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  • Buzz Machine

    Posted by James R. Rummel on February 16th, 2005 (All posts by )

    Just to make sure that my own position is crystal, I realized that women are different than men when puberty arrived. Do these differences translate over into the sciences or other academic areas? I’m not a statistician so I’m not qualified to say. I’m firmly dedicated to equal rights for all, so I think that everyone should be judged on a one-for-one basis.

    No matter what he actually believed, Larry Summers certainly should have kept his mouth shut, though. You’d think that the Pres of Harvard would have known that.

    Now the Harvard faculty is screaming for his blood, which is to be expected. But the part of the story from tha last link that really stood out was this little passage.

    Others in the gathering of about 250 faculty members spoke of a climate of fear in the university and a crisis of confidence in his presidency.

    The crisis of confidence I can understand, but “climate of fear”??? What the heck do these guys have to be afraid of?

    The author of the news item goes on to say that the concern is that Summers created a “climate of fear and intimidation”.

    That was fast. It’s only been, what, a month? And people have been denied admission to the university, or denied tenure, or didn’t get their degrees, all due to their sex since then?

    Or maybe female undergraduates have been beaten up and harassed in the halls since his remarks. That’s the requirement before I’d call a situation a “climate of fear and intimidation”.

     

    21 Responses to “Buzz Machine”

    1. ginny Says:

      Rummel, I am hesitant to define your tone. Do you believe he would have been a better president if he had “known enough” not to such things? Certainly he knows enough to apologize repeatedly and profusely.

    2. James R. Rummel Says:

      “Do you believe he would have been a better president if he had “known enough” not to such things?”

      You’re the one who keeps pointing out the runaway political correctness that is loose in our colleges and universities.

      Reminds me of the broohaha over some recent remarks by Lt. Gen. James Mattis, the guy who said that it was “fun to shoot some people”. Few of us who actually try to protect the innocent can find fault with the sentiment expressed, but Mattis is a 3 star general. That means that his position, which is necessarily under a great deal of scrutiny, requires that he be held to a higher standard. Same goes for the president of one of our premier centers of higher learning.

      Summers should have figured this out before he took the job. Whether or not it would have made him a better president is something that’s completely off topic.

      James

    3. A Scott Crawford Says:

      “The crisis of confidence I can understand, but “climate of fear”??? What the heck do these guys have to be afraid of?”

      James! The answer should be obvious. Because the modern conception of ‘feminism’ is built on a foundation of victimhood, rather than self-empowerment, it has created an establishment more invested in castrating the masculine than it is in uplifting and honoring women. Harvard, and the Ivy League in general, has wagered its reputation on the adoption of a Progressive philosophy of education of dubious merit, and is having a difficult time accepting the consequences of losing this bet. It’s not at all easy to deliver equal results, darn it!

      Because the intellectual infection in question has only spread to a large minority of academia, the majority is right to fear that they will suffer collateral damage to their own reputations when the unavoidable backlash occurs. Thus it’s in the interest of the whole of elite academia to put off that day of reckoning for as long as possible. No one at Harvard wants to risk the result of requiring Humanities students pass computer programming courses prior to graduating! Why, the entire system would implode!

      It’s bad enough that obvious minorities like South and East Asians have the bad taste to out score European students on average, requiring the creation of the ‘over-represented minority’ admission category. President Summers has asked the question that every elite admissions department in academia is absolutely unprepared to answer. To wit:

      Why exactly is the ratio of undergraduate men to women acceptance in ‘elite’ universities so tilted in favor of women? Of course we can all admit women are the superior gender… but does this superiority really justify taking 145 women for every 100 men? And why is it that so few lower income “white” and lower income “black-American” men are “Ivy League” material in particular?

      To some it might seem odd that the two admissions “types” with the greatest statistical UNDER representation in the Ivy League are exactly the two “types” with the greatest statistical OVER representation in the officer corps of the US military. Could there be grounds to a hypothesis that those qualities that make for the best officer candidates are also the qualities that are the least desirable in graduates of Ivy League universities? Hmmmm.

    4. Lumina Says:

      I’m bemused by the hypocrisy of the pseudo-feminists who swooned at Summers’ remarks. He cautioned in advance that his remarks were going to be “provocative”…and they were.

      I’m disappointed and embarrassed that so-called “feminists” were “offended” by theory that has a sound and demonstable basis. Grow up, please! Summers didn’t claim male superiority; he simply observed that there are male/female differences. And there are.

