The resignation of Lawrence H. Summers as president of Harvard University raises anew the most important question facing higher education today — Is there any hope for academic and institutional reform?
After all, President Summers’ plans for reform of the university were hardly revolutionary or breath-taking — nothing even close to returning Harvard to its founding vision. No, he merely confronted professors like Cornell West with a suggestion that they actually teach, and he tried to bring the circus of competing schools (each with its own budget) into greater accountability.
Then, President Summers broke an unwritten rule of the academy and suggested that men and women might actually have different aptitude sets, relating this to the fact that relatively few women earn doctorates in the hard sciences. This revealed him to the faculty as a bona fide throw-back to the dark ages.
The liberal hegemony of the Harvard faculty was a power greater than that of Lawrence Summers, a former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury, and greater than the fortitude and courage of the Harvard Corporation, the university’s governing board.