message
6. Here's the 'big finish' of the opus
...The knife in the back came over the resignation of the dean of the FAS, William Kirby. I count Kirby as a friend. I like him. I've read some of his work on Chinese history. I'm no expert, but it is persuasive history and elegantly written. Still, the sad fact is that almost no one would have said a few months ago that he was a good dean. Not, that is, until Summers let him go. Then Kirby became a hero and a pawn to those professors who had tried so long to bring Summers down. The fight, of course, was over how future deans would be chosen. It is not clear what process will be mandated, but it is evident that the FAS wants a big hand in the decanal appointment. This is not democracy; it is chaos, the politicization of an academic office.

I don't know which of Summers's achievements are now in peril. Certainly not the stem-cell research center or the aids projects in Africa. The inevitable move linking Harvard in Cambridge to Harvard in Boston across the Charles River will proceed. Google's digitization of the Harvard libraries seems unstoppable. So what is endangered? The lan and confidence with which Harvard links big science with medicine, economics, politics, philosophy, and the arts, no longer separate or separable fields but tied together in their pursuit of humane ends. That is Summers's vision.

As the Corporation was caucusing with faculty, friends of Harvard were a bit dazed by our impending defeat. My friend Yo-Yo Ma was one of these people. He had persuaded Summers that his Silk Road Project to study the movement of music through space and time--and to make and play that music--had a place at Harvard. Summers instantly grasped the idea, and the Silk Road is now part of Harvard's curriculum. "What I like about Larry," said Yo-Yo to me on the phone from a Silk Road program in Charlottesville, Virginia, "is that he understands that nobody knows everything: not he, not you, not me. But he also understands that one cannot have a coherent view of the world without trying to know what the other knows. Larry's is an analytic mind, and yet he makes so much room for the cultural and emotional sphere, even the irrational--that which is ultimately human." So what kind of president will Harvard seek now? Almost certainly a lesser person than the one it just forced out.
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CTyankee Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 08:21 PM
Response to Reply #6
8. You know, MAdem
I am certainly not against the Yo Yo Ma Silk Road Project at all. What I am so bothered about is Summers' just blithe iteration of a study that was so very like everything every woman has heard who has tried to defy the rules against women going to Ivy League Schools, or going out for sports or going into professions that weren't "for women" or women trying to get into the military academies, etc, etc. It was the old "women can't do this because =====(fill in the blanks)".

Summers' lacks imagination. He lacks critical thinking, really. He can't get beyond one fix which he wanted to offer his audience at that speech, even tho there is a range of studies he could have picked from. Why that one?

Summers also lacks curiosity. If he was at all interested in this issue to bring up to a group of academics, why did he not also bring up a study that refuted this one? Just to balance the two since no one study is at this time conclusive?
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MADem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sun Mar-05-06 12:58 PM
Response to Reply #8
9. I have to agree with you completely, and I do think the guy is an ass
I used to tell my female subordinates in the military that though it was unfair, wrong, sexist, and disgraceful, that the fact of the matter was that they would have to be twice as good at most commands to get half the credit, and that I would make it a point NOT to apply that standard to them, but to keep their guard up when they moved on. I was especially aware of the angry atitude towards them, as though they were mucking up the 'boy's club,' having been on active duty when females began being integrated into sea duty jobs. What those brave souls went through just to get "equal credit" was mind-boggling.

So when I see this kind of language, decades later, coming from someone who is supposed to be heading up one of the most prestigious universities in the nation, it makes me wonder: What kind of assholes is that overpriced diploma club putting out? He's damaged the reputation of the place. That kind of speculation isn't "academic freedom," it belongs in the same fetid discard pile that says all Asians are geniuses (they aren't, I have had some real clods work for me, I know!) and people of African ancestry aren't as bright as the white boys (and we know where that sort of racist speech comes from)'s hate speech, IMO. And it's bullshit.

And it probably has something to do with his past--he probably hit on a good looking smart babe, and got brutally rejected!!!! The putz....may the ghost of Marie Curie haunt him forever!
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Lexingtonian Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-04-06 05:31 PM
Response to Original message
7. Summers has a bunch of friends

and they've run quite a whiny PR circus for him and against his opponents. All elderly Jewish guys with various media bullhorns of sorts.

But for all the noise and ruckus, they're not winning any sympathy for him here in Boston and more or less just illustrating the educated chauvinism and high handedness that was the root of the problem.

The truth is maybe a little different than portrayed. MIT just punted a President too, essentially for overextending the place on new construction and then having to overtighten the financial belt on the academic side. Summers and Harvard have also been getting too far out in the real estate stuff and then, probably, had to squeeze a couple of Deans' budgets in unjustifiable ways. These things make for cranky and evasive administration and a faculty that thinks the priorities have gone all wrong (and they have). After a few years of this, diplomatic incidents start to happen as both sides harden against each other. The side in the wrong has to come up with more and more scurrilous and brutal excuses for what it's doing. So Larry Summers has to explain why faculty appointments are down, net screwing so many woman, and he comes up with the idiocy he did. That's beyond any defense and starts to hurt the place. People start looking for ways to topple the person that stands in the way of getting priorities back in kilter, and then they rig up a game that does the job.

In Summers's case, I don't think he or his buddies have figured out who really rigged and laid the bear trap that got him. But got him it did, and the squawking is raucous.
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