      I absolutely agree that the modern “conception of ‘feminism’ is built on a foundation of victimhood, rather than self-empowerment.” Also tend to agree that this “has created an establishment more invested in castrating the masculine than it is in uplifting and honoring women.”

      I don’t have a problem with “different-but-equally-important,” and I’m embarrassed by wannabe-“feminists” who draw upon the “vapors” (please, what a cheap pretend-Victorian trick!) when they’re stunned by a scholar who dared to speak of unpopular-but-measurable fact.

    5. Jonathan Says:

      Of course there’s no climate of fear and of course everyone knows it. That term is used precisely in situations like this one, to threaten litigation. Summers is independent-minded enough and un-PC enough to pose a real threat to the academic Left, so the academic Left is going to seize any opportunity to get rid of him. He gave them an opportunity. I can’t say whether he should have known better, since most normal people who read his remarks probably thought them unremarkable, even if they didn’t agree with every point that he made. But maybe as a university president he should have been street-smart enough to know that any remarks he made about sex differences would be used against him, and that making such remarks in private rather than public (a gesture of consideration for his audience) would insure that his enemies, by speaking first in public, would frame the narrative of what happened.

    6. Ginny Says:

      A useful column on Summers, though I think we always return to Pinker’s “the truth is never offensive.” It may not be what we want – our live are made up of compromises and our choices generally require tradeoffs. That fear is of people who do not accept the fact that the world is not what we think or even want it to be – it is what it is. And only after we accept that fact can we begin to act and mold those givens more to our liking.

      That is what I find distressing about Summers’ critics – this fear of hypotheses but also of facts.

    7. Craig R. Harmon Says:

      I find it amusing that, in a premier institution of higher education in this country, pc trumps the exploration for knowledge. I actually heard someone on TV the other day say that Madam Curie had proven this theory wrong! What? One woman who excelled in the sciences and math proves that biological differences play no part in the numerical gender disparity at the highest levels of Mathematics?

    8. John J. Coupal Says:

      I consider Richard Rubin and Larry Summers to be the two talented people who served in the Clinton Administration.

      The Left realizes the influence that Mr. Summers has in the real world, and the Left cannot tolerate his voicing politically incorrect views that will catch so many Republicans’ and Democrats’ attention.

    9. MP Says:

      Summers should not have kept his mouth shut. If anyone is going to change the culture of stupidity at a university, it is the university president. Summers should never have apologized either.

    10. Jonathan Says:

      I agree that he shouldn’t have kept quiet and shouldn’t have apologized. But perhaps he would have done better to make his remarks in a public forum, so that his words would be less subject to preemptive mischaracterization by his enemies. (Though given the leftism and scientific and statistical ignorance of many MSM people, I may be naive to think that early publicity would have helped him.) He also would have done well to frame his comments in terms of statistical distributions: There are many women who excel in science and math, but the fact that, even today, women as a group tend to be much less frequent than men in math-intensive occupations raises serious questions about whether the observed group differences are due mainly to discrimination or perhaps have other explanations.

      There are better and worse ways to say something like that. You can say it in a way whose meaning is unmistakable but doesn’t give your enemies much leverage against you. A university president should know how to do that.

    11. Pogo Says:

      I agree that any university president who wishes to be effective needs to be able to work within the confines of the PC speech rules. It’s a well-known trap, set to spring on just such unwary subjects, permitting the PC police to perform their shrieking-and-moaning ritual. (“Help! Help! I’m being repressed! Come and see the violence inherent in the system!”)

      Summers made the mistake of thinking he was on an open campus dedicated to truth-seeking, rather than an ideologic monastery bent on suppressing heresy.

    12. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Jonathan and Pogo have it right, but Larry’s real mistake was flinching after the meeting. Every baseball player knows you don’t rub the spot where the pitcher hit you. The moment he backed down and started appologizing he was in real trouble.

      There is no doubt that a lot of the faculty at Harvard don’t like Summers. But it has nothing to do with his politics.

      It has to do with him trying to grasp the rudder of the ship and to steer it. He is trying to get senior faculty to do things like research in their field of expertise (the last two books by two senior members of the english department included one about airplane crashes and one about her house) and teach undergraduates (the horror, the shame, the humiliation).

      Needless to say if someone came along and asked you to work at your cushy $150,000/yr job you wouldn’t like him either.

      That is what this is all about. The trustees (or what ever they call them) will have to decide if they want to let Summers whip the faculty into shape or find someone less confrontational who will alow the inmates to go back to running the asylum.

    13. Steve Says:

      I had a pow-wow yesterday with the head of the Women’s Studies program at a local Arizona state university.

