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Summers To Be Sacked?

It is being reported that the Harvard Corporation is considering sacking Lawrence Summers prior to a faculty senate meeting later this month that is expected to result in a second no-confidence vote. The Reuters story, which summarizes stories from other newspapers, is here. One passage in the Wall Street Journal's article (subscription) on the matter caught my eye:

While donations to the university have remained high, the percentage of alumni giving to the university has declined, which some critics see as a sign of discontent with his leadership.

Query for Harvard alumni readers--is the proffered explanation for declining alumni giving rate accurate? It seems to me that there are two alternative explanations for a decline in alumni participation. It could be that the discontent is with Summers, his remarks, and his combative leadership style, the explanation suggested by the WSJ article (I have been told that he has crossed swords with the faculty on a variety of less-reported other issues as well, including such things as curriculum and suport for ROTC). Alternatively, it could be discontent with the response by the faculty to Summers's remarks and efforts to increase accountability among some faculty members, Summers's "kowtowing" response to the criticisms (his apologies and his spending initiative and other promises), and the Corporation's failure to support him.

In the end, of course, both explanations fall under the label of "discontent with his leadership," but it seems to me that they reflect different dynamics and different lessons. The WSJ reference to unnamed "critics" seems to simply assumes the conventional wisdom to be accurate. But I have heard from some of my Harvard alumni friends that their discontent is more with the faculty, Corporation, and Summers's response to the criticisms, rather than Summers's initial comments and confrontations. I don't know that either the WSJ's unnamed "critics" or my friends are particular representative of this slice of Harvard alumni.

So if you are a Harvardian, and especially if you are in the group referenced in the article that has ceased giving to the University for one reason or another in the past year or so, I'd be curious to hear what you are thinking in the Comments.

Aaron Bergman (mail):
My impression has always been that most of the faculty discontent with Summers has much more to do with his style of leadership and personal interaction rather than the more ballyhooed 'political' issues like his comments on women in science.
2.19.2006 3:02pm
Hanah Volokh (mail) (www):
Maybe people who went to Harvard are smart enough to realize that Harvard doesn't need any more money, and that their charitable efforts would do more good practically anywhere else.
2.19.2006 3:04pm
Sandman:
Actually, I think there's a third explanation. There's been some press recently about the tremendous size of private university endowments (a fairly lengthy article in the WSJ, for example) and the universities' inability or unwillingness to spend the *interest* earned annually on the principal, much less the new donations that come in annually. Harvard, with by far the largest of these endowments, has been held up as the poster child. I believe the article in the WSJ even cited falling contributions as a consequence.
2.19.2006 3:05pm
FXKLM:
You might want to change that headline. "Summers to Be Sacked" is bound to give some poor law student a heart attack.
2.19.2006 3:51pm
Jeremy Pierce (mail) (www):
I stopped giving to Brown when the president starting talking about having the university pay reparations for slavery. It so outraged my wife (who is black and had slave ancestors) that I couldn't in good conscience keep giving them money. It wouldn't surprise me if people would do the same in response to Summers if they couldn't see the difference between hate and simply encouraging scientific study of the causes behind differences.
2.19.2006 4:10pm
Shangui (mail):
I would strongly second Aaron Bergman's comment above. The Harvard faculty I know who are unhappy with Summer don't care about his comments on women in science, or at least don't care enough for them to call for his resignation. They feel that his management style has been intolerable and his treatment of the faculty has gone far beyond simply being abrupt and straightforward. It's one thing to privately suggest to Cornell West he focus more on traditional scholarly pursuits, it's another to intentionally spread rumors that you plan to fire the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences rather than privately requesting his resignation. My experience with Harvard was that most departments were happy so long as they were generally left alone. If the president was an ass but did not generally interfere with the smooth workings of the place, they didn't really care. Yes, many Harvard profs have sizable egos. But I really think this is more about the president's failures as an administrator than about either political correctness or easily bruised faculty egos.
2.19.2006 4:18pm
Christopher M (mail):
I don't know that either the WSJ's unnamed "critics" or my friends are particular representative of this slice of Harvard alumni.

I don't know that Harvard-alum readers of this blog are, either.
2.19.2006 4:24pm
argle (mail) (www):
As several commenters have already pointed out, if Summers is going to be forced out it's because his boy-king approach to management is (surprise!) not very popular with the faculty. Harvard is extremely inward-looking. Because it sees itself as defining excellence rather than pursuing it, as an institution it couldn't care less what anyone else thinks of how it works. Any political conflicts (such as discontent with the President) will always be fundamentally internal. Summers' opponents at Harvard hate him (rightly or wrongly) because of what he's doing to them, not because of "remarks" he's made about women in science or what have you.
2.19.2006 4:33pm
James V. DeLong (mail) (www):
I am a double Harvard alum (college &law) who gave up giving some years ago. My only regret about this is that it keeps me from stopping now -- out of disgust with the faculty's juvenile reaction to Summers AND out of anger with Summers for failing to defend himself.

The real issue is not the silly incident about women and math. It is that Summers has been trying to push Harvard away from its hysterical leftism, and the leftists found a stick with which to beat him.
2.19.2006 5:14pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
I don't know that Harvard-alum readers of this blog are [particularly representative].
I was thinking the same thing as Christopher. I'm College "83-"84, and while there were certainly libertarians, neocons, paleocons and liberty-respecting classic liberals among my classmates, we were a minority. I like Summers well enough, and respected him for that women and math thing, even more before he started mumbling apologies. And the football team has had two undefeated seasons in recent years, the first in a couple of generations. I've always given a nominal annual gift: I get listed, it gets the eager young phoneathonners off my back, and maybe it will help my kids if they think they can do better at Harvard than I did. But I was significantly poorer than my classmates as an undergraduate -- that point was clearly made when I drove the chartered bus for the cocktail party fundraisers for about-to-graduate Final Club members and their rich friends -- and remain so today. When I've got the extra cash it goes, as Hanah suggested, to Hillsdale College and to political advocacies with which I agree.
2.19.2006 5:32pm
PQuincy (mail):
In truth, I have pretty much refrained from donating to Harvard (with the exception of donations to the incomparable Widener Library), based on Harvard's own (former) policy of financial aid, which is that financial gifts and support should be directed primarily from those who need them most to carry out beneficial work.

In consequence, I've found public universities far far more deserving of support, among universities, and food banks far more deserving of support than any university.
2.19.2006 5:34pm
Grant Barnes (mail):
I resigned from an HU alumni group and an HLS alumni group in October 2004 because I felt that they were being taken over by MoveOn fanatics. I was disappointed and surprised by Harvard's failure to respond to my concerns. I was also appalled and outraged by the faculty's vote of no confidence in President Summers, which was unprecedented in Harvard's 370-year history. Accordingly, I am not inclined to continue my previous level of financial support to Harvard, especially where there are many needy non-profits to which my limited funds could make a substantial difference. However, I do continue activities that could benefit Harvard College students directly.
2.19.2006 5:41pm
GMUSL 2L (mail):
Why don't a bunch of like-minded right-of-center Summers supporters who would only donate if Summers stays on donate to some sort of fund-in-escrow, refundable if Larry gets canned within X period of time, otherwise it goes to Harvard?

(1) it shows the trustees that you're willing to put your money where your mouths are [not that you're not! I'm just saying that the trustees might not see it that way...]
(1.5) it gives your opinions more influence on the outcome.
(2) If Larry gets canned, you lose nothing.

The Onepeat.com guys were doing something similar with their contributions if they didn't get enough for a billboard.
2.19.2006 7:07pm
dk35 (mail):
GMUSL 2L,

Or, the right-of-center Harvard alumns could donate to the trust only on condition that the school stop giving admissions preferences to "legacy" applicants, because such preferential treatment takes spots away from students who really deserve to get in.

Given the moral outrage expressed in the comments to some of David Bernstein's recent post, I think this idea would be very popular.
2.19.2006 7:19pm
anonymous22:
Two observations: Some conservative alums would be disinclined to support Summers because he is a Democrat. I think Summers's comments were a mistake not only because people were offended by them, but because they are dangerous given Title IX of the Education Amendments, which prohibits gender discrimination in federally-funded schools. Summers's comments, if he had stood by them, might well have generated federal scrutiny of Harvard's science/math programs for evidence of systemic discrimination against women.
2.19.2006 7:37pm
anonymous22:
Also, given Alito's experience with CAP, right-of-center alumni groups are a BAD idea. Opposition to affirmative-action, as we recall, is actually opposition to integration, or "proportionate representation of minorities," as it was termed. Opposition to affirmative action is actually a serious faux pas in modern legal circles; as lawyers, we must all be in favor of affirmative action at a professional level.
2.19.2006 7:42pm
Ross Levatter (mail):
"Opposition to affirmative action is actually a serious faux pas in modern legal circles; as lawyers, we must all be in favor of affirmative action at a professional level."

A very brave and courageous defense of the politically correct position, anonymous22. Congratulations.
2.19.2006 8:27pm
H Alum:
The real issue . . . is that Summers has been trying to push Harvard away from its hysterical leftism, and the leftists found a stick with which to beat him.

That's a nice theory, but to the extent it's true it applies merely to a small segment of the relevant population. As the other commenters have noted, Summers's problems derive much more from his style and manner than his specific agenda or policies.
2.19.2006 9:04pm
anonymous22:
I was being sarcastic, Ross.
2.19.2006 9:04pm
Jon L:
I've been involved with HU since 1999. I have never heard anything from the faculty suggesting (serious) discontent with Summers's politics. I have consistently heared serious discontent with Summers's management. There is, in my experience, no reason to think that these no confidence votes are in any substantial way related to Summers's politics.
2.19.2006 9:35pm
GMUSL 2L (mail):
Anonymous: Some conservative alums would be disinclined to support Summers because he is a Democrat.

Well, he DID get a very long standing ovation at the FedSoc student symposium last year when he opened it up... to the point that he was clearly embarassed and said, "I am a Democrat, I have always been a Democrat, and I am proud to be a Democrat".

I don't think there were too many people there who thought he was anything else... it's common knowledge that he was Clinton's treasury secretary.
2.19.2006 10:15pm
DaveK (mail):
Just as a datapoint from a Harvard College grad:

I am far more discontented with Summers than with the faculty. My impression--from the outside, not following too closely--is that he's sacked a lot of good people and is behaving like a bull in a china shop. I think most of my classmates, at least the ones I've spoken to, feel similarly.

I'm not sure what effect it's had on giving, though. I've been giving less (at least proportionately to other causes) to Harvard lately, but not because of the Summers situation either way--rather, it's because I feel that other causes and institutions are a better place to donate, largely because they need the money more. (I haven't ceased outright to donate, though, nor do I plan to--rather, I give a token amount to show support and participation.)
2.19.2006 10:44pm
Chris Stone:
This is a great thread, and it's inspired me to de-lurk.

There was certainly a lot of discussion on my class e-mail list when Summers gave his speech on women in the sciences. My completely anecdotal observation is that opinion was split on the subejct at the time; both sides were organizing on-line petitions, for instance.

I ultimately think that Aaron Bergman and HAlum are right to say that this is about more than political correctness run amok, though, although that fact still reveals some disturbing trends at Harvard. Lookit, Harvard is a collection of fiefdoms (not unlike the Democratic Party) that don't cooperate with each other. A university president who wants to do anything other than fundraise is essentially in the position of herding cats, which is never easy anywhere, but is particularly difficult at Harvard.

This is a damn shame, since what I do admire Summers for is trying to return the position of university president to its status as bully pulpit. Where are the days of great leadership at universities, like President Conant at Harvard or Frederick Terman, who was Dean of Stanford's School of Engineering immediately after WWII and, from that perch, became one of the architects of Silicon Valley? (To boot, Stanford, via its Office of Technology Licensing, has made tons of money off of Terman's vision, which suggests the bully pulpit role is perfectly compatible with the fundraiser role.)

*That's* the tradition that Summers was trying to restore. Frankly, at some place like MIT or Stanford, he might have succeeded; even Chancellor Atkinson of the UC system forced the issue of the SAT onto the national agenda. But Harvard's schools are so autonomous that they naturally resist this kind of leadership.

As to why alumni donations are down, my first question is whether this is an overall trend or an anomaly. As a former "eager young phonathoners" that David Chesler referred to, I disagree pretty strongly with the "Harvard has too much money, therefore I won't donate" line. Harvard may have lots of money, but it needs it to be a world-class research institution. Would you rather it be in perpetual financial crisis, again like the UC system, which perpetually jeopardizes UC's standing?

That is a bit like saying, "the U.S. government has too much money, therefore we should abolish all taxes and let even the most minimal governmental functions, like national defense, wither." Which is great if you're Grover Norquist, but a bull-in-a-china-shop approach if you're anyone else.

(Phonathoning is the best job on campus, BTW. You meet lots of cool people, learn how to fundraise, and it pays better than anything other than dorm crew, and you don't have to clean any toilets.)
2.19.2006 11:23pm
David Friedman (mail) (www):
I'm a Harvard alumnus, but not a contributor, in part for the reasons Hanah suggested in her comment--I can think of a lot more useful places to donate money.

My view of the Summers controversy was that his original comments were reasonable, his backing off from them unfortunate, and the pressure from elsewhere in the university against his comments outrageous--but not surprising.

But I am not a very typical Harvard alumnus.
2.20.2006 2:35am
alkali (mail) (www):
I think Sandman's comment regarding the publicity over the size of university endowments is probably the best explanation. Ben Stein wrote last fall in the New York Times:
[T]he immense scale of [Yale's] endowment and its gains dwarfs my pitiful little gifts. If Mr. Swensen [i.e., David Swensen, the manager of Yale's endowment] and his pals are making a few billion a year for Yale in capital gains, say $3 billion, that's equal to about one million gifts of $3,000 from individual alumni. But there are only a few tens of thousands of us alums, so what we give has to be totally insignificant unless we are terribly rich. Why give the money, then? (For that matter, why charge tuition? Compared with the gains that the endowment is making, tuition is a drop in the bucket of Yale's income.)
As for my contributions, maybe we could look at it this way: I support an organization called the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, which provides social, emotional and material support to widows and widowers and children of military personnel who have died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If I contribute $10,000 to this group, the gift makes a huge difference to it. I support an organization called Soldiers' Angels that sends support packages to military personnel and their families. If I give $5,000, it means a lot. I also support the Friends of Animals Foundation, a kennel for abandoned dogs and cats on the west side of Los Angeles. If I give $15,000, it saves many animals' lives.
Gifts of these sizes are virtually meaningless to Yale, so why bother giving to it? My resources are very far from limitless, so why not give where it makes a difference?
Is it possible that giving to Yale right now is a bit like giving gifts to Goldman Sachs or Brown Brothers Harriman? I am sure that there are fine people in those places, and investment bankers are almost always intelligent, hard-working men and women. I enjoy their company. But they really don't need my money, and other people do.
(I think the question about tuition is a good one. Philip Greenspun plausibly has suggested that MIT ought to go tuition-free.)
2.20.2006 8:49am
LeeKane (mail):
Summers' management style rather than his battle against Harvard lock-step leftism may explain why the faculty dislikes him, but I can hardly imagine donors would stop giving to the University because its leader has a brusque and combatitive management style. I can hardly imagine the typical donor emotionally connecting to such a "problem" or concluding it is something donors should correct by witholding contributions. Rather, the sentiment that seems to emerge on this board from among those who don't give or who have toned down is a lack of passion for their alma mater. They may love it or remember it fondly but have no single-minded sense of a mission to make it better through giving. Why? A kind of malaise seems to be at work--with many causes, as usual. Then again perhaps Harvard grads are now so enlightened that, unlike other tribal university grads, they place their concern (and dollars) with the larger world, rather than with their tribe (and university). Certainly, however, Harvard doesn't need the money, not even to maintain itself as a top research institution. As an aside, I feel that people should withhold donations from many universities as a protest against their ridiculous tuition charges--getting those in line is the best thing one could do for future studennts.
2.20.2006 9:50am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
GMUS 2L suggests Why don't a bunch of like-minded right-of-center Summers supporters who would only donate if Summers stays on donate to some sort of fund-in-escrow, refundable if Larry gets canned within X period of time, otherwise it goes to Harvard?

This was tried with the Endowment for Divestiture in the mid 80s to early 90s. Money was placed in escrow to be released when either Harvard divested from South Africa, or South Africa gave up apartheid. I was not surprised that South Africa blinked before Harvard. (As Dean Rosovsky is reputed to have said to an undergraduate, "You're here for four years; I'm here for life; Harvard is here forever." Official Harvard has a very high opinion of itself, and gives very little thought to the rest of the world.)

Chris Stone says That is a bit like saying, "the U.S. government has too much money, therefore we should abolish all taxes and let even the most minimal governmental functions, like national defense, wither." Come now, it's like saying "The government has too much money, therefore we should lower taxes." See Prof. Volokh's many posts about slippery slopes, and this isn't one at all. Alumni contributions dropping off is not at all the same as contributions stopping and the endowment drying up. There are plenty of world-class institutions that have less money than Harvard does now.

And driving a shuttle bus (when that job was available to undergrads) beats phoneathoning. I've used skills learned on that job professionally as recently as four years ago, the last time I couldn't find work as a software engineer. (But maybe if I were articulate and outgoing enough to have begged for money I'd have gone into sales or stock brokering or law, and I would never have had to drive a school bus, and I'd have enough money that Harvard would actually care if I donated or not.)
2.20.2006 10:08am
David A. Smith (mail):
Alumnus, local resident, have never donated to Harvard.
The story is less than it seems; the Corporation was examining *a range of poissible outcomes.* Someone close to the Corporation (seven-member board) told me words to the effect that, as long as he keeps the money flowing in, Summers is solid. I suspect (too busy to do any research) that in fact Summers has dramatically increased the *size* of big grants.
The previous President, Neil Rudenstine, wore himself into a nervous breakdown (or equivalent) with a decade's glad-handing and fundraising broadly. Summers is the antidote (or anti-you-choose!) and while he has the outward persona of a constipated wolverine, my personal sense is that he's in no danger whatsoever.
2.20.2006 10:13am
PaulV (mail):
Any institution needs to be shaken up from time to time to keep from becoming stagnant, HU being no exception. Also, I give to the poor and do not care for subsidies for the rich
2.20.2006 11:03am
DMS (mail):
As a recent HLS alum, I pledge to cease all donations if Summers is indeed removed. The spirit of actual intellectual debate left Cambridge a long time ago (for the most part -- there are very notable exceptions to this rule). The majority of the faculty is far less interested in challenging and refining ideas than it is about confirming its own brilliance. Summers approach is completely incompatible with this insulated approach -- thus the backlash.

The Harvard faculty continues to plunge further into their own infinite egos.

The students deserve better.
2.20.2006 11:19am
Gary McGath (www):
I work for the Harvard Libraries, and haven't a clue. Not a very helpful piece of information, I know -- except that perhaps a lot of other people who think they know what's going are just relying on the same media reports that I read.
2.20.2006 11:44am
caractacus69 (mail):
I'd like to think that the faculty is only pushing to remove Summers so they can replace him with one of their own, Harvey "C Minus" Mansfield. I hereby pledge to double my annual donation if they can make it happen.

As an alum that seems his politics in the classic "liberal" tradition of supporting individual liberty over the state, I disagree with the implication that Harvard doesn't support free and honest debate. Compared with many other univesities I believe that during my tenure (87 - 91) it did a good job. Sadly, by in large the faculty wasn't the source of the debate. In my experience it was the students and the draw of the Harvard name for visitors to debates and forums that provided good, open discussion on campus.

I suspect that having an endownment equivalent to the GNP of a decent sized country might account for the lack of depth in giving.
2.20.2006 12:16pm
Matt L. (mail):
I've stopped giving to Harvard for the reasons suggested by Hanah, Sandman, and Ben Stein. As long as Harvard refuses to spend the interest on its endowment while tuition increases faster than inflation, I'm not giving them anything.
2.20.2006 1:00pm
Mr Diablo:
Well, he's an asshole for starters. He's abrasive and rude and blunt and all the while pretty smug, you'd think he'd fit in with a bunch of know-it-all professors. But, that isn't the case.

I'm not surprised, at all, that the people on this board are offering anecdotes about politics and lefty-this and anti-conservative bias that: It's the same spin all the time from them, and this issue has little to do with it.

It's about management style, and no, he did not endear himself to anyone with his comments, but that was a while ago, and since then, he's done little to make it seem that his apology for his comment was anything more than phony pacifying.

He doesn't have the right temperment for the job, and from what I've heard, he's rubbing everyone the wrong way.

Politics here, despite the protests of various righties on the board, is a red herring.

No one wants to work for or with a jerk, and see their own reputations slump because of him. I'm too poor to give, and prefer to give to charity, but the alums I've spoken with who have ever met Summers concur that he's impressively unimpressive in person and not a lot of fun to get to know and work with.
2.20.2006 1:48pm
frankcross (mail):
I've known him since undergrad days and like him, but I'm sure this is about personality more than politics. He's definitely a liberal more than a conservative, but he's an abrasive, arrogant guy. That works for CEOs. That doesn't necessarily work as Pres of a U full of people who consider themselves pretty highly.
2.20.2006 2:29pm
Anon Harvard Alum:
Didn't give because I forgot to. Live in the wrong timezone to get phonathoned every year. Not to mention my tiny donations.

But will donate now.

Anon '80's alum
2.20.2006 2:50pm
jcgraham:
I'm reminded his predecessor imploded under pressure. Couldn't take it, and didn't last long. Must've been a nice guy. I can't even remember his name.

As for shuttle driving, it's a noble job.
2.20.2006 3:15pm
alkali (mail) (www):
jcgraham writes:

I'm reminded his predecessor imploded under pressure. Couldn't take it, and didn't last long.

Actually, Neil Rudenstine served for 10 years, which is a long time for a uiniversity president.
2.20.2006 3:35pm
Federal Dog:
I for one do not donate to Harvard because of distrust of the faculty, not Summers. That being said, recent comments by some of Summers's allies ring increasingly true: They are finding it hard to stand by him because he has so wholly capitulated to hysterical faculty nonsense.


For goodness sake! An auto da fe at the -- wait for it -- Loeb Drama Center? And they want me to fund that?
2.20.2006 3:59pm
Nat (mail) (www):
As a recent grad, I can relate to what Hannah et al. have said about the relative merits of contributing to Harvard or to some other, perhaps needier, charity. Nonetheless, I suspect that most recent graduates have some fuzzy notion that they should still give something nominal as a goodwill gesture. But that notion can get eclipsed pretty easily when we're confronted with a good reason to not give. Graduates (especially recent ones) being generally liberal, I'd say a few of them are unhappy with Summers challenging the status quo, and that might be a reason for not giving. But I think far more would-be donors have been discouraged after seeing things like the Ben Stein article in contrast to the massive need for charitable giving in the aftermath of the tsunami and Katrina.
2.20.2006 5:01pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
One thing I've noticed in the news coverage is that only the Arts &Sciences faculty voted no confidence in Summers, and only the A&S faculty is headed toward another vote on Feb. 28. Even so, discussions about the controversy almost always refer to dissatisfaction among the Harvard faculty as a whole. This may be because the other faculties feel the same way, but my sense is that most people covering the story don't recognize the distinction. Even Prof. Zywicki's post refers to a vote by the "faculty senate", which suggests a university-wide body.

A&S may be the core of the university, but its faculty is considerably less than half of Harvard's total and a significant number of them support Summers. Does anyone know how the other faculties (Medicine, Law, Divinity, Business, etc.) feel about him? Could it be that a large majority of the faculty as a whole is on his side? Or is A&S somehow able to have its way regardless of what most Harvard professors want?
2.20.2006 5:53pm
Phill (mail):
At the end of the day Harvard is a second rate school with a first rate reputation and will remain so as long as it continues to maintain its policy of favoring 'legacies' in admissions. This policy was originally started as a way of keeping Jews out which is why all the smart faculty in the emerging field of computer science are down the road at MIT.

Summers has given the impression of wanting to set up a new discrimination against women. Harvard is already at the sharp end of a lawsuit brought by female faculty who were denied tenure by Summers exercising the Presidential veto power - which he has used to block virtually all the grants of tenure to women. Members of the law faulty are representing the plaintiffs against the university. Those idiotic statements two years ago are going to cost Harvard a lot of money.

At the end of the day Harvard is the faculty, not the corporation or President. If the corporation refuse to remove Summers the faculty will win in the end.

What I find amazing here is that a former member of Clinton's cabinet can get the knee-jerk support of rightwingers by crying 'discrimination'. The job of University Presidential is largely diplomatic. People who make unnecessary idiotic statements as Summers does regularly are simply not up to the job.
2.20.2006 8:32pm
Edward A. Hoffman (mail):
Phil wrote:
At the end of the day Harvard is a second rate school with a first rate reputation and will remain so as long as it continues to maintain its policy of favoring 'legacies' in admissions. This policy was originally started as a way of keeping Jews out which is why all the smart faculty in the emerging field of computer science are down the road at MIT.
I'm not especially eager to defend Harvard, but calling it second-rate is hard to justify. Your logic certainly doesn't make much sense; if the reason it's second-rate is its preference for legacies, then you must think it could abruptly become first-rate tomorrow by ending that practice. Most people would consider this change irrelevant to the school's quality. Besides, almost all of Harvard's peer institutions do the same thing, so you must consider them second-rate as well. Is anyone left that you can call first-rate?

And how on earth does Harvard's admissions process have any effect on who gets appointed to MIT's faculty at all, let alone in a particular field? I agree that MIT is much stronger in computer science, but the reasons have nothing to do with legacy admissions across town.

Finally, why do you consider computer science an "emerging field"? I was a computer science major (at Columbia) in the mid-80's, but even then many people would have said the field had already emerged. How much more established do you think it needs to be before it's no longer "emerging"?

Then there's this one:
Harvard is already at the sharp end of a lawsuit brought by female faculty who were denied tenure by Summers exercising the Presidential veto power - which he has used to block virtually all the grants of tenure to women.
How do you know the stage at which these profs were denied tenure? And even if Summers really did veto their appointments, what evidence do you have that men were treated better or that gender played any role at all in his decisions?
2.20.2006 9:11pm
jgshapiro (mail):
Phil also wrote:
At the end of the day Harvard is the faculty, not the corporation or President. If the corporation refuse to remove Summers the faculty will win in the end.
Harvard is not really the faculty -- any more than the NY Yankees are the players who play for them at any given moment, or the NY Times is the individual reporters who work for it on any given day. If a majority of the current Yankees became Red Sox, how many Yankees fans would change their loyalties? If the top writers at the Times all went to the NY Post, how many subscribers would follow suit?

How many Harvard faculty members can the average prospective Harvard student name? Yet, Harvard has an incredibly high yield rate in admissions. How many faculty members can the average prospective employer of Harvard grads name? Yet, a Harvard grad will usually get an interview.

Harvard is a brand name. Faculty want to work there because to the average person, not to mention the media, saying that you are a Harvard professor gives your statements more credibility than if you worked anywhere else. Plus, you get to teach (on average) the best students.

The likelihood that a significant number of faculty would leave if Summers stays seems quite low indeed.
2.21.2006 1:04am
AF:
I think it's hard to pin any change in donations on Summers's relationships with faculty. If it has anything to do with Summers, it's more likely his relationships with donors. But what really interests me is less the donations, and more the idea that the Corporation is seriously doubting his leadership. Ultimately, they make the decision, so their views are bigger news than those of the alumni as a whole.
2.21.2006 2:02am
Marc :
I heard it said once that LS has the personal management style of an economist. That seems right to me. I don't donate on the grounds Hanah cites, though I do tell the phonatonners that I will donate a reciprocal percentage of the endowment of the small college at which I teach. I have not yet been taken up on the offer.
2.22.2006 3:27am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Alkali wrote Actually, Neil Rudenstine served for 10 years, which is a long time for a uiniversity president.

But how does that tenure fit among Harvard presidents?

Eliot 1869-1909, 40 years
Lowell 1909-1933, 24 years
Conant 1933-1953, 20 years
Pusey 1953-1971, 18 years
Bok 1971-1991, Acting 2006-, 20 years and counting
Rudenstine 1991-2001, 10 years
Summers 2001-2006, 5 years


It takes me several days, after I get back to Boston, to realize that the reference "the president" refers to the president of Harvard and not to a minor official in Washington. - Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
2.22.2006 7:15am