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Rolf Englund IntCom internetional

Lawrence H. Summers resigns as President of Harvard


More about Lawrence H. Summers

The first time I heard him speak, when he was still Treasury secretary in the Clinton administration, he said something like,
"There are two views on this subject, A and B, and I know I should say the truth lies between them.
But it doesn't: A is right and B is wrong."

I recognize that Summers’ unpopularity with Harvard’s faculty went beyond his decision to make a controversial point in a speech,
but I dread the message his resignation sends in an atmosphere in which professors, students, and administrators are already often afraid to depart from designated political or ideological orthodoxies.
After all, if the president of Harvard can’t make provocative comments, challenge assumptions, or engage in dissent, then who can?

The president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, sparked an uproar at an academic conference Friday when he said that innate differences between men and women might be one reason fewer women succeed in science and math careers. Summers also questioned how much of a role discrimination plays in the dearth of female professors in science and engineering at elite universities.

The Boston Globe 17/1 2005

He offered three possible explanations, in declining order of importance, for the small number of women in high-level positions in science and engineering. The first was the reluctance or inability of women who have children to work 80-hour weeks.

The second point was that fewer girls than boys have top scores on science and math tests in late high school years. ''I said no one really understands why this is, and it's an area of ferment in social science," Summers said in an interview Saturday. ''Research in behavioral genetics is showing that things people previously attributed to socialization weren't" due to socialization after all.

This was the point that most angered some of the listeners, several of whom said Summers said that women do not have the same ''innate ability" or ''natural ability" as men in some fields.Asked about this, Summers said, ''It's possible I made some reference to innate differences. . . I did say that you have to be careful in attributing things to socialization. . . That's what we would prefer to believe, but these are things that need to be studied."Summers said cutting-edge research has shown that genetics are more important than previously thought, compared with environment or upbringing. As an example, he mentioned autism, once believed to be a result of parenting but now widely seen to have a genetic basis.In his talk, according to several participants, Summers also used as an example one of his daughters, who as a child was given two trucks in an effort at gender-neutral parenting. Yet she treated them almost like dolls, naming one of them ''daddy truck," and one ''baby truck."

It was during his comments on ability that Hopkins, sitting only 10 feet from Summers, closed her computer, put on her coat, and walked out. ''It is so upsetting that all these brilliant young women [at Harvard] are being led by a man who views them this way," she said later in an interview.

Nancy Hopkins, a biologist at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, walked out on Summers' talk, saying later that if she hadn't left, ''I would've either blacked out or thrown up." Five other participants reached by the Globe, including Denice D. Denton, chancellor designate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, also said they were deeply offended, while four other attendees said they were not.

Wall Street Journal comment:
You've just gotta love this Nancy Hopkins, who managed with her little outburst to reinforce stereotypes of feminists as humorless harpies and of women as ruled by their emotions.

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