      She confessed that she is engaged in a low-grade “war with the patriarchy” (her words).

      Perversely, radical Feminist “revolutionary” foment requires the comforts of today’s patriarchal system. Only after the patriarchy has cleared the woods of sabre-tooth cats, secured the clan’s hunting and farming territories and nurtured its daughters, is it *safe enough* for pacifistic feminism to germinate.

      Oh, the irony…!
      -Steve

    14. MP Says:

      If you haven’t seen it yet, this H&R Post has the link to the full transcript.

    15. Jonathan Says:

      Thanks, MP. I read the whole thing, having read only excerpts before. I think Robert Schwartz is right: Summers shouldn’t have backed down. As Jacob Sullum at H&R points out, Summers’s critics persistently mischaracterize what he said. It’s thus not obvious that he could have influenced the response to his remarks by presenting them differently. His best defense would have been to argue aggressively and refute the critics, a course of action that he has precluded by apologizing. He should have stuck to his guns. This is the kind of controvsery that a public offical should risk his job over.

    16. Ginny Says:

      The Power of Vomit: Did anyone see an exchange yesterday in which one of the congressmen said that if the person they were grilling said anything about SS reforms as a way those with less money could build up the middle class of the next generation was used as an argument he was going to throw up. I suspect the readers on this thead might be interested but I didn’t make a sufficient mental note to find it.

      Victimization theory has given power to groups of people who are now using that power to extend their power – or as Acton said, All power corrupts and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. Or, as Abigail Adams said, “I am more and more convinced tht Man is a dangerous cresture, and tht power whether vestd in many or a few is ever grasping, and like the grave cdris give, give. The grat fish swallow up the small, and he who is most strenuous for the Rights of the people, when vested with power, is as eager after the perogratives fo Government. You tell me of dgrees of perfection to which Humane Nature is capable of arriving, and I believe it, but at the same timelament tht our admiration should arise from the scarcity of instances.”

      While not about Summers or women, it does connect to the “you hurt me so much by making that argument that I feel sick” kind of response to a discusion.

      This is not what we want to teach our students in freshman argumentation – but it does appear to be ridiculously effective. The verboten = vomit = ? well, the death of free speech.

    17. Jonathan Says:

      Vomit away, I say. If your only response to an argument is hysteria, it probably means that you don’t have a better response, which means that the argument you’re objecting to just may be valid.

    18. Steve Says:

      Gag me! Threats of emittive body functions, instead of learned debate? Must we issue diapers, plastic seat covers and hot towellettes to our congressmen now?

      It seems many of us attain adulthood without any corresponding intellectual maturation.

      (Ginny, can you condense Abigail Adams’ quote so it’ll fit on my coffee mug? Good brain-breakfast, that. Thanks for it.)
      -Steve

    19. Giles Says:

      surely “the climate of fear” relates to what happened to Cornell West; he was called to account and resigned. Folk at Harvard obviously thought that this speach was a signal that he was going to take the AAA broom to other departments.

    20. chel Says:

      Jonathan Gerwitz said:

      “Vomit away, I say. If your only response to an argument is hysteria, it probably means that you don’t have a better response, which means that the argument you’re objecting to just may be valid.”

      If only hysteria (or vomit or folks not having good comebacks) could actually validate arguements life would be simpler. At least mine would. I could dispense with all this pesky research that they pay me to do.

    21. Joey Says:

      Hey.. way to go Summers! To bad he apologized. If you think that he should have “known better” to keep his thoughts to himself or present them in a different context..well..I say the guy has some balls. As a reformed feminist who discovered demanding equal rights was fine, but equalizing the sexes diminished our unique strengths, I too am embarrassed and disappointed by the so called feminists who were offended.. yeah.swooon..that always helps the cause.

      Interesting how some things come around full circle..the student rebellion which was started and key noted at the University of California at Berkeley in ’64 resulted in a cave-in by the University president Clark Kerr to the demands of the “Free Speech Movement” (FSM). So Ok, we needed some changes. Now, that new left ideology has taken root and look what we have. Diversity and multiculturalism. (The New Racism). Quotas, affirmative action, and so on.

      I’m a believer in the philosophy of objectivism. Reality exists as objective absolutes. Facts are facts, independent of man’s (or woman’s) feelings, wishes, hopes or fears. Summers just stated the obvious. I agree with what Ginny said above.

      Advocates of diversity claim that the realworld is diverse, that campuses should reflect that fact. I thought the purpose of a university is to impart knowledge and develop reasoning, not to be a demographic mirror of society.

      Hope we hear more from Summers and that next time he doesn’t back off.