Larry Summers is stepping down as President of Harvard University.
Normally we wouldn’t be the least concerned about anything going on at Harvard – with the possible exception of a cheating scandal involving a Spanish test and the senior Senator from Massachusetts – nor with a former member of Bill Clinton’s cabinet.
But, the matter of Larry Summers is interesting because it occurs at the intersection of academic freedom and political correctness.
To review the bidding, a little over a year ago Dr. Summers (PhD in economics, Harvard ‘82) gave a speech in which he indicated (well, he actually said), “women do not have the same 'innate ability' or 'natural ability' as men in some fields.”
This was not handled at all well by some of the gals in the all-female audience and caused quite the little stir at the time (see MULLINGS – 01-19-05) leading to the Harvard faculty voting “no confidence” in Dr. Summers. Just in case word of their displeasure hadn’t gotten to his office, another no confidence vote was scheduled for next week if he didn’t resign.
In the interests of academic curiosity, let us reverse the facts and pretend that a tenured professor had said “women do not have the same innate ability as men” and soon-to-be-former President Summers had demanded that professor resign.
The faculty might well have refused to sup with the troglodyte in the faculty dining hall, but we assume they would have defended his right to free academic speech with utmost vigor (that’s the way we write when we are speaking of university faculty people and the like).
The campus newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, which is not likely to produce any Pulitzer Prize winners soon, took a survey and reported it thus:
“Male undergraduates in the survey tended to give Summers higher marks than their female counterparts did. Sixty-six percent of male respondents said that the embattled president should not vacate his post, while only 45 percent of the women said that they wanted Summers to stay.”
Memo to the faculty advisor of the Harvard Crimson: When you finish voting, please tell that young writer that a difference of 21 percentage points between men and women indicates a somewhat more bifurcated view of life than “tended to give …”