Sunday, January 23, 2005
Harvard's President Summers and the Resurgence of "Scientific Sexism" Part I. This Is a Recruiting Strategy?
As if we did not already have enough reactionary "noise pollution" in this society, Lawrence H. Summers, Harvard University's President, has managed to put his foot in it again.
Summers has been compelled to apologize for the remarks on the subject of gender inequaIity that he made in front of an academic conference in Boston on January 14.
After all, the University has recently committed $25 million of special funds to help recruit underrepresented groups, including female and minority faculty.
Furthermore, the attendees at the Boston conference included a select group of some of the most talented female academics in the country -- including several that Harvard wanted to recruit!
So this was hardly an object lesson in labor market strategy.
”Hey, I’ve got an idea! Why don’t we get 50 of the country’s brightest women in the country together in the same room and patronize the hell out of them! That'll work!”
As noted below, this recent incident is just the latest in a long line of unfortunate missteps by President/Herr Professor Summers, a highly-intelligent but congenitally-insensitive former economist.
It also turns out that the President of Harvard was woefully simplistic about the latest academic literature on gender inequality, and rather patronizing and counter-productive in his attempt to "provoke" further research by speculating from the hip about it -- without consulting the best minds in the field, many of whom were seated in the audience!
Whatever we may believe about gender differences and sexual discrimination in academic institutions, therefore, this episode clearly raises serious questions about whether President Summers has the judgment and emotional maturity to occupy one of the most prominent academic offices in the land.
This remains true, whether or not his persistent judgmental errors are explained by his genetic endowment, his childhood experiences, his child-rearing choices, or his astrological sign.
To be continued in Part II: "The Market for Provocation"