Items on Summers's Resignation From Harvard
HARVARD POLITICS [Stanley Kurtz]
The New York Times notes that Summers knew he had to go when colleagues from the Clinton administration told him so.
The Times adds that Summers is thinking of advising a Democratic presidential campaign. There you have the explanation for Summers' appeasement. Summers is from the sane side of the Democratic Party (yes, there is one). These moderate Democrats want to bring the academy closer to the center of the country. But when push came to shove, the leftist faculty wouldn't play along.
That left Summers and his moderate Democrat backers on the board to choose between appeasement and a serious public battle. Ultimately, Summers and his allies backed down because they are part of the same national political coalition as the leftist faculty (which contributes heavily to the Democratic Party). Moderate Dems would be happy to reform the academy, but they don't have the stomach to treat leftist professors as open opponents. Only Republicans can do that. So in a way, we are seeing another iteration of the paralyzing split between DLC types and the fire-breathing base. The Democratic left is just too big, too powerful, and too essential to victory to be purged, as Peter Beinart wanted to do.
That brings us to all those surveys of party registration in the academy. Party registration is a rough proxy for point of view in those surveys. But the Summers case suggests that it might be something more as well. The minuscule number of Republicans professors on campus shows that even moderate Democrats are unable to put the academy's house in order without Republican help. So long as actual conservatives are effectively banned from the faculty (and make no mistake, they are now effectively banned), nothing will change. Not only will an entire set of ideas be missed, but even moderate Democrats will be cowed into submission. They can't make war on the folks they work with in their larger political battles. And right now the academy needs war, not love.
Alan Dershowitz, in "Coup against Summers a dubious victory for the politically correct" describes the center-left split at the heart of this conflict. And here is Amity Shlaes on how the moderate mind-set of Clinton's economic team tried but failed to reign in the radical 1970's era sensibility still dominant on Harvard's faculty.
February 22, 2006
President of Harvard Resigns, Ending Stormy 5-Year TenureBy ALAN FINDER, PATRICK D. HEALY and KATE ZERNIKE
Lawrence H. Summers resigned yesterday as president of Harvard University after a relatively brief and turbulent tenure of five years, nudged by Harvard's governing corporation and facing a vote of no confidence from the influential Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
The announcement by Dr. Summers, an economist and a former secretary of the Treasury, disappointed many students on the campus and raised questions about future leaders' ability to govern Harvard with its vocal and independent-minded faculty.
But advisers and confidants of Dr. Summers said he privately concluded a week ago that he should step down, after members of Harvard's governing corporation and friends — particularly from the Clinton administration — made it clear that his presidency was lost.
Dr. Summers, who earned a base salary of $563,000 in the 2004-5 academic year and received a 3 percent raise last July, is to leave office June 30. Derek C. Bok, 75, who was Harvard's president from 1971 to 1991, will serve as interim president until a permanent successor is found.
Hailed in his first days as a once-in-a-century leader, in the mold of perhaps Harvard's greatest president, Charles W. Eliot, Dr. Summers, 51, came into office with plans to expand the campus, put new focus on undergraduate education and integrate the university's schools. But he eventually alienated professors with a personal style that many saw as bullying and arrogant.
His well-known desire to change Harvard's culture, which he saw as complacent, was accompanied by slights to some faculty members and missteps like his statement last year that women might lack an intrinsic aptitude for math and science.
And some of his major decisions — including overhauling the undergraduate curriculum, appointing deans and mapping out a new campus — were hugely divisive at the 370-year-old university.
"I looked at the extent of the rancor that had emerged in parts of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences," Dr. Summers told reporters yesterday, "and the extent to which for many I personally had become a large issue, and concluded very reluctantly that the agenda for the university that I cared about — as well as my own satisfaction — would be best served by stepping down."
Dr. Summers's decision came after three fractious weeks following the resignation of William C. Kirby, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and left the university divided. About 50 students waving signs that said "Stay, Summers, Stay" and chanting "Larry, Larry" rallied in Harvard Yard yesterday after the news broke. Dr. Summers appeared to cheers and dispensed high-fives.
At the same time, several prominent donors said they were aghast at Dr. Summers's fall.
"How can anyone govern a university where a fraction of faculty members can force a president out?" said Joseph O'Donnell, a Boston business executive who is a former member of Harvard's Board of Overseers and a prominent donor.
But several of Dr. Summers's faculty critics — predominantly in the humanities and social sciences, but extended across the university — said the president had made the right decision.
"A strong leader is not just someone who can name a goal or force a change," said Mary C. Waters, a sociology professor, "but someone who can bring out the best in people and find ways to encourage teamwork."
