Monday, March 21, 2005

Is something rotten in the state of Harvard?

Some of you may have read about the uproar created by the comments of Harvard's president, Larry Summers, from a conference talk he gave in January. Simply following the media one could easily conclude that the furor created is a case of feminazis armed with torches and pitchforks ready to burn down the house to get the monster. This horror-flic interpretation is fostered by reactions to his comments like this:

"I felt I was going to be sick," said Nancy Hopkins, a biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who listened to part of Summers's speech Friday at a session on the progress of women in academia organized by the National Bureau of Economic Research in Cambridge, Mass. She walked out in what she described as a physical sense of disgust.

Although this sort of information leads to an amusing portrait, it is not altogether accurate. It took a NYTimes book review in Sunday's paper to finally go beyond scratching the surface of the matter. Those of us who earn our paycheck from Harvard understand that for three years there has been more than a bit of animosity expressed toward president Summers, a man who takes no apparent interest in the humanities and sees every department in terms of the bottom line. But enough of this, go read the book review and judge for yourself


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