Harvard is unbalanced

Posted: May 18, 2005 12:00 AM

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.

 Cambridge's newest tax, the non-radical feminist opinion tax, will cost Harvard $5 million per year for the next decade. According to the Harvard Crimson, "Part of the money will fund 40 new faculty appointments over the next five years, 'with priority given to the hiring of women and underrepresented minorities,' according to the report from the Task Force on Women Faculty." The Task Force also recommended formal mentoring and advising programs for women in sciences, as well as "gender bias" training for all doctoral students in sciences. The university will create a program on leadership and diversity aimed at "educating" (read: reeducating) the college's top administrators. A new senior administrative job will be created: senior vice provost for diversity and faculty development. Just what Harvard needs -- more bureaucracy!

 Silly me. I thought the goal of a proper science department was to advance science, not to make underrepresented parties feel good. Is there a lot of untapped female talent out there just waiting to join Harvard's faculty? Probably not, or they'd already be working here. Spending $50 million to recruit women to Harvard is sexist in and of itself: It assumes that brilliant women in science are somehow too stupid to realize the prestige and power of working at the nation's most prestigious university.

 If diversity is the overall goal of the university, then Harvard has a lot of work to do. After all, the Committee on Degrees in Studies of Women, Gender and Sexuality (WGS) doesn't look like a very welcoming place for males. There are 25 faculty members on the committee and exactly one male: Professor Bradley S. Epps. Shocking, simply shocking.

 Unfortunately, I was unable to contact anyone from WGS or the Task Force to discuss such issues. I suppose we will have to chalk up this gender inequality to innate differences. Oh, wait, can't say that. Must be socialization or discrimination. Which means that Harvard should pay millions to rectify the imbalance. How about recruiting men? Or, at the very least, transsexuals?

 Some might protest that to recruit males into WGS would inherently weaken the program. That argument might at least make sense. It certainly clarifies the fact that at America's top universities, gender and diversity are more important than hard science.