Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Harvard: Free Speech anyone?

I can't help feeling that Larry Summers is sunk. He told a group of academics in a closed-door meeting that maybe, part of the reason why there are fewer women research scientists at top universities than men is innate gender differences. Naturally, this started off a fire-storm. Now, I don't know if I agree or disagree with Summers. It's an unproven hypothesis. But you see, such talk doesn't really matter to scientists and professors. All kinds of high and righteous people have now called for Summers to step down as President of Harvard.

Wow! Even the President of Harvard University cannot speak his mind. How can we then expect students and professors to enjoy the rights of free speech? Either way though, Summers is done (I think). I don't really know too much about him, other than he was the Treasury Secretary at a time when I was too young to care about stuff like that, and that he fired Cornel West (for which he gets points in my book). I think that conservatives latched on to Summers as the perfect person to reverse the tide in academia. Summers was an ex-Cabinet member for a Democrat President, yet because of his economic background had a results-oriented approach to the problems facing universities. Summers was also able to gamble on the Harvard brand name to start making changes (like supporting ROTC). Conservatives were really rooting for him to pull off an academic sea-change.

But, with the present flap, it doesn't seem likely that Summers will succeed in that goal. I wish he had just been dismissive of the whole gender bias charge, instead of being profusely apologetic for having made his comments. When asked to apologize, Summers should have just said, "don't be absurd," and been done with it. He could then have made some point about how Harvard professors need to spend more time teaching their students and less time chasing politically correct red herrings. Aah - too bad he didn't. Well, I hope he makes it through this current flap and remains Harvard President. Otherwise, they might hire some crapweasel like Lee Bollinger or Jim Wright.