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February 23, 2006

Boring Stuff Brought Summers' End

By Neil the Ethical Werewolf

If anyone's curious about why Larry Summers lost his job as president of Harvard, Matt Yglesias has the story. Summers tried to make a whole bunch of administrative decisions that weakened the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. For instance, he tried to centralize control of the university and spend lots of FAS' money on expansion. As a result, the Dean of FAS pushed him out.

It accords with what I know about Harvard's administration (I, like Matt, was a student there) -- the FAS Dean is powerful, while the president is more of a fundraiser / figurehead. Also, I can say as a grad student who talks a lot with faculty about hiring decisions that this is the way that academic administrative politics usually goes. Make a couple silly comments and people will make noise, but you'll keep your job. Mess with powerful departments' power and funding, and you're gone. Right-wing attempts to present his downfall as the result of PC madness are either caused by a lack of knowledge, or by a desire to continue smearing universities as hotbeds of evil political correctness.

February 23, 2006 in Education | Permalink

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Comments

Wow -- I learned from your short post that I'm right wing (far from it), I lack knowledge of Harvard (I do freelance work for Harvard), and/or that I want to smear universities (I respect Harvard and universities in general). My post simply quoted Alan Dershowitz! I disagree with Matt Yglesias -- if it was about boring internal issues, there would have been no press coverage, and Summers would have felt little pressure to resign. However, I think Matt neither ignorant nor agenda-driven merely because I disagree with him.

Posted by: Paul Geary | Feb 23, 2006 2:07:36 AM

If you parsed the last part of the post correctly, it's an either/or thing, not an and thing. So you either lack knowledge of the reasons Summers left, or you want to smear universities. I'll be happy to assume the former, and there's no shame in that -- nobody is required to know everything.

But if you aren't right-wing, what's this comment doing right below your blogroll? " … straight outta the Lone Star moonbat asylum of Austin, comes this erudite conservative group blog. Think Powerline with a little Tex-Mex flava." If you don't think that accurately describes you, you should probably remove it. Otherwise, come to terms with your the fact that you are on the right.

if it was about boring internal issues, there would have been no press coverage, and Summers would have felt little pressure to resign.

The media's always looking for a story to sell, and "Harvard President forced out by PC lunatics" sells well, even if the actual facts are "Harvard President loses power struggle with Dean of FAS." And boring issues can generate massive internal pressure, as the many of us who live in the boring world are aware.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Feb 23, 2006 2:44:28 AM

The centralizing push Matt refers to seems to be broader than Harvard. I recall that Condi Rice was involved in some similar stuff at Stanford with lots of faculty and student resistence. It seems that many university presidents really want to be CEO and run things like a business, in particular trying to gain major corporate (or corporate CEO with money) support on both endowment and 'new programs'.

As bad a faculty control may be in reality, it seems like it is far better than the unitary executive approach. It may be helpful to think of department chairs and faculty deans as Congressional Committee chairs - they like their perogratives. And the university faculties don't like being told that the metaphoric Commander in Chief can do anything they want because of national security.

Posted by: JimPortandOR | Feb 23, 2006 3:19:04 AM

...caused by a lack of knowledge, or by a desire to continue smearing universities...

More likely a desire of the left to whine and be the hurt party. Just look at the bull that Pepper posted two articles ago.
That is the major problem with the blogosphere. Those who blog see themselves as some kind of journalist and a force in politics. The reality is that most just parrot the others with out research or reason....as long as it serves their agenda.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 23, 2006 8:49:40 AM

It was about an internal power struggle, but that doesen't mean the issues involved in the power struggle didn't have anything to do with Summers blunt opinions about which areas of the academy were more worthy than others combined with a failure (inability) to give sufficient praise/regard for a very self regarding institution.

Posted by: Dustin R. Ridgeway | Feb 23, 2006 8:56:30 AM

Right-wing attempts to present his downfall as the result of PC madness are either caused by a lack of knowledge, or by a desire to continue smearing universities as hotbeds of evil political correctness.

Fred beat me to it, but here it is anyway.

Good Riddance, Lawrence Summers
By Pepper of the Daily Pepper

"I don't understand why Lawrence Summers didn't get the boot from Harvard immediately after his statement"

"It's Bush's fault!"

Posted by: Captain Toke | Feb 23, 2006 11:27:58 AM

Right-wing attempts to present his downfall as the result of PC madness are either caused by a lack of knowledge, or by a desire to continue smearing universities as hotbeds of evil political correctness.

Agreed. And left-wing attempts to present this as a victory for diversity ARE PC madness.

Posted by: Adrock | Feb 23, 2006 11:43:40 AM

While I think that Summers' speculations about gender differences were ill-supported by the total set of data, I agree with Adrock's last sentence.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Feb 23, 2006 11:48:11 AM

Wow!

I put a quote up there showing a left-winger celebrating Summers' demise as Dean because of his statements, and you guys still try to blame right-wingers for making left-wingers look like they are celebrating Summers' demise as Dean because of his statements.

