How much is atonement worth? Apparently, about $50 million. That's how much Harvard University is spending to recruit women faculty members to the school's science department. The outreach effort also includes a university pledge to be more open to women's needs. This includes paid maternity leave, promises not to penalize women for taking time off to have babies and, reportedly, free copies of "Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood."
Why, you ask, would Harvard University, one of the foremost scientific centers on the planet, have to shell out an extra $50 million to find women who will do less work and reap more benefits than an equally or more qualified male? It's all because of a little slip of the tongue by Harvard University President Lawrence Summers. Yes, that's right -- one mildly quizzical paragraph spoken four months ago now requires more than endless apologies and blatant pandering. It requires reparations.
To review: Summers posited at a conference in January that "In the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude, and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination. I would like nothing better than to be proved wrong ... "
In Cambridge, it takes only a moment to ruin your liberal reputation, but it takes a lifetime to gain redemption. Since Summers' original statements, he has apologized repeatedly, lamented the fact that universities have been "designed by men for men," found himself on the wrong end of a no-confidence vote by the faculty and endured several browbeatings by self-righteous Harvard professors. He has narrowly escaped caning and castration. Yes, Summers has his supporters here: You can see them walking around campus wearing Che Guevara-styled "Viva el Presidente Summers" T-shirts. But in MA 02138, the self-proclaimed "world's most opinionated zip code," certain opinions are more equal than others.