Friday, February 18, 2005

Harvard Doesn't Have the President Its Faculty Deserves...

...if this New York Times article on reactions to the release of the transcript of Dr. Larry Summers' remarks at a recent NBER conference on the gender discrepancy at top flight universities' math and science programs, is representative:

Several professors said Thursday that they were only more furious after reading his precise remarks , saying they felt he believed women were intellectually inferior to men.

Everett I. Mendelsohn, a professor of the history of science at Harvard, said that once he read the remarks, he could understand why Dr. Summers "might have wanted to keep it a secret."

"Where he seems to be off the mark particularly is in his sweeping claims that women don't have the ability to do well in high-powered jobs," said Professor Mendelsohn....

...some faculty members said they were already drawing the conclusion that Dr. Summers believed that innate differences were a significant reason for women's lack of success in math and science careers.

"What bothers me is the consistent assumption that innate differences rather than socialization is responsible for some of the issues he talks about," said Howard Georgi, a physics professor who has been part of a successful effort in Harvard's physics department to recruit more women for tenured positions.

"It's crazy to think that it's an innate difference," Professor Georgi added. "It's socialization. We've trained young women to be average. We've trained young men to be adventurous."

The FLUBA Committee on Reading Incomprehension Among Scientists at Top-Tier Universities has some of its own thoughts on what is crazy to think, Georgi.

And, not one to miss an opportunity to appear foolish, Rap Artist (and Princeton professor) Cornel West chimed in:

On Thursday, after the transcript was issued, Dr. West volunteered his reaction to the latest imbroglio.

"I've been praying for the brother, hoping he would change," Dr. West said in an interview. "It's clear he hasn't changed, I feel bad for Harvard as an institution and as a great tradition. It was good to see the faculty wake up. The chickens have come home to roost."

About which, he may be right. Does the faculty of Harvard prefer to associate with the scholar Larry Summers, or Cornel West?

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