Lawrence Summers, we hardly knew ye. This week, the embattled Harvard president fell on his sword rather than face a no-confidence vote from the faculty of arts and sciences or a possible Harvard Corporation firing squad. The behavior of the faculty is a disgrace to the university and a dramatic example of the totalitarian control that the campus left exerts over its administrators.
Summers has been in hot water since he took over the Harvard University presidency. When he arrived on campus in 2001, he quickly let the student body know that he would not tolerate anti-military policy, stating, "We need to be careful about adopting any policy on campus of non-support for those involved in defending the country. … Every Harvard student should be proud that we have in our midst students who make the commitment to ROTC." In October 2001, Summers said that patriotism was a word "used too infrequently" at universities. In June 2002, he spoke at the ROTC commissioning ceremony. Naturally, that led certain professors to question his leadership ability -- backing ROTC's presence on campus and uttering the forbidden word, "patriotism," was like waving a red cape before the bull that is the Harvard faculty.
In January 2002, Summers further endeared himself to the faculty by speaking out against Harvard's massive grade inflation (Harvard allots 50 percent of its grades to A's and A-minuses). "To some extent, (this is because) the quality of students has gotten better over time, but not completely," Summers pointed out.
Meanwhile, Summers placed himself even further in the professors' doghouse by questioning the commitment of Cornel West, a highly eccentric professor of Afro-American Studies. West was too busy making horrible rap CDs, leading perennial presidential candidate Al Sharpton's campaign and writing pop-culture books on radicalism and race to bother actually teaching his students. Summers called West to account on his cavalier performance. In response, West called in his allies, Jesse Jackson and Sharpton. Jackson portentously proclaimed, "The tension at Harvard is having an impact across the country." Sharpton simultaneously threatened to sue Harvard University. "The one thing that I do not tolerate is disrespect, being dishonored and being devalued," West huffed before taking off for Princeton.