Tuesday, February 21, 2006 ... Deutsch/Español/Related posts from blogosphere

Icecream lost

Well, unfortunately I have just lost an icecream bet against Cumrun Vafa. The president resigned in the middle of our class - and he announced his sad intent in a written speech. The Harvard Corporation needed about 0.2 seconds to evaluate Summers' resignation and "surprisingly", the resignation was accepted and a reply was immediately sent back before I returned from the class. Then I needed 2 minutes to write this text. Harvard can be very efficient, indeed.

I am partly joking. Of course that I realize that all these letters have been prepared a relatively long time ago, not today. It had to be so. The Corporation had to act responsibly and be prepared for various alternatives. And it is almost certain that the decision to resign was not purely Summers' own decision. He had to speak to the members of the board.

Summers has been - and still is - an exceptional president, visionary, manager, provocateur, and an unusually sharp thinker-in-chief. He should have had more freedom to realize his dreams. However, many of his plans have been realized and many others will be realized by another president who will inherit the oldest U.S. university. I am not too afraid about Summers' future. Harvard Corporation will have to find a new president who will replace Derek Bok, the interim president from July 1st, 2006. Good luck.

The latest events had to be equally difficult for Summers himself as the events from 2005 but they were less frustrating for most of his supporters like me because the criticism was no longer exclusively based on general political and philosophical dogmas. Various critics have invented a lot of dirt and nonsense about Summers himself. While I find most of this criticism vacuous and inappropriate, it is no longer questioning the freedom of speech and thought at Harvard.

I am sure that even though Summers has resigned, the battle for the academic freedoms was one of his victorious ones. He gave a very good example to others how they should not be afraid to stand behind their ideas and evaluate them according to the available evidence rather than according to the ideological pressure of their environment.

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