Long-time Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz writes an op-ed for today's Boston Globe that reveals the "400 pound gorilla in the room." He reveals that much of the university, other than the Arts and Sciences faculty, still supported Summers.
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.
Further, their lack of support was due to the perception that Summers did not toe the politically correct line, and even abject surrender to the storm that followed was unacceptable to them.
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.
For evidence Professor Dershowitz provides a portion of the text accompanying the "no confidence vote" that was removed.
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.
...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!)
Bravo, Mr. Dershowitz, bravo. While I'd be far more likely to agree with Mr. Summers statements perhaps than would Mr. Dershowitz , we agree that removal for non-politically correct speech is a black mark on a great institution of higher learning that should be committed to open expression and exploration of all points of view. That Mr. Summers was forced out for crossing the politically correct slant of a minority of all faculty, even after prostrating himself before that portion of the faculty, does not bode well for the successor to interim and past-president Derek Bok, who will guide Harvard during their search.
Idealogical purity is a poor substitute for academic inquiry.