Monday, November 17, 2008

Lawrence H. Summers...remember him?

Surely you remember Lawrence H. Summers the then President of Harvard--"open mouth and insert foot" Lawrence H. Summers. Now he is being considered for a position in the Barack Obama presidency--Secretary of the Treasury redux [a Bill Clinton repeat]. It will be Summers' position at Harvard and his remarks about gender achievements that may become bad baggage for Obama's regime. One cannot expect a pristine past in high positions to be the rule but Summers' remarks about women in the sciences should not be forgotten. Let's not sweep this one under the carpet.

To begin, this is what sparked the controversy...

Lawrence H. Summers speech on January 14th, 2005

"Harvard Chief Defends His Talk on Women"


Sam Dillon

January 18th, 2005

The New York Times

The president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, who offended some women at an academic conference last week by suggesting that innate differences in sex may explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers, stood by his comments yesterday but said he regretted if they were misunderstood.

"I'm sorry for any misunderstanding but believe that raising questions, discussing multiple factors that may explain a difficult problem, and seeking to understand how they interrelate is vitally important," Dr. Summers said in an interview.

Several women who participated in the conference said yesterday that they had been surprised or outraged by Dr. Summers's comments, and Denice D. Denton, the chancellor designate of the University of California, Santa Cruz, questioned Dr. Summers sharply during the conference, saying she needed to "speak truth to power."

Nancy Hopkins, a professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who once led an investigation of sex discrimination there that led to changes in hiring and promotion, walked out midway through Dr. Summers's remarks.

"When he started talking about innate differences in aptitude between men and women, I just couldn't breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill," Dr. Hopkins said. "Let's not forget that people used to say that women couldn't drive an automobile."

The Boston Globe first reported yesterday about Dr. Summers's remarks and the stir they created.

Not all reactions were negative. Some female academics and the organizer of the two-day conference that Dr. Summers addressed on Friday at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a nonprofit economic research organization in Cambridge, defended the remarks as a well-intentioned effort to speak candidly about the persistent underrepresentation of women in university departments of mathematics, engineering and physical sciences.

"A lot of people who absolutely disagreed with him were not irritated, and he said again and again, 'I'm here to provoke you,' " said Richard Freeman, an economics professor at Harvard who directs the bureau's labor studies program and invited Dr. Summers to speak. "He's very good at stimulating debate, but he cares deeply about increasing diversity in the science and engineering workforces, especially since we have many more women getting Ph.D.'s in science and engineering than ever before."

About 50 academics from across the nation, many of them economists, participated in the conference, "Diversifying the Science and Engineering Workforce: Women, Underrepresented Minorities, and their S. & E. Careers." Dr. Summers arrived after a morning session and addressed a working lunch, speaking without notes. No transcript was made because the conference was designed to be off-the-record so that participants could speak candidly without fear of public misunderstanding or disclosure later.

In his presentation, Dr. Summers addressed the question of why so few women were on math and engineering faculties at top research universities.

"I began by saying that the whole issue of gender equality was profoundly important and that we are taking major steps at Harvard to combat passive discrimination," he recalled in yesterday's interview. "Then I wanted to add some provocation to what I understand to be basically a social science discussion."

He discussed several factors that could help explain the underrepresentation of women. The first factor, he said, according to several participants, was that top positions on university math and engineering faculties require extraordinary commitments of time and energy, with many professors working 80-hour weeks in the same punishing schedules pursued by top lawyers, bankers and business executives. Few married women with children are willing to accept such sacrifices, he said.

Dr. Hopkins said, "I didn't disagree, but didn't like the way he presented that point because I like to work 80 hours a week, and I know a lot of women who work that hard."

In citing a second factor, Dr. Summers cited research showing that more high school boys than girls tend to score at very high and very low levels on standardized math tests, and that it was important to consider the possibility that such differences may stem from biological differences between the sexes.

Dr. Freeman said, "Men are taller than women, that comes from the biology, and Larry's view was that perhaps the dispersion in test scores could also come from the biology."

