Yesterday was D-Day for Larry Summers; his meeting with the faculty in an extended session described by the Globe as an â€śemergencyâ€ť meeting. Who knew?
From the Globeâ€™s account the meeting seems to have been anticlimactic. It sounds as though Summers was trying his hardest to be gracious and that the klieg lights of the media may have tempered the faculty tantrums in a meeting that according the Globe normally â€śgarners no interest at all aside from coverage in the student newspaperâ€ť(now THERE is an understatement!).
One faculty member critical of Summers, Caroline Hoxby, described the relationships in a healthy university as â€śa great shimmering webâ€ť. True enough. Then she went on to say:
"When you engage in speech that harms the university's ability to foster scholarship and that is not thoughtful, not deliberate, and not grounded in deep knowledge, you break ties by the hundreds."
Here she is exactly and entirely wrong. Summersâ€™ remarks are published. Though speculative, they are thoughtful, deliberate, and grounded in deep knowledge (albeit in one field) and in experience (in many fields). I suspect that this professor does not agree with the content of his remarks, which is her privilege. That Summers has been put into such a show trial for merely entertaining such ideas as hypotheses illustrates that the campus diversity Nazis have spawned a second web within academia; one which Paul Campos of Colorado University described as â€śa web of lies kept intact by a conspiracy of silence.â€ť
The willingness to listen, and an environment open to alternative views is the beginning and the foundation of academic pursuits. For all their incessant posturing about needing more diversity, ideological diversity is sadly unwelcome in much of academia at present.