Do you guys get off on putting bullshit out there and seeing how long no one will notice it is bullshit?

Posted by: Captain Toke | Feb 23, 2006 12:03:24 PM

Do you guys get off on putting bullshit out there and seeing how long no one will notice it is bullshit?

I have a very liberal sister that does the same thing. When caught and proven wrong, it's "Oh, well what about________?" and spews something else ridiculous.

It's lack of shame and respect for the truth. They think it's OK to spew bullshit without any evidence since they are all helping humanity by GETTING BUSH!

"It's for the Children...."

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 23, 2006 12:22:19 PM

"If you parsed the last part of the post correctly, it's an either/or thing, not an and thing. So you either lack knowledge of the reasons Summers left, or you want to smear universities."

You should get out of the parsing business. The fact that I chose to emphasize the PC stuff doesn't mean I'm not aware that other things were going on. Summers un-PC behavior was the tipping point. You in fact got it exactly backward: Attempts to centralize in universities is pretty widespread (JimPortlandOR's example is a good one) -- and most of those presidents keep their jobs. The ones who are un-PC (with the notable exception of Boston University's John Silber, who survived many years of both centralizing and un-PC behavior) are more likely to lose theirs.

Your desire to brand me "right wing" is an either/or thing. No pedantic parsing necessary.

By the way, does Alan Dershowitz --no right winger, Harvard insider -- lack knowledge, or does he want to smear universities?

Posted by: Paul Geary | Feb 23, 2006 12:51:03 PM

you guys still try to blame right-wingers for making left-wingers look like they are celebrating Summers' demise as Dean because of his statements.

I usually skip over your comments, Toke, and this is why. You're misrepresenting my position. If you'll look back at my post, I blame right-wingers for presenting incorrect accounts of the reason for Summers' fall. I don't blame them for criticizing left-wingers who celebrate Summers' demise as President. Citing an example of the latter has nothing to do with what I'm saying. It's especially amusing to see comments like "Do you guys get off on putting bullshit out there and seeing how long no one will notice it is bullshit?" -- that's exactly what you've spent several comments doing.

And this is basically what you guys have been doing on this blog since you got here. You don't actually care to respond to the points that are made, since you're more interested in irritating liberals than addressing issues. You try to embarrass us, and quite often end up embarrassing yourselves. I'd recommend that you carefully reread posts before you respond to them, and think clearly before you comment. It'd save you a lot of humiliation.

Posted by: Neil the Ethical Werewolf | Feb 23, 2006 12:54:44 PM

It has been widely speculated that proudly declaring "I'm not PC" is just a means of covering up for the fact that you're a complete and utter asshole (or racism), but want to deflect accusations of assholery (or racism) by declaring such accusations to be "political correctness run amok."

I have to say that this Larry Summers episode certainly backs up this explanation. If you replace "un-PC" with "asshole" in Geary's comments, then nothing he says is particularly politically controversial or suprising. "Those ones who are assholes are more likey to lose [their jobs]." No kidding, man.

It was nice to have a President of Harvard who had been a scruffy, bearded MIT student, though.

Posted by: Constantine | Feb 23, 2006 1:04:33 PM

"I usually skip over your comments, Toke, and this is why."

You don't want to engage me because you don't want a novice commentor embarrassing you with facts and reason. You, a "professional" blogger and thinker aren't going to be made to look the fool by some dope smoking novice.

Now, pepper, a left-winger, is upset Summers wasn't booted out the door immediately after his un-PC comments. Yet you try to say those comments had nothing to do with his resignation and that right-wingers are trying to paint his resignation as "the result of PC madness are either caused by a lack of knowledge,"

Lack of knowledge? Was there not an uproar right after he made the un-PC comments? Liberals calling for his ouster? Did pepper not say "I don't understand why Lawrence Summers didn't get the boot from Harvard immediately after his statement"? Is what I just wrote an incorrect account?

Now neil, where would right-wingers get the idea his comments caused his resignation? I am sure I can find quotes by many prominant liberals calling for his ouster at the time he made those comments, which would be more evidence that he ultimately resigned due to PC madness. It just took a few months of pressure for the feminists to get him out.

And you would look silly.

Like I said, you guys thrive on bullshit.

Posted by: Captain Toke | Feb 23, 2006 3:58:00 PM

Rush Oxycontin is yapping all about this today. Civil war in Iraq, scary extortion deals on US ports, US family income dropping again, but, "hey, the feminazis are taking over Harvard! Oh! The indignity!"

Posted by: sprocket | Feb 23, 2006 5:35:34 PM

Not to keep fanning the flames, Toke, but I did say that. I think Summers should have been canned - immediately - and I'm glad he's gone. I think Summers was in the wrong. There's really not much else to be said about it. In fact, I did say something about it. And I'm happy I did.