Dr. Summers said, "I was trying to provoke discussion, and I certainly believe that there's been some move in the research away from believing that all these things are shaped only by socialization."

It was at this point in his presentation that Dr. Hopkins walked out, and shortly thereafter, Dr. Denton told the Harvard president that she believed his assertions had been contradicted by research materials presented at the conference. Dr. Summers said he responded that "I didn't think for a moment that I had proven anything, but only that these are things that need to be studied."

A late phone call yesterday to Dr. Denton at the University of Washington, where she is the dean of engineering, was not returned.

Paula E. Stephan, a professor of economics at Georgia State University, said Dr. Summers's remarks offended some participants, but not her. "I think if you come to participate in a research conference," Dr. Stephan said, "you should expect speakers to present hypotheses that you may not agree with and then discuss them on the basis of research findings."

Catherine Didion, a director of the International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists, said she was "surprised by the provocation in tone and manner" of Dr. Summers's remarks.

"Initially all of the questions were from women, and I think there was definitely a gender component to how people interpreted his remarks," Dr. Didion said. "Male colleagues didn't say much afterwards and later said they felt his comments were being blown out of context. Female colleagues were on the whole surprised by his comments."


January 20th, 2005

An article on Tuesday about remarks by Harvard's president, Lawrence H. Summers, suggesting that innate differences between the sexes may explain why fewer women succeed in science and math careers used an erroneous title for Catherine Didion, a director of the International Network of Women Engineers and Scientists, who said she was "surprised by the provocation in tone and manner" of the remarks. She does not have a doctorate.]

And the next day...

"No Break in the Storm Over Harvard President's Words"


Sam Dillon and Sara Rimer

January 19th, 2005

The New York Times

Members of a Harvard faculty committee that has examined the recruiting of professors who are women sent a protest letter yesterday to Lawrence H. Summers, the university's president, saying his recent statements about innate differences between the sexes would only make it harder to attract top candidates.

The committee told Mr. Summers that his remarks did not "serve our institution well."

"Indeed," the letter said, "they serve to reinforce an institutional culture at Harvard that erects numerous barriers to improving the representation of women on the faculty, and to impede our current efforts to recruit top women scholars. They also send at best mixed signals to our high-achieving women students in Harvard College and in the graduate and professional schools."

The letter was one part of an outcry that continued to follow remarks Mr. Summers made Friday suggesting that biological differences between the sexes may be one explanation for why fewer women succeed in mathematic and science careers.

One university dean called the aftermath an "intellectual tsunami," and some Harvard alumnae said they would suspend donations to the university.

Perhaps the most outraged were prominent female professors at Harvard.

"If you were a woman scientist and had two competing offers and knew that the president of Harvard didn't think that women scientists were as good as men, which one would you take?" said Mary C. Waters, chairman of Harvard's sociology department, who with other faculty members has been pressing Mr. Summers to reverse a sharp decline in the hiring of tenured female professors during his administration.

At the center of the storm, Mr. Summers posted a statement late Monday night on his Web page, saying that his comments at the National Bureau of Economic Research, a nonprofit economic research organization in Cambridge had been misconstrued and pledging to continue efforts to "attract and engage outstanding women scientists."

"My aim at the conference was to underscore that the situation is likely the product of a variety of factors and that further research can help us better understand their interplay," he said. "I do not presume to have confident answers, only the conviction that the harder we work to research and understand the situation, the better the prospects for long term success."

Mr. Summers also received support from Hanna H. Gray, a former president of the University of Chicago and a member of the Harvard Corporation, the university's governing body. Dr. Gray said she believed that Mr. Summers's remarks had been misinterpreted.

"I think that Larry Summers is an excellent president of Harvard, firmly committed and deeply respectful of the role of women in universities and one who is anxious to strengthen and enhance that," she said.

At Friday's conference, Mr. Summers discussed possible reasons so few women were on the science and engineering faculties at research universities, and he said he would be provocative.

Among his hypotheses were that faculty positions at elite universities required more time and energy than married women with children were willing to accept, that innate sex differences might leave women less capable of succeeding at the most advanced mathematics and that discrimination may also play a role, participants said. There was no transcript of his remarks.