Though Harvard negotiated a university professorship for Dr. Summers — the highest faculty position, with rights to teach in any department — his friends said they did not know if he would take it.
His sabbatical year next year, they said, may be a moment for him to survey his opportunities, including Wall Street or the possibility of advising a Democratic presidential campaign. Several of these people declined to speak on the record because they did not want to be seen as divulging Dr. Summers's thoughts.
But they were also not surprised at how his tenure ended. After last year's dispute over women in science and a no-confidence vote last March by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, several senior Harvard officials close to Dr. Summers wondered whether each faculty meeting would become a moment to rekindle no-confidence votes.
"Win or lose, he realized that it was going to be very difficult to govern and that the better part of valor was to step aside," said David R. Gergen, director of the university's Center for Public Leadership at the John F. Kennedy School of Government.
Dr. Summers's aides and supporters had tried to find ways to save his presidency before the second no-confidence vote, set for next Tuesday. Dr. Summers also sought ideas from allies including another Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, Robert E. Rubin, who is a member of the seven-seat governing corporation, and Gene B. Sperling, a former economic adviser to Mr. Clinton.
At times Dr. Summers had sounded as if he wanted to fight on, some of his confidants said, but in other moments he sounded weary. By the time he left for a ski vacation in Utah last Thursday, he had decided to resign, two aides said yesterday.
At the same time, corporation members — particularly Nannerl O. Keohane, the former president of Duke University, and Robert D. Reischauer, president of the Urban Institute — began contacting professors to gauge their reaction to a resignation or even a forced dismissal.
Two Harvard faculty members, who spoke with several members of the corporation, said yesterday that they believed it was the corporation's idea, more than Dr. Summers's, that he step down. Members of the corporation did not respond to messages seeking comment. The Wall Street Journal reported on Monday that Dr. Summers was expected to resign this week.
Dr. Summers said yesterday that he was not forced to quit, and he sounded enthusiastic about starting new research on international economics after his sabbatical. "In the course of talking with a number of people about what to do," he said, "I of course spoke to members of the corporation, but it was my decision."
While the resignation of Dr. Kirby — and debate over whether he was forced out by Dr. Summers — touched off the current faculty uproar, Dr. Summers's greater problem was the intense ill will and even loathing toward him within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the university's largest unit.
The controversies often became a distraction for administrators who were trying to focus on priorities like planning the next major fund-raising campaign. Still, officials said that annual fund-raising was not down.
Dr. Summers apologized repeatedly for his communication skills, if not for his management. But his remarks about women in the sciences led to last year's 218-to-185 no-confidence vote, and, several professors said, that anger never dissipated.
Professors at the School of Public Health considered a similar vote last year before forgoing one. Dr. Summers also had sharp critics at the Law School and the Graduate School of Education.
"There was no smoking gun, but there were innumerable brush fires," said one critic, Howard Gardner, a professor of cognition and education, referring to the controversies surrounding Dr. Summers.
Since its founding in 1636, Harvard has ceded unusually strong power to its faculties over their different budgets, endowments and perquisites; the presidency, in turn, is designed to be a relatively weak office.
But Dr. Summers enthusiastically filled the bully pulpit. He inveighed against grade inflation and demanded more rigor in teaching, two issues that came up in his private conversation in 2001 with Cornel West, then a professor of African and African-American studies. Dr. West said afterward that he felt insulted by Dr. Summers, and he soon left for Princeton University.
Dr. Summers was more successful with students, who thrilled to the sight of the president's showing up at dances and study breaks, and signing dollar bills that bore his signature as Treasury secretary. In a weekend poll by The Harvard Crimson, the student daily, undergraduates backed him three to one.
Josh Downer, 19, a freshman, who rallied for Dr. Summers yesterday, said he believed that disgruntled faculty had forced him out. "The faculty is throwing a temper tantrum because the president set a bold agenda that doesn't necessarily align with the egos of the faculty," Mr. Downer said.
But to many officials and professors, the rift had become personality-driven, and Dr. Summers had not changed his behavior after promising to do so.
"It's very hard for adults to change their personality, and Harvard needs a personality who can get all the faculty and schools to work together for the good of the university," said Bruce Alberts, a member of Harvard's Board of Overseers.
Dr. Summers also offended some with what many saw as a style more suited to Washington than to Cambridge. He was driven in a black limousine with a license plate reading "1636," the year of Harvard's founding; Dr. Bok, by contrast, had driven his own Volkswagen bus. And Dr. Summers hired his own public relations adviser, who had worked for Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain; she has since departed.
