March 15th, 2005 (thanks CIP for having corrected my typo) will be mentioned as a sad day in the history of Harvard University. The main point of the FAS faculty meeting in the Loeb Drama Center was a largely symbolic no-confidence vote proposed by Prof. Lorand Latory. It passed by a healthy margin 218:185; eighteen professors abstained. The less radical but equally sick resolution composed by Prof. Theda Skočpol has passed by a huge margin, too (253:137).
Figure 1 (missing): Lawrence Summers surrounded by celebrating protesters and journalists.
Because I was afraid of this result, I voted for the motion to postpone the no-confidence vote indefinitely; unfortunately, this desperate attempt of Philip Kuhn (Asian Languages) to avoid a disaster did not pass. The previous blog article with 54+ links to texts supporting Lawrence Summers was here.
This slightly surprising result has occured despite a significant number of speakers with very powerful and very diverse arguments opposing the motions - speakers whose reasoning has topped the intellectual strength of the advocates of the resolutions, as far as I can say. It was not just Steve Pinker, our star psychologist who has unsuccessfully tried to explain everyone that the statistical distributions are derived via research and papers, not by votes, and the right-wingers Ruth Wisse and Stephen Thernstrom who offered their arguments. Some economists followed, although their speeches were not quite perfect from a formal viewpoint. As another speaker has pointed out, the historians will look at the FAS faculty today as an example of another era of McCarthyism where the enemy was not in the government: it was within which is much more worrisome.
Most of the faculty decided to support the misguided declarations based on a flawed reasoning; the intent to divide the faculty and suppress everyone who has a different opinion; a disrespect to the free inquiry and the academic search for the truth; a chaotic approach to the management; an ordinary human misunderstanding. I am sure that many of those who supported the motion will think that their dogmas have been declared universally true. But they have not. The truth (i.e. VERITAS from Harvard's logo) does not really care about the confused opinions of a few (namely two) hundreds of colleagues of ours, and I hope that the Harvard Corporation cares just an infinitesimal bit more.
The main thing that this vote has proved to me is that some of the politically correct people won't hesitate to use almost any tools to achieve their goals and to threaten those who disagree with them, and the only way how they stop before doing something really unwelcome is that someone else will stop them. It won't happen automatically, I am afraid.
As another speaker has pointed out, this symbolic vote was not really about Lawrence Summers who is an extremely bright and kind of successful guy anyway - and who will not get lost: it was about the professors of FAS themselves and they have failed miserably. No doubt, most of the votes supporting the shameful declarations came from humanities and social sciences - especially the people who think that they can determine the scientific truth by a vote (and by having a couple of politically powerful friends) and people who are not even wrong. Those who believe that the objective truth (and objective science) cannot exist and all opinions reflect the political power - and the people who are living their lives trying to prove this point.
Once the media informed about the sad news, Harvard immediately lost some donations, for example from this guy. Most likely, others will follow. And let me emphasize that I am not happy at all about it - especially because Summers will be blamed even for these things. Others have said, for example,
- Summers told the truth when he knew damn good and well at Harvard only the current pravda is permitted to be spoken. Fortunately, those of us in the real world know what Harvard is all about and can judge this ridiculous action accordingly. (Jeff Naylor)
- What kind of a man supports the presidency of Babangida but not that of Summers? [Mr. Matory.] Not anyone that I’d want educating my children. (Richard Bennett)
James Brown and independently The Big Trunk compared the faculty meeting to the trial with Socrates. James Joyner also appreciates Summers, and is sad that Skočpol, a "legendary figure in comparative political science", joined this mess. Imperial Requiem is also bothered by the news. Dave Gwydion's informer who attended the meeting adds some details. Glenn Reynolds from the ultra-popular blog Instapundit.com informs that "conservatives chortle" and quotes Stanley Kurtz who says:
- I think the vote of no confidence in Lawrence Summers is a wonderful thing. Harvard continues to discredit itself with the American public. The faculty is trapped. If Summers resigns, this extraordinary example of political correctness will come back to haunt Harvard, and the entire academy, for years. But if Summers hangs on, the faculty itself will have been humiliated–checked by the very fact of public scrutiny. Either way, Harvard is tearing itself apart. So long as the public simply writes of the academy, the mice can play. But the intense public scrutiny in this case puts the captains of political correctness into a no-win situation. Like the closely watched Susan Estrich fiasco, this battle is doing lasting damage to the cultural left. As they say, sunlight is the best disinfectant.
- Summers is an awfully smart man. Could this have been his plan all along?
Well, guys, I am sure that you may have a lot of fun if you have nothing to do with Harvard today (yes, I know that Stanley Kurtz is both an alumnus as well as a former Harvard professor, greetings!) and if you view Harvard as a uniform body of self-described politically correct communist feminist intellectuals. Aren't you also forgetting about the 185 people who voted against the resolutions?
John Lott says:
- It shows just how far out of it academia is when they view even a liberal democrat such as Larry Summers as unacceptable.
Nathaniel Ward describes the act as follows:
- In a shocking display of political correctness, the Harvard faculty has voted a lack of confidence in President Larry Summers. The move is not entirely "unexpected," as the Harvard Crimson called it, but it is silly and petty.
The number of articles upset about the vote is just too large, so let me pick a few more random ones:
- Trucker's corner not only calls the vote "idiotic" but it also mentions some not completely flattering memoirs.
- Also, Justin Appletonian says that something is gravely wrong.
- Florida pilot says that PC wolves on the prowl take on one of their own.
- Brad from Lips Brothers is convinced that he must be missing something because he can't understand how could the statements on genders be the reason.
- Scared Monkeys salute me and 184 of my soulmates. ;-)
- The Armchair genius finds the comparison of the votes related to Summers and Churchill humorous, and calls Harvard "the bastion of regulated expression".
- Andi's World calls "stop the madness" and she thinks that Harvard needs testosterone.
- Brian Larson says that Summers needs a blog.
- Joe Gandelman, the moderate voice, talks about "PC hell at Harvard".
- Moon over Pitsburgh argues that suppressing free speech is against what this country should be all about.
- Neil Boortz describes the Larry Summers jihad.
- We, the Enlightened Few in the Holy Faculty of Arts and Sciences, condemn Mr. Lawrence Summers for engaging in improper mental exercises such as logical thought and noncompliance with Received Progressive Widsom. We hope that, in the future, Mr. Summers will learn his place and not pretend that Harvard University tolerates such heresy.
- It's time we call political correctness what it is: a liberal code of thought, speech and conduct.