Larry Summers & Harvard University

Discussion in 'Education' started by Adam's Apple, Mar 2, 2006.

  1. Adam's Apple
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    Adam's Apple Senior Member

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    Good look at what our academic institutions have become. I hope our university will keep Summers in mind the next time we have a presidential opening.

    Anatomy of Summers' Fall
    By Jeff Jacoby, The Boston Globe
    February 27, 2006

    Harvard's 27th president announced his resignation last week, but Lawrence Summers' fall from grace actually began on Oct. 26, 2001, less than four months after his presidency began. That was the date on which he addressed the annual public service awards banquet at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and had the temerity to speak favorably of American patriotism—and, even more audaciously, to express admiration for the men and women who serve in the US armed forces.

    Patriotism is a word ''used too infrequently" on campuses like Harvard's, Summers said, and too many academics regard those who wear the uniform with ''disaffection." He stressed ''the importance of clearly expressing our respect and support for the military," and pointedly voiced the ''hope that when you have this award next year, among those who will be recognized will be those who have served our country in uniform."

    Summers followed up that message in a Veterans Day letter to Harvard cadets and midshipmen, writing that he ''and many others deeply admire those of you who choose to serve society in this way." And in remarks to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, he described military service as ''vitally important to the freedom that makes possible institutions like Harvard."

    In most of America, such views are commonplace. But at Harvard—where ROTC has been banned for more than 30 years—more than a few faculty members were bound to find them appalling. Just how much they rankled is suggested by the fact that on the day Summers resigned, one of his most virulent opponents—anthropology professor J. Lorand Matory—told an interviewer that among the things that made the university president so unbearable was his ''telling us we should be more patriotic."

    But that was only one of his sins. Believing that a university president ought to take an interest in the caliber of faculty work, Summers told black-studies big shot Cornel West (in a private conversation that was leaked to the press) that recording hip-hop CDs and promoting the presidential campaign of Al Sharpton were not the sort of pursuits Harvard expected of its scholars. Whereupon West decamped in a huff for Princeton — but not before playing the race card, declaring that he could not bear such ''disrespect and being dishonored," since it is ''the only thing one has as a human being, let alone as a black person in America."

    Summers infuriated campus authoritarians again in September 2002 when he deplored the ''profoundly anti-Israel views . . . increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities," like the movement to single out Israel for economic strangulation and the expulsion of Israeli scholars from the boards of academic journals. Anti-Semitism used to be associated with right-wing yahoos, Summers said, but it was now on the left that ''serious and thoughtful people are advocating and taking actions that are anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent." For this he was accused of everything from McCarthyism to paranoia. ''Ascribing bigotry to those with whom you disagree," one critic wrote in the Boston Globe, ''is the last refuge of cowards." Unless, of course, those being described are in fact guilty of bigotry.

    For full article:
    http://www.jewishworldreview.com/Jeff/Jacoby022706.php3
     
  2. Mr.Conley
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    Mr.Conley Senior Member

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    Larry Summers is a good guy. He dedicated himself to improving Harvard. Many of the students and faculty recognized that his idea would only lead to a better Harvard. However, he has a very brusque, demanding manner. My one encounter with him did not leave me with the best impression of him personally. The man is no doubt a genius, but he is not very good with people. Many believe his manner and attitude towards reform and the faculty were condencending at best. Somehow Summers managed to fragment a community already united to reform Harvard for the better. That being said, Summers had many bright ideas. The curriculum review and (hopefully) easing core requirements would have made Harvard a much better place. Although I personally did not want to expand the university outside of Cambridge, Harvard does need more land and buildings to house a growing community of faculty and students. However, despite his great ideas, making things happen at the oldest university in America can be tough. Harvard is very steeped in tradition and as such many people resist change. Larry wanted to do a lot to improve Harvard, but he pushed aside the more traditional members of the faculty and charged ahead anyway. Many resented him for this, they felt overlooked and underappreciated. Had Summers paid more attention to these elements of the school, he probably would have had an easier time. Ultimately, I feel Summers could have done a great job, but his own personality held him back. in many ways I don't want Summers to leave, but the hope that someone equally dedicated to reform and more able to handle the egos of Harvard will step forward to take his place.
     
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  3. rtwngAvngr
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    rtwngAvngr Guest

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    OOOOOH. how dare someone condescend to the lefties. It's they're right to be the condescending pr#cks in the room. Silly Larry, snits are for libs.
     
  4. Mr.Conley
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    Mr.Conley Senior Member

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    Larry Summers had a lot of good ideas, but was extremely ineffective at handling the faculty. Thats not a political issue; its a managerial issue. Learn the facts before you start talking.
     
  5. rtwngAvngr
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    rtwngAvngr Guest

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    Yeah. He dared tell libs they're wrong. That's called "condescension". He forgot; libs are always right.
     
  6. Mr.Conley
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    Mr.Conley Senior Member

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    So it was an elaborate, 5 year conspiracy by the Harvard faculty to oust President Clinton's former treasury secretary because he wasn't liberal enough for them?

    Nothing to do with his being a bad manager?
     
  7. Adam's Apple
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    Adam's Apple Senior Member

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    Thanks for posting your thoughts on this matter. I don't know the inside details of this situation as you seem to, but I will agree with you that strong, abrasive personalities and the inability to work with other people can, and have, doomed many talented, capable people. I think Summers' ideas were right, and I admire what he tried to do. Like you, I hope Harvard is able to find a replacement who is just as committed to reform as Summers was. In your opinion, what are the chances that that will happen?
     
  8. rtwngAvngr
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    rtwngAvngr Guest

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    But this is what libs always do. If someone doesn't agree with their reality distortion field, that person must have a personality disorder. They go instantly for the personal attack because their ideas are logically indefensible.
     
  9. Mariner
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    Mariner Active Member

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    is right--Summers was very bright, but lacked polish, and a huge part of the job of a university president is schmoozing, which requires a lot of polish.

    I agree too that he had some good ideas; I hope his departure doesn't slow the proposed expansion of science facilities into Allston.

    If people skills were his only problem, I'd have supported his staying. But there was a much more critical issue concerning investments made by faculty members in Russia at the same time that they were consulting to Russia. Summers did not respond appropriately in this situation. This ethical issue was the tipping point for me, and for many people I know. It wasn't his right to free speech on various issues such as women in science--it was his failure to manage this case of basic ethics among friends/colleagues in his own specialty (economics).

    Mariner.
     
  10. rtwngAvngr
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    rtwngAvngr Guest

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    This is what libs always do. Anyone who disagrees with them they say has character flaws. I bet he was actually a really great guy. For libs, discussions of actual reality and truths are considered unseemly.
     

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