His remarks caused one professor to walk out and another to openly challenge them.

In their letter to Mr. Summers, the standing committee on women, reproached him for thinking that he could speak as an individual and an economist at a small, private conference without it reflecting on the university.

They said it "was obvious that the president of the university never speaks entirely as an individual, especially when that institution is Harvard and when the issue on the table is so highly charged."

On and off the campus, Mr. Summers's remarks were the subject of heated debate yesterday.

Denice D. Denton, the dean of engineering at the University of Washington who confronted Mr. Summers over his remarks at the conference, said that her phone had not stopped ringing and that she had received scores of e-mail messages on the subject. She said Mr. Summers's remarks might have put new energy into a longstanding effort to improve the status of women in the sciences.

"I think they've provoked an intellectual tsunami," Dr. Denton said.

Howard Georgi, a physics professor and former chairman of the department, sent an e-mail message to Mr. Summers, saying he made a mistake in judgment in accepting the invitation to speak as a provoker. Dr. Georgi also sent a note to his students assuring them that they were appreciated.

Maud Lavin, who graduated from Harvard in the class of 1976, was one of the first women to take a demanding theoretical math sequence, Math 11 and Math 55, and is an associate professor at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Ms Lavin said in an interview yesterday that she would not donate any more money to Harvard as long as Mr. Summers was president, after firing off an angry e-mail message to him.

"I am offended and furious about your remarks on women in science and mathematics," Ms. Lavin wrote. "Arguments of innate gender difference in math are hogwash and indirectly serve to feed the virulent prejudices still alas very alive and now even more so due to your ill-informed remarks."

Students were also discussing the remarks. Thea Daniels, 21, a Harvard senior majoring in sociology said she and her roommates spent Monday evening talking about them.

"We were just upset," Ms. Daniels said. "It's disconcerting that the man who is supposed to have your best interest in mind and is the leader of your education community thinks less of us."

And this archived one hour presentation from NPR.

The statements by Harvard President Summers has not quieted down at all. National Public Radio [NPR] had an hour long discussion regarding this issue with guests Nancy Hopkins [professor of biology at MIT], Marianne Bronner-Fraser [professor of Biology at CalTech], and Meg Urry [professor of physics at Yale].

"The president of Harvard said this month that biology might explain why fewer women succeed in math and science careers. What's the situation like for women seeking careers in science, and what obstacles are they up against? Can the "leaky pipeline" for women in science be fixed? Plus, are there differences in the male and female brain?"

Women in Science

And Sara Rimer wrote the floowing about a month later.

"Professors at Harvard Confront Its President"


Sara Rimer

February 16th, 2005

The New York Times

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. Feb. 15 - President Lawrence H. Summers of Harvard was confronted at a meeting of his own faculty on Tuesday by some of the university's most influential professors, who expressed strong dissatisfaction with his leadership and charged that he was damaging the institution.

These professors, including two department heads, said after the meeting that they had emphasized that their concerns went well beyond the furor that resulted from Dr. Summers's recent comments suggesting that innate sex differences could account for the lack of women in science and math careers.

"Many of your faculty are dismayed and alienated and demoralized," Dr. Arthur Kleinman, chairman of anthropology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said at the meeting, referring to a "crisis concerning your style of leadership and governance."

The comments came at the first full meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which includes the undergraduate college and the graduate school of arts and sciences, since Dr. Summers's remarks.

Most speakers took aim at Dr. Summers for what they described as an autocratic management style that has stifled the open debate that is at the core of the university's values. While their comments were respectful, they were forceful and were greeted by strong applause.

"I've never seen a faculty meeting like it," said Diana Eck, a professor of comparative religion and Indian studies. "So many people stood and spoke from the heart about how they felt about his leadership."

Professor Eck recounted part of what she had said: "My question, Mr. President, is one I ask only with reluctance and respect: how will you now respond to what is clearly a widening crisis of confidence in your fitness to lead our university?"

