Yon Theda Has a Lean and Hungry Look

Friday, March 18, 2005

Yon Theda Has a Lean and Hungry Look

As most readers will know, controversy has been raging since January, when Harvard President Lawrence Summers (Secretary of the Treasury under Clinton) made remarks about the aptitude of women for the sciences. Anyone with a more than passing interest in that controversy should take a look at Harvard Magazine's website. Although the magazine is sent to alumni, anyone can visit the website.

There's a lengthy article summarizing the remarks of every speaker at a faculty meeting earlier this week, in which the faculty passed a "no confidence" motion against Summers (who was present and spoke at the end of the meeting). I found the competing arguments about McCarthyism and political correctness fascinating; I was once again left with the impression that conservatives who claim to be silenced by political correctness seem to have no trouble speaking their minds in an effort to delegitimize the allegedly "PC" sentiments of their colleagues. But, whatever view you take of the matter, the debate is interesting. It also features several participants who are fairly well-known outside of academic circles, including Stephan Thernstrom, a darling of the right for his writings on affirmative action and other touchy subjects.

The page also has links to a variety of materials about the controversy, including the transcript of Summers's original remarks that sparked the whole thing, reports on prior faculty meetings in February, the letter from the President and Fellows of Harvard University (the body, colloquially known as "the Corporation," that actually decides on hiring and firing the university president) in support of Summers, and so on. Even more links are, at least for now, on the home page.

You can get a sense of how serious this matter is within Harvard circles from the lede of the article on the most recent faculty meeting:
In a remarkable meeting held on the Ides of March in the Loeb Drama Center, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) twice voted to register its lack of confidence in and concerns over the presidency of Lawrence H. Summers.

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