But don't holler at Neil the Ethical Werewolf about what I posted.

Posted by: Pepper | Feb 23, 2006 5:51:19 PM

Toke, try and follow me here. Do you understand the difference between the following two clauses

"I don't understand why Summers wasn't forced out immediately for his remarks..."

"Summers should have been fired for his remarks"

The latter suggests that giving an offensive and poor summary of some scientific research outside your area *should be* a firing offense. I don't know if Pepper thinks this; he can speak for himself if he thinks it's worth his time to do so. I don't particularly think it should be (and if we were talking *actually* getting fired from his professorial post, rather than just demoted from his administrative post, I'd be extremely unhappy with Harvard about it, because academic freedom should protect much worse than anything Summers has ever said, including the likes of Ward Churchill and John Yoo).

But the first statement doesn't imply the second. To say that one doesn't understand could simply be to acknowledge that everyone knows that part of the job description of a university administrator is to not say things likely to offend lots of people, especially people (say, female scientists) you're actively trying to recruit. If he said something about all conservatives or Rebuplicans being idiots, that would seem to me to be perfectly reasonable grounds for removal as well (again, only from his administrative role, not his faculty post). His job is political. His statements about women and science were predictably impolitic. Adapting to political climates and behaving accordingly is part of his job that he was very bad at--this was just one example.

I'm not celebrating--I don't really care what Harvard does. The obsession with political correctness is a product of the right.

Posted by: djw | Feb 23, 2006 7:21:39 PM

What is revealing about the above comments is the whining and dogmatic dismissal of criticism conforming to simpering leftist stereotypes of anyone not. Anyone hear of "projection?"

Back on planet reality (yes, evidence actually is relevant, interesting, and probative to some people instead of childish smears and innuendo), in an extended interview Alan Dershowitz discusses the initiation of the presidential "coup" at Harvard - despite the demonstrated wishes of students (see Crimson survey finding only 19% wanted Summers out - but about two-thirds), alumni, and most non-FAS faculty:

"...let me tell you who engineered [the coup]. It was engineered by particularly an anthropology professor, a guy named Randy Matory, who teaches Afro-American and Afro-South American studies. And basically, what he said in his resolution that he first proposed, was Summers has to go because number one, he's too patriotic. He's trying to tell us to be more patriotic. And that, by Matory, is regarded as the great sin, that he's teaching patriotism...."
"He says, 'He (Summers) was telling us we should be more patriotic,' and that's among the list of things that he says he should be fired for. He said, 'He was also telling us that people who insist that Palestinians have rights should be quiet, because they're being anti-Semitic.'"

The latter Dershowitz states is simply false. The former,

Dershowitz claims that the initial FAS resolution reflected these questionable if not looney rationales for another 'no-confidence' reolution, slated for a FAS vote next week. (Source: http://www.radioblogger.com/#001409)

If the foregoing is true, then most of the dissmissive discussion above is simply false. How do you like dem apples?

Once again we see anti-democratic Democrats (if I may ascribe affiliation) in action - yet another demostration (see Iraq, see recent presidential election results) of why I am a proud EX-Democrat.

Posted by: Orson | Feb 24, 2006 2:29:33 AM

The obsession with political correctness is a product of the right.

I disagree. PC is a product of the left. Why? It serves the lefts agenda. The right used to have effective PC such as shame for unmarried mothers, shame for sex before marriage, etc.....but no more. Now it's the lefts tool of social control.
Now, it's shame for racism, shame for not bowing down to the alter of diversity, shame for not donating to a womens shelter, or not lauding the queer and lesbian 'rights' movement... etc.
I clearly believe the left is winning the shaming game.

Posted by: Fred Jones | Feb 24, 2006 8:28:21 AM

Orson,

It's quite difficult to understand what you're trying to say, but you seem to be rewriting Dershowitz's Huffington Post grandstanding.

Dershowitz might be right about the leftist motivations of Lorand Matory. I can assure you that Matory is only slighly more representative of the Harvard faculty than neo-con Harvey Mansfield. On the Huffington Post, Richard Bradley notes that the faculty explicitly repudiated several of Matory's ridiculous statments by excluding them from the no confidence resolution.

Dershowitz, typically, appears to think the entire Summers affair is about Israel -- as opposed to the real issues: the resignation of Dean Kirby, the "tawdry Shliefer affair," lack of administrative skill, centralization and power grabs, all of which are extensively documented in the Harvard Crimson.

Dershowitz is a contrarian and a raging egomaniac. His excellent skills as a criminal defense lawyer, sadly, leave him with very little regard for the truth.

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Posted by: Elissa Stafford | Sep 11, 2007 2:01:11 PM

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Posted by: judy | Oct 1, 2007 4:32:20 AM

I can't be bothered with anything recently. I haven't been up to anything. I don't care. I haven't gotten much done lately. Not that it matters.

Posted by: Sandra | Oct 1, 2007 5:36:13 AM

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