Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Summer Set

I've read a lot about poor Larry Summers and his troubled tenure at Harvard. The second-shortest serving president in Harvard history, Summers was known for a number of things: pushing much-needed Harvard reform; advancing undergraduate education; and not necessarily thinking before he spoke. From the Economist:

He clashed with Cornel West, a well known black professor, over Mr West's commitment to academic research. He challenged the banning of the army training corps from the Harvard campus. He suggested that a petition urging the university to sell stakes in companies doing business in Israel might be “anti-Semitic”. He went out of his way to defend his friend Andrei Shleifer from accusations that the economist had violated conflict of interest rules by investing in Russia. (Harvard and Mr Shleifer paid almost $30m to settle a civil suit brought by the American government over the issue.) And, most famously of all, Mr Summers infuriated the feminist establishment (and many others) by wondering out loud whether prejudice alone could explain the shortage of women at the top of science.


Harvard now desperately needs to push through equally radical reforms: improving undergraduate education while also seizing the opportunities of science and globalisation; correcting many of the problems of the sixties, while also reaching out to poorer students. Even if he was the wrong messenger, Mr Summers definitely had the right message.

Indeed. President Summers is a kind of victim of the entrenched liberal elite academic system that thrives in nearly all American colleges and Universities. Although I'm not totally sure about his abilities, it's a fact that Summers was a victim of an unruly faculty for speaking his mind while still being loved by the vast majority of Harvard students.

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