Several professors said they resented the suggestion by Dr. Summers's supporters that he had been forced to resign because the Faculty of Arts and Sciences was simply intransigent.
"For all his extraordinary talents, he just hasn't provided the kind of leadership to the university that people were prepared to follow," said Harry R. Lewis, a professor of computer science and the former dean of Harvard College, who stepped down in 2003 after disagreeing frequently with Dr. Summers.
Other professors said they hoped the next president of Harvard would be no less forceful than Dr. Summers in the cause of the school's agenda.
"I hope people don't conclude from this episode that university presidents must be cautious souls with muted voices," said Michael J. Sandel, a professor of government. "What Harvard needs now is an activist president of bold vision, along with the ability to inspire others to help carry it through."
Edmund L. Andrews contributed reporting from Washington for this article, Jonathan D. Glater from New York and Katie Zezima from Cambridge, Mass.
Coup against Summers a dubious victory for the politically correctBy Alan M. Dershowitz | February 22, 2006
A PLURALITY of one faculty has brought about an academic coup d'etat against not only Harvard University president Lawrence Summers but also against the majority of students, faculty, and alumni. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which forced Summers's resignation by voting a lack of confidence in him last March and threatening to do so again on Feb. 28, is only one component of Harvard University and is hardly representative of widespread attitudes on the campus toward Summers. The graduate faculties, the students, and the alumni generally supported Summers for his many accomplishments. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences includes, in general, some of the most radical, hard-left elements within Harvard's diverse constituencies. And let there be no mistake about the origin of Summers's problem with that particular faculty: It started as a hard left-center conflict. Summers committed the cardinal sin against the academic hard left: He expressed politically incorrect views regarding gender, race, religion, sexual preference, and the military.
The original no-confidence motion contained an explanatory note that explicitly referenced "Mr. Summers' apparently ongoing convictions about the capacities and rights not only of women but also of African-Americans, third-world nations, gay people, and colonized peoples." The note also condemned Summers for his 2002 speech in which he said calls from professors and students for divestment from Israel were "anti-Semitic in their effect if not their intent."
Although the explanatory note was eventually removed from the motion, it was the 400-pound gorilla in the room. Summers was being condemned for expressing views deemed offensive by some of the faculty. I personally disagreed with some of Summers's statements, but that is beside the point in an institution committed to academic freedom and diversity of viewpoints.
In the minds of at least some vocal members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, expressing such politically incorrect views is the academic equivalent of provoking Islamic extremists by depicting Prophet Mohammed in a political cartoon. Radical academics do not, of course, burn down buildings, at least not since the 1970s. Instead they introduce motions of no confidence and demand resignations of those who offend their sensibilities (while insisting on complete freedom of speech for those with whom they agree -- free speech for me but not for thee!).
Once the academic bloodletting began, it was difficult to stanch the wound. Everything Summers did, or did not do, became the object of criticism. Not only was the honeymoon over, the divorce had begun, at least in the minds of those determined to get rid of Summers. When he selected a new dean of Arts and Sciences, there were complaints. When the new dean resigned, there were complaints, some from the same faculty members who opposed the original selection.
When Summers recused himself from any investigation of his friend Andre Shleifer for investing in Russian companies while he was consulting about the Russian economy, he was condemned by some who would have condemned him even more vociferously had he not recused himself.
Summers could do no right in the eyes of his radical critics, who could never forgive him for his perceived original sins and who saw an opportunity to build wider coalitions every time Summers took actions that alienated other groups, as a president -- especially an activist and sometimes abrasive president -- will inevitably do. Some less ideological critics of Summers's leadership style then joined the radicals in a cacophony of strange bedfellows, but the core of the opposition always remained the hard left.
It was arrogant in the extreme for a plurality of a single faculty to purport to speak for the entire university, especially when that plurality is out of synch with the mainstream of Harvard. It was dangerous for the corporation to listen primarily to that faculty, without widely consulting other professors, students, and alumni who supported Summers. Now that this plurality of one faculty has succeeded in ousting the president, the most radical elements of Harvard will be emboldened to seek to mold all of Harvard in its image. If they succeed, Harvard will become a less diverse and less interesting institution of learning governed by political-correctness cops of the hard left. This is what happened in many European universities after the violent student protests of the late 1960s. It should not be allowed to happen at Harvard in the wake of the coup d'etat engineered by some in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Alan M. Dershowitz has been a professor of law at Harvard for 42 years. His latest book is ''Preemption: A Knife That Cuts Both Ways."
