Ladies and gentlemen, the Harvard faculty would like to present its latest farce, “Ain’t Got Confidence in Larry.” It’s a lighthearted slinging of arrows and spitballs, at an overwhelmingly competent university leader.
But seriously folks. The faculty’s recent resolution of “no confidence” indicates that the Harvard faculty stands against academic freedom, against effective leadership, and ultimately and most ironically, against progress for the academy. They are too bogged down in petty personal squabbles and hogtied by archaic political correctness to see what is really at stake.
Members of the academy must, as a rule, be protected by the rules of academic freedom. The academy should function much like a free market — good ideas will emerge through informed and respectful debate, and bad ideas will have their flaws exposed. When members of the academy refuse to engage in such informed debate, they shirk their basic responsibility to their profession and to their students.
Further, it is clear that the faculty cannot have reasonable objections to President Summers’ accomplishments as a leader. He has pioneered revolutionary financial aid initiatives that increased access to Harvard for more students than any initiative since the GI Bill. He is accessible to students and faculty alike, and has innovative plans for expanding Harvard’s campus into Allston to ease a problematic space crunch.
Everone knows this issue is not about women. President Summers’ comments, while controversial, were not objectionable. President Summers has hired more female university vice presidents than any president before him. This issue has become a kind of “Pin the Quibble on the Donkey” — every personal quibble every faculty member has ever had has been tacked onto “innate-gate.”
Any member of the faculty voting for the resolution who truly believed it was about women was sorely mistaken. It is precisely this kind of histrionics that hurt the real advancement of women. When we focus myopically on issues of perceived injustice, we ignore the real women’s issues: defense, democratic progress around the world, social security reform.
The Harvard faculty is made up of some of the smartest people in the world. I want to hear them talking about the real issues that face women, respectfully and like grown-ups. I want them to be able to agree to disagree. Any university that becomes an echo-chamber free from dissent has ceased to be relevant.
Paloma Zepeda is a junior at Harvard and a member of Students for Larry.