A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Friday, February 24, 2006

OTIT: Summers' Resignation

So, Larry Summers has decided to resign as Chancellor of Harvard. This is a pity and a deep injustice. I'd like to think the fact that the students appreciated Summers' candor and efforts to bring the school into the 21st century is a hopeful harbinger for the future... but as long as the faculty remains hidebound and insulated, I'm not sure how much difference it will make.

I find it deeply depressing that so many teachers at institutions of higher learning seem to value tolerance and being inoffensive over open and frank discussion and a willingness to seek the root causes of problems. Far, far too many of our nation's faculty have lost their desire to sift and winnow for the truth as expressed way back in 1894 by the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents:
Whatever may be the limitations which trammel inquiry elsewhere, we believe that the great state university of Wisconsin should ever encourage that continual and fearless sifting and winnowing by which alone the truth can be found.
Could Summers have been more diplomatic and politically astute? Probably, and maybe he would have accomplished what he wanted, though the process would undoubtedly have taken much longer. But I guess the big question is, why. Why should Summers have had to be more circumspect and deferential when all he was doing was challenging accepted thinking and pre-conceived notions?


I'm with you. (But kindly note that Summers was President, not Chancellor, of Harvard.) The faculty in FAS have appeared shrill and petty through the entire business-- it's all about their egos. The sad part is that the kind of changes Larry was trying to bring would have been of immense benefit to Harvard.
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