Harvard Sold Larry Summers Down the Charles River: Amity Shlaes
Feb. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Harvard forced Larry Summers overboard after all. Yesterday, Summers announced he was leaving as president after five stormy years trying to row Harvard upstream toward the present.
This seems weird. After all, we're talking about Larry the Confident here, a man famous for the way he tossed his head back at the rest of the Group of Seven. As Treasury secretary under President Bill Clinton, Summers steered the economy of the biggest country in the world. Harvard is just a dinghy next to Battleship U.S.
Comparing Summers's experience in both offices is, however, useful. It reminds us that pulling retrograde institutions forward against resistance can be hard. Executives who try do so need unrelenting support. If they get the backup, they tend to succeed. If they don't, the result is ugly -- whether they are at the U.S. Treasury or Harvard.
Consider the Clinton administration, which by the second term knew what it wanted on the economic side. It wanted to prove that modern Democrats wouldn't trash the economy or the budget like their retrograde, union-beholden predecessors. It wanted a strong dollar, no matter what Big Steel said. It wanted to show that the party of the Great Society could lead the budget into surplus before the party of Reaganomics ever got a chance to.
Whatever you believe about this policy, you have to concede that the Clinton Team was consistent. The administration pushed, and got, the end of welfare. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin repeated the phrase "the U.S. supports a strong dollar" so often it became a refrain. When Summers succeeded Rubin as Treasury secretary, the storyline stayed. Clinton backed both secretaries. Robert Reich, the old Labor Secretary, fumed, but he was already overboard himself, back in Massachusetts. And if Secretary Summers swaggered on the deck like a triumphalist, that suited the era.
Summers arrived in 2001 planning to transform Harvard, just as the Clintonites had transformed the concept of a Democratic administration. Under Summers, Harvard would be less of a home for the 1970s mindset, while demanding more intellectual competition. Corporate vice presidents don't have tenure any longer, so why should academics?
"There is one sector in the U.S. economy that hasn't changed like the rest: higher education," Richard Huber, Harvard alumnus and former chairman of Aetna Inc., said yesterday. "Summers wants Harvard in this century, not the last one."
But Summers soon met trouble. The first rough patch came when he declined to consider divesting Harvard's holdings in Israel. About the same time a few star academics, annoyed that he demanded more teaching, huffed off to other universities.
Last year, Summers angered women's studies majors by noting a simple reality: once you get three standard deviations out there on math aptitude tests, you find more boys than girls. The president's point was that even if you didn't like that fact, you probably wanted to address it. But the professors swarmed him, ending the debate.
Next came the issue of Harvard's portfolio manager, Jack Meyer, who was paid millions for making billions for Harvard's endowment. Academics found that pay-to-endowment ratio too irritating to bear, and Meyer departed. Many months passed before Harvard replaced Meyer with Mohamed El-Erian, Pimco's bond star.
The problem here, many believe, is Confident Larry. Neil Rudenstine, Summers's predecessor, is so collegial he can coax love from a stone. Summers is capable of antagonizing a stone in the same time frame, just by flashing his teeth.
The reality is more complex. Summers's problem at Harvard is indeed one of confidence. But this time too little confidence, not too much.
At Harvard, he had a habit of announcing a bold idea and then backing off with an elaborate apology. Hardly had the flap about women's intelligence come out than Harvard said it was spending an extra $50 million to lure more women and minorities to the faculty. This on top of outreach programs to enroll students from poor families.
Such behavior is too reactive and not consistent enough. Perhaps if Summers had gone around the Yard saying "Harvard supports a strong dollar," he might have stayed in office.
The real problem lies not with the man but with the institution. The Harvard Corp., Harvard's executive board, hired Summers to make changes. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, Summers's old boss, joined the Corporation in 2002. But instead of standing by Summers, the Corporation gave its ear to the mob - - the professors who choose to take offense at reminders that they are less important than they believe themselves to be.
Harvard's management is now telling itself that Summers attempted too much, and that, perhaps, it would have been better to find someone more like Neil.
This is self-deception. One set of stakeholders to recognize this is Harvard's undergraduates. A poll last weekend by the Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper, showed that undergraduates supported Summers 3-to-1. At least this group knows which decade this is. One student told the Crimson he liked Summers because Summers ran things "more like a business."
By afternoon yesterday, though, Summers was saying goodbye. It's a shame. After all, as Mr. Rubin himself knows: if you can change the Democratic Party, you can change a single university, even Harvard. But to do so, you need a boss to keep the wind in your sails.
To contact the writer of this column:
Amity Shlaes at firstname.lastname@example.org
Last Updated: February 22, 2006 00:05 EST
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