Dr. Summers, who has often been confrontational in his meetings with the faculty, began by apologizing yet again for his remarks and then seemed to take pains to listen. "If I could turn back the clock, I would have said and done things very differently," he said, according to The Harvard Crimson, the only newspaper allowed to attend such meetings.

Dr. Kleinman said: "He heard a lot of hard things and he seemed to listen. At the end he apologized for giving the sense that he was governing by fear and intimidation."

The 90-minute meeting ended with a unanimous vote to hold an emergency meeting of the faculty next Tuesday so professors could continue to discuss their lack of confidence in Dr. Summers's leadership.

Attendance yesterday was about twice the usual number, with more than 250 professors crowding into the meeting room at University Hall.

Several, including Barbara J. Grosz, chairwoman of a new task force on women in science and engineering, called on Dr. Summers to release a transcript of his remarks about science and women. Theda Skocpol, a professor of government and sociology, said, "President Summers appears to be apologizing profusely, yet he refuses to release for honest discussion his actual remarks." The result was that commentators have cast his critics as "unreasonable opponents of academic inquiry and openness," with Harvard "ridiculed as a center of close-minded political correctness."

One of two professors who spoke in support of Dr. Summers was Ruth R. Wisse, the Peretz professor of Yiddish literature, who said her colleagues were allowing sexual politics to silence the open discussion Dr. Summers intended when he spoke about women at a conference last month, The Crimson reported.

Lawrence Katz, an economics professor and admirer of Dr. Summers, said afterward that he thought Dr. Summers was "humble and forthcoming, and he clearly articulated that he in no way intends to intimidate."

In the last several days, the faculty has been preoccupied with the outcome of Tuesday's meeting.

"It's as if the business of the university has ground to a halt until this matter is resolved," said Prof. Henry Louis Gates, the chairman of the African American and African studies department, adding, "It is clear that much of President Summers's legacy will be determined by how he deals with this crisis."

In the past week, Dr. Summers has invited prominent female professors to meet with him, and asked their advice on how to repair his relationships within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Several months ago, many of these professors met with Dr. Summers to voice concerns over the sharp decline in the number of offers of tenure to female professors since he became president.

And two days later this appeared in The New York Times.

"Furor Lingers as Harvard Chief Gives Details of Talk on Women"


Patrick Healy and Sara Rimer

February 18th, 2005

The New York Times

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 17 - Bowing to intense pressure from his faculty, the president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, on Thursday released a month-old transcript of his contentious closed-door remarks about the shortage of women in the sciences and engineering. The transcript revealed several provocative statements by Dr. Summers about the "intrinsic aptitude" of women, the career pressures they face and discrimination within universities.

Dr. Summers's remarks, which have only been described by others until now, have fueled a widening crisis on campus, with several professors talking about taking a vote of no confidence on the president next week. - That idea alone is unprecedented at Harvard in modern times.

Among his comments to a conference of economists last month, according to the transcript, Dr. Summers, a former secretary of the United States Treasury, compared the relatively low number of women in the sciences to the numbers of Catholics in investment banking, whites in the National Basketball Association and Jews in farming.

He theorized that a "much higher fraction of married men" than married women were willing to work 80-hour weeks to attain "high powered" jobs. He said racial and sex discrimination needed to be "absolutely, vigorously" combated, yet he argued that bias could not entirely explain the lack of diversity in the sciences. At that point, the Harvard leader suggested he believed that the innate aptitude of women was a factor behind their low numbers in the sciences and engineering.

"My best guess, to provoke you, of what's behind all of this is that the largest phenomenon - by far - is the general clash between people's legitimate family desires and employers' current desire for high power and high intensity; that in the special case of science and engineering, there are issues of intrinsic aptitude, and particularly of the variability of aptitude; and that those considerations are reinforced by what are in fact lesser factors involving socialization and continuing discrimination," Dr. Summers said, according to the transcript.

"I would like nothing better than to be proved wrong, because I would like nothing better than for these problems to be addressable simply by everybody understanding what they are, and working very hard to address them," he added.

