Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Bring back Cornel West and easy A’s
Summers to Step Down As Harvard President

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) -- Lawrence H. Summers is resigning as president of Harvard University at the end of the academic year, the school announced on its Web site Tuesday.

Summers' resignation ends the briefest tenure of any Harvard president since 1862, when Cornelius Felton died after two years in office.

The announcement comes a week before an expected no-confidence vote by the Harvard faculty, who have criticized Summers leadership style and comments about women in science.

"I have reluctantly concluded that the rifts between me and segments of the Arts and Sciences faculty make it infeasible for me to advance the agenda of renewal that I see as crucial to Harvard's future," Summers wrote in a letter posted on Harvard's Web site. "I believe, therefore, that it is best for the University to have new leadership."

Last year, Summers suggested that innate gender differences between the sexes might explain the few women in science and math...

Summers never had a chance (see below). He was a dead man walking less than a year into his presidency. He actually wanted the professors to teach not proselytize. He wanted Harvard to be a center for academic excellence rather than a pond of “progressives” dispensing the pabulum of political correctness. And the Arts and Sciences faculty would have none of it. Only Summers’ backbone allowed him to last as long as he did.

Seeing crimson

THESE days [Ed. - 1/3/02] university presidents are a hopelessly anodyne bunch. They mouth politically-correct platitudes, make nice comments to potential benefactors and, in general, do their utmost to avoid saying anything that might be misconstrued as either interesting or original.

How refreshing then to deal with Larry Summers. Bill Clinton's erstwhile treasury secretary has always found it hard to suffer nonsense gladly. In Washington, DC, he was muzzled, at least in public. But since being named president of Harvard University six months ago he has reverted to type.

First, Mr Summers called for something to be done about grade inflation. This year more than half of all grades given at Harvard were As. Yet before Mr Summers appeared, most of the 2,000 strong faculty apparently regarded this as a testimony to their brilliant teaching, rather than anything to do with collapsing standards.

Then he praised patriotism, telling a meeting at the Kennedy School that “patriotism” is a word “used too infrequently in communities such as this”, and lamented that the Vietnam War had led to a disaffection “toward people who wear uniforms”. This too seems to have gone down badly.

Now he is at war with the university's Afro-American studies department. According to the Boston Globe, last October Mr Summers rebuked Cornel West [Ed. – West eventually left and went to Princeton; get a load of the song ‘Stolen King’ on West's website. Remember, this is an 'Ivy League' professor not some backwater community college instructor], who holds one of Harvard's coveted university professorships. Mr West's alleged sins included recording a rap CD, leading a political committee for Al Sharpton's possible presidential campaign, writing books more likely to be reviewed in The New York Times than in academic journals and allowing grade inflation.

Since then the incident has spiralled into a full-blown academic tempest. The insulted Mr West is considering a rival offer from Princeton, his former employer. Henry Louis Gates, the department head, and Kwame Anthony Appiah, a philosopher, are thinking of going with him. Mr West has also announced that he intends to take a leave of absence.

It will get worse. Jesse Jackson, that well-known crusader for academic standards, has arranged a meeting with Mr Summers. “The tension at Harvard is having an impact across the country,” says Mr Jackson, whose last venture into politics was to try to broker a deal with the Taliban. Mr Sharpton also wants to meet Mr Summers. He is considering filing a lawsuit against Harvard as “an aggrieved party”...

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