The Trials of Larry Summers

The Trials of Larry Summers

The Trials of Larry Summers

The latest chatter in cyberspace.
March 16 2005 5:50 PM

The Trials of Larry Summers

Bloggers are angry about the Harvard faculty's rebuke of Larry Summers, which they think is the result of his controversial comments about women in the sciences. They're also debating the nomination of Paul Wolfowitz to head the World Bank and getting giddy about Thursday's start to the NCAA Tournament.

The Trials of Larry Summers: On Tuesday, Harvard's arts and sciences faculty passed a vote of no-confidence in university President Larry Summers. The vote (218-185, with 18 abstentions) comes two months after he suggested that gender disparity in achievement in the sciences might be explained by innate biological differences between men and women. (Slate's William Saletan and Meghan O'Rourke debate the merits of Summers, his comments, and his critics here, here, here, and here).

Advertisement

Academic Dave Gwydion has a colorful recap by one faculty spy who supported the resolution. The anonymous scribe reports that Summers didn't lose support from faculty members who objected to his comments, but from those who "object to Larry either because they think he's an arrogant prick who deserves to be taken down a peg, or because they think he's funnelling money in the wrong direction." Assistant professor Lubŏs Motl, who opposed the resolution, thinks the vote "will be mentioned as a sad day in the history of Harvard University" as "an example of another era of McCarthyism." A physicist, Motl believes the majority of votes against Summers were cast by faculty of the humanities, "especially the people who think that they can determine the scientific truth by a vote." (Earlier, Motl assembled a collection of testimonials defending Summers here.)

Social anthropologist and conservative culture warrior Stanley Kurtz writes at The Corner that he wants "the American people to hold a formal vote of no confidence in the Harvard faculty." At conservative standby Powerline, The Big Trunk compares the "trial" of Summers to that of Socrates (who "was convicted of impiety by a roughly comparable vote of 280-220"), and concludes "the vote essentially represents the conviction of President Summers for not believing in the gods of the city." Lawyer Ann Althouse, a rare voice in support of the resolution, asks "[W]hat is the lesson of the Summers downfall?" Her answer: "It's that you can't hold a powerful position an institution that does not have a proportional number of women and make people feel that you are more interested in explaining away the problem than trying to solve it."

Read more about the Harvard vote here.

No Bono: Today, President Bush nominated Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz to be president of the World Bank. Nominations for the position are rarely contested, but bloggers think European leaders might object to Wolfowitz, one of the administration's leading hawks. (A digest of world reaction can be found here.)

Advertisement

"At Least He'd Be Out of the Pentagon," cheers meta-blogger Barbara O'Brien of The Mahablog. Most writers, though, see this glass as half-empty. "So you help drag the nation into a bloody war with no exit strategy, cost the country $200 billion and counting, 1,500 American deaths and counting, tens of thousands of physical and mental injuries, and counting, and untold numbers of Iraqi dead," summarizes liberal ringleader Markos of Daily Kos. "How are you punished?"

Think Progress compares the deputy secretary of defense negatively to outgoing World Bank president James Wolfensohn. Liberal young gun Ezra Klein writes that, lacking the qualifications of an esteemed economist or the commanding status of a public figure (like Bono), "the only reason to choose him was to anger our allies and irritate the left." Mathew Yglesias of The American Prospect says he is "going to stake out a radically moderate view on this and say that I'd like to actually know something about Wolfowitz's views on what the World Bank does before offering judgment. Preventative wars are not, I take it, something the Bank head is able to launch." (Slate's Daniel Engber explained what the president of the World Bank does do  here; Fred Kaplan weighed in  with an optimistic take on Wolfowitz's nomination here).  

Read more about the nomination here.

March Madness: The NCAA basketball tournament begins tomorrow, and bloggers everywhere are posting about the Big Dance. At Chris's Sports Blog, Chris Chase has extensive analysis of the tournament and all its teams. ACC Basketblog collects daily news on teams from that imposing conference. The Sports Economist cites a study that the tournament will drain almost $900 million from the U.S. economy. Brainster uses sports statistician Jeff Sagarin's ratings to advise readers how to win their office pools. His pick? The odds-on favorite, North Carolina—though he thinks Louisville has the greatest potential to surprise.

Read more about the tournament here.

Have a question, comment, or suggestion for Today's Blogs? Email todaysblogs@slate.com.