The complete transcript of Harvard prez Lawrence Summers’s [pictured] speech containing his controversial remarks about gender differences has now been released. But whether this helps or hurts his career is still a matter of opinion.
Wall Street Journal reporters Robert Tomsho and John Hechinger said in a recent piece that Summers’s issues go far deeper than his statement that “innate gender differences could help explain why fewer women gain high level academic careers in science and math.”
Summers, a former U.S. Treasury Secretary, is no stranger to the academic world. He earned a BS from M.I.T. and a Ph.D. from Harvard. At age 28, he became one of Harvard’s youngest tenured economics professors in the school’s history.
Many faculty members have criticized Summers’s confrontational management style exemplified by his scolding former Harvard Prof. Cornel West for “making a hip-hop record and allegedly missing classes to help with a political campaign,” (Prof. West packed up and went to Princeton.)
Summers has also been a strong supporter of re-establishing an ROTC presence on campus, and has taken on some of the school’s sacred cows like grade inflation.
In his speech, Summers said that gender differences in certain math and science fields could be explained by “family desires and employers’ current desire for high power and high intensity.”
To bolster his point, Summers also told his audience that women weren’t the only underrepresented group in various sectors of the economy. “To take a set of diverse examples,” he said, “the data will, I am confident, reveal that Catholics are substantially underrepresented in investment banking. . .that white men are very substantially underrepresented in the National Basketball Association; and that Jews are very substantially underrepresented in farming and agriculture.”
The release of the transcript sparked further mea culpas by the school president, who noted that although his remarks were “explicitly speculative,” he would have spoken differently if he could ‘turn back the clock.’”
Some Harvard faculty members disagree with the prevailing faculty criticism of Summers. Government Prof. Harvey C. Mansfield contends that Summers “is being attacked for his strengths and not for his defects,” adding that “the liberals of Harvard lost the election last November, and they are taking it out on Larry Summers.”
Debbie Lambert writes the “Squeaky Chalk” column for Campus Report.