I’m pretty sure that Lawrence Summers won’t be drawing the same conclusions as Debra Saunders, or following the sage advice that she has to offer, but I think she nails it in her San Francisco Chronicle column: “Mob rule in academia.” Let’s pick up with point four and stick with it to her conclusion:
Summers’ fourth mistake was that he was reasonable. Before his remarks on women in science, Summers noted that he might be wrong and that he didn’t think it was right that there were differences in gender socialization.
If Summers sounded like a deranged, uneducated misanthrope, however, Harvard Yard would be filled with protesters citing the need for — all bow — “academic freedom.” As it is, rare voices, such as that of law professor Alan Dershowitz, have invoked academic freedom in Summers’ defense. But Dershowitz’s take is by no means universal. A Harvard Crimson poll of the university’s Arts and Letters faculty found that a disgraceful 32 percent of respondents said Summers should resign, while 55 percent said he should not.
Meanwhile, the “academic freedom” lobby has mobilized in support of University of Colorado, Boulder, ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill, who wrote a piece that called the Sept. 11 victims “little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the Twin Towers.” Churchill later tried to excuse the piece by explaining that he was targeting “people who function in investment and brokerage and trading capacity” because their activities lead to mass misery and death in the Third World.
Apparently, you don’t have to be even remotely academic to hide behind academic freedom.
Or could it be that academic freedom only works for those on the left or the far left? Summers already had won ill will among Harvard’s left for opposing university divestment from Israel, for questioning the academic performance of African American professor Cornel West (who split for Princeton) and for supporting a return of the ROTC on campus.
Academic freedom for members of the military? — I guess that would be taking academic freedom too far. After all, it would be wrong for academia to treat reserve officers — the men and women who protect this country — as equals. No, the ivory tower is too special for that.
Then, after banning the ROTC, Harvard profs whined that Summers is “dismissive and arrogant” — as one professor told the Boston Herald. Dismissive and arrogant? If anything, Summers is too accommodating. He keeps apologizing and promising to be more sensitive and a better listener when he ought to be blasting his critics for their intolerant rush to exile people who express unpopular ideas.
My advice to the Harvard president: Don’t apologize and promise to be a better listener. Be a man.
Will somebody say “Amen”?