Over and over in the transcript, he made clear that he might be wrong in his theories, and he challenged researchers to study his propositions.

He also urged research on "the quality of marginal hires" to the faculty when efforts to diversify are under way. Do these hires, he asked, eventually turn into star professors? Or "plausible compromises" that are not unreasonable additions to the faculty? And "how many of them are what the right-wing critics of all of this suppose represent clear abandonments of quality standards?"

Several professors said Thursday that they were only more furious after reading his precise remarks , saying they felt he believed women were intellectually inferior to men.

Everett I. Mendelsohn, a professor of the history of science at Harvard, said that once he read the remarks, he could understand why Dr. Summers "might have wanted to keep it a secret."

"Where he seems to be off the mark particularly is in his sweeping claims that women don't have the ability to do well in high-powered jobs," said Professor Mendelsohn, who was one of a group of faculty members who sharply criticized Dr. Summers's leadership at a meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on Tuesday. "There's an implication that they've taken themselves out of that role. But he brings forward no evidence."

But Dr. Summers seemed to back away from those theories on Thursday in a letter to the faculty released with the 7,000-word transcript. In it, he said he should "have spoken differently on matters so complex," and he said he had "substantially understated the impact of socialization and discrimination."

"The issue of gender difference is far more complex than comes through in my comments," he said in the letter.

The senior member of Harvard's governing corporation, James Houghton, released a letter shortly after the transcript was made public, offering praise and support for Dr. Summers.

With the timing of the release of the transcript, at 2:15 on a class day, faculty members were still studying it and trying to digest its meaning on Thursday evening. But some faculty members said they were already drawing the conclusion that Dr. Summers believed that innate differences were a significant reason for women's lack of success in math and science careers.

"What bothers me is the consistent assumption that innate differences rather than socialization is responsible for some of the issues he talks about," said Howard Georgi, a physics professor who has been part of a successful effort in Harvard's physics department to recruit more women for tenured positions.

"It's crazy to think that it's an innate difference," Professor Georgi added. "It's socialization. We've trained young women to be average. We've trained young men to be adventurous."

In recent weeks, the Summers controversy has led to a wider debate among academics about not only innate gender differences but also the state of campus political correctness - with Dr. Summers's supporters insisting that a left-wing cabal on the faculty was seeking to bring down his presidency over his remarks.

Among his critics on the faculty, the current outrage against Dr. Summers amounts to a culmination of reaction to three years of sharp-edged remarks, actions and displays of attitude by the Harvard president that to these professors have been divisive and unworthy of one of the world's leading universities. Dr. Summers gained notoriety several months into the job by offending a leading professor of black studies at Harvard, Cornel West, who promptly decamped to Princeton University.

Yet some Harvard professors and leaders said that the critics were focusing too narrowly on remarks that were meant to be private and provocative, and that they were losing sight of Dr. Summers's accomplishments at the university.

"My primary response to the transcript is that President Summers has profoundly apologized," said Edward Glaeser, a Harvard economics professor who is a strong supporter of Dr. Summers. "At this point the university will be much better served by looking forward rather than by parsing his comments."

On Thursday, after the transcript was issued, Dr. West volunteered his reaction to the latest imbroglio.

"I've been praying for the brother, hoping he would change," Dr. West said in an interview. "It's clear he hasn't changed, I feel bad for Harvard as an institution and as a great tradition. It was good to see the faculty wake up. The chickens have come home to roost."

While Harvard professors plan to convene Tuesday to discuss the transcript and Dr. Summers's leadership, and some have spoken of a vote of no confidence, it is the Harvard Corporation that has decisive influence over Dr. Summers's fortunes. It stood behind him on Thursday.

PBS Newshour's Gwen Ifill and three guests: Virginia Valian [psychology and linguistics professor at Hunter College, at the City University of New York Graduate Center], Sandra Witelson [neuroscience professor at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada], and Kimberlee Shauman [sociology professor at the University of California, Davis] discuss the issue with Lawrence H. Summers.


And now to cover his tracks: "To start, I pledge to you that I will seek to listen more and more carefully and to temper my words and actions in ways that convey respect and help us work together more harmoniously." Thus sayeth the President of Harvard--Dr. Lawrence Summers. Hindsight is perfect and repleat with mea culpas. Egads, if he would have just checked the distance between his cognitive process and his mouth this could have been avoided regardless of his personal beliefs.

"Harvard President Vows to Temper His Style With Respect"


Sara Rimer and Patrick D. Healy

February 23rd, 2005

The New York Times

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 22 - With his faculty threatening open revolt, the president of Harvard, Lawrence H. Summers, promised Tuesday that he would temper his management style and begin treating people more respectfully.

Professors, gathered at an overflow meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences to hear and discuss Dr. Summers, appeared so dissatisfied with the state of his leadership that they rejected a proposal to have three senior Harvard scholars mediate the furor between the faculty and its president.

After five weeks of mea culpas for his remarks about women in the sciences, Dr. Summers issued yet another apology. He promised professors that they would no longer experience the intimidation, anger and hurt feelings that many of them have reported in his three-and-a-half-year tenure.

"I am committed to opening a new chapter in my work with you," he told some 500 faculty and staff members, according to a copy of his remarks. "To start, I pledge to you that I will seek to listen more and more carefully and to temper my words and actions in ways that convey respect and help us work together more harmoniously."

"No doubt I will not always get things right. But I am determined to set a different tone."

He also promised to pay greater respect to the powers of the faculty on matters like undergraduate education, which he has sought to re-shape.

But the deep concern among professors at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences over his management appeared likely to continue, at least in private. Some critics said after the meeting that Dr. Summers was so damaged that his chance of being a great Harvard president was over. Others praised him as trying to reach out.

Although professors did not hold a vote of no confidence at Tuesday's meeting, as some had threatened, a university dean promised to hold a series of private, informal meetings between Dr. Summers and professors in the coming weeks. However, several professors expressed skepticism about whether that intervention would do any good. The next full faculty meeting, where the confrontations with Dr. Summers have taken place this month, is scheduled for March 15.

"He is the president; we need to work with that," said Cynthia Friend, chairwoman of chemistry and chemical biology.

"We need to find a new way of working together," she added.

Tuesday's faculty meeting was convened explicitly for professors to stand in judgment of Dr. Summers, for and against, and was the latest stormy episode in the serial drama of the Summers presidency. The depth and intensity of faculty anger was shown in a Harvard Crimson poll published Tuesday in which 52 percent of professors disapproved of Dr. Summers's leadership and 40 percent approved. In an effort to heal the breach between Dr. Summers and the faculty, a former dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences proposed a three-member mediation team that would act as a line of communication from the faculty to the president and to Harvard's two governing boards.

Two professors rejected the idea as undemocratic and seemingly prearranged. The former dean, Jeremy Knowles, withdrew the proposal.

"I think an important opportunity was lost for the faculty of arts and sciences to gain some leverage to change its relationship with the president," said Theda Skocpol, a government professor who was to have been on the mediation team.

Most of the faculty speeches at Tuesday's meeting ranged from mildly critical to highly critical of Dr. Summers, but some supporters spoke in his favor.

Caroline Hoxby, an economics professor, opened her remarks by saying that the discussion was not about "right versus left" or political correctness, but about management. Some commentators have put a political spin on the debate over remarks by Dr. Summers that women may lag in science and engineering because of "intrinsic aptitude."

"Every time, Mr. President, you show a lack of respect for a faculty member's intellectual expertise, you break ties in our web," Professor Hoxby said to Dr. Summers, according to a copy of her remarks. "Every time you humiliate or silence a faculty member, you break ties in our web."

Leaving the meeting, James Kloppenberg, a history professor, said he felt reassured. Professor Kloppenberg said of Dr. Summers, "He realizes he can't govern the university without the support of the faculty."

Three days later.

"Amid Uproar, Harvard's President Ponders His Style"


Patrick D. Healy and Sara Rimer

February 26th 2005

The New York Times

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Feb. 25 - Former President Bill Clinton recