"Fear and Intimidation at Harvard: What Do Academic Women Want?" Weekly Standard, 7 March 2005.
AT LAST WEEK’S HARVARD FACULTY MEETING, President Larry Summers saved his job, but he took a pummeling from his angry critics. Summers is easily the most outstanding of the major university presidents now on the scene–the most intelligent, the most energetic, as well as the most prominent. So, alarmed at his abilities and intentions, the Harvard faculty decided it would be a good idea to humiliate him.
Summers has supporters, and not all the faculty joined in the game of making him look sick. But the supporters, like Summers himself, were on the defensive, making concessions, and the critics were not. The critics consist of feminist women and their male consorts on the left. But since the left these days looks opportunistically for any promising cause, it is the feminists who are the core opposed to Summers. Together the feminists and the left make up perhaps half the faculty, the other half being moderate liberals who are afraid of the feminists rather than with them.
Summers saved his job by skating backwards, listening to his critics without demur and occasionally accepting their harsh words by saying he agreed with them. At no point did he feel able to say yes, but . . . in order to introduce a point of his own in response. His accusers were relentless and, as always with feminists, humorless. They complained of being humiliated, but they took no care not to humiliate a proud man. They complained too of being intimidated, but they were doing their best to intimidate Summers–and they succeeded.
At the meeting many said that the issue was not academic freedom vs. political correctness, as portrayed by the media, but Summers’s style of governing. The point has a bit of truth. Summers is an economist, and there is almost no such thing as a suave economist. The great Joseph Schumpeter, a Harvard economist of long ago, claimed to be the world’s greatest lover as well as the world’s greatest economist (it is said), but he was a singular marvel. The reason why economists are blunt is that words of honey seem to them mere diversion from reason and self-interest, which are the only sure guides in life.