The forced exit of economist Larry Summers from the presidency of Harvard is proof that liberals can also be the victims of the academic left. Harvard’s most identifiable conservative offers insights on how the putsch transpired, in the latest issue of the Claremont Review of Books.
“In no way could it be said either that he had completed his mission, and thus deserved retirement, or that he had failed in it and so deserved to be booted,” Professor Harvey C. Mansfield writes in the Claremont Review. “The event is demeaning to all involved, but especially to the three main parties—the Harvard Corporation, the faculty and Mr. Summers.”
“These three share the blame in descending order, and speaking as an informed observer, not an insider, I will assess it as I see it now.” To recap, Summers angered feminists by pointing out that every available statistic shows that men are more inclined to scientific work, and the left generally by suggesting that the U. S. Reserve Officers Training Corps be allowed back on campus.
A long-time professor of History at Harvard, Dr. Mansfield is the author of a book on Manliness, a quality he finds in short supply on the governing body of the Cambridge citadel. “It could not summon the manly confidence to avow that Summers was being ousted because his agenda of renewal clashed with the diversity agenda of the feminist Left and its sympathizers,” Dr. Mansfield writes. “In its letter on Summers’s resignation, the corporation did not criticize him or his policies in any way, not even by hint or allusion.”
“With this failure it let stand the pretensions of the diversity crowd and ducked responsibility for its own action, attempting to palliate impudence with insincerity.” The Urban Institute’s Robert Reischauer sits on the corporation’s board as does Nannerl Keohane, the feminist former president of Duke, Dr. Mansfield notes.
On top of the political powder keg he ignited, Harvard’s recently deposed president also rubbed tenured faculty the wrong way by expecting them to meet professional standards, Dr. Mansfield recounts.
“The faculty opposed to Summers were divided into enemies and critics,” Dr. Mansfield writes. “His enemies planned or intended his demise as soon as he began to show that he had doubts about the diversity agenda.”
“They led the clamor against him in several faulty meetings in 2004. They were joined by critics, not necessarily of the Left, who had been wounded in encounters with Summers. To get more out of the faculty, he had to ask challenging questions, and those who could not make convincing replies sometimes felt they were being bullied, when in fact they had merely lost the argument. Mr. Summers did not pay attention to Machiavelli’s advice that ‘men should either be caressed or eliminated.’
“Yet in the confrontations in faculty meetings he himself was made to endure reproach and rancor beyond anything seen in the last 50 years at Harvard, including the troubles of the late 1960s.” And Dr. Mansfield should know. He was there.
But what of Summers’ role in his own downfall? “He believed it would be divisive to admit that there were ‘sides’ in the dispute,” Dr. Mansfield explains. “He worried about returning to the partisanship within the faculty of the late 1960s.”
“But of course the other side had organized early on in his administration. He and Dean Kirby allowed the election in 2004 of a Faculty Council (the faculty representative body) composed of his worst enemies, that plotted against him throughout. It would have been easy to expose them, for they tended to overreach. Instead, they succeeded in a goal that they never thought they could attain.”
Malcolm A. Kline is the executive director of Accuracy in Academia.