The Summers of Harvard's discontent

Everything’s political at Harvard, writes James Atlas in the New York Times. In the context of the university, Lawrence Summers is a flaming conservative because he’s pushing the university toward the center.

That is to say, he would like to see R.O.T.C., which was banished from Harvard during the sit-ins of the 60’s, restored to campus; he would like to overhaul the core curriculum; he would like to hire who he pleases, regardless of race or sex.

By being naturally and deliberately provocative, he has challenged campus liberals, which is not what campus liberals are accustomed to. Neil Rudenstine, the previous president, was a former English major devoted to inclusivity. Derek Bok, who preceded Mr. Rudenstine, was an affirmative action proponent, even writing a book after he left office on the merits of race-based preferences.

In contrast, Mr. Summers has had a series of widely reported confrontations: He rebuked Cornel West, a distinguished professor in the African-American studies department, who promptly decamped to Princeton; he made the suggestion, provoked by a pro-Palestinian faction demanding that Harvard divest itself of stock in companies allied with Israel, that campus anti-Semitism was on the rise; he deplored rampant grade inflation.

Harvard professors who complain Summers is “intimidating” are wimps, suggests Harvey Mansfield, a conservative (by Harvard standards) professor.

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  1. Steve LaBonne says:

    They’re not actually wimps- this “oh so sensitive” routine is a calculated ploy. And one that’s been disgustingly successful, over and over.

  2. It’s an appeal to the baser aspects of human nature. That’s always been an easy sell.

  3. Jack Tanner says:

    What’s the old saying ‘The knives are so sharp because the stakes are so small’? It’s all posturing because there’s little else involved. A huge problem is that it’s almost impossible for professors to change jobs so they sit around and bitch.

  4. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Do I hear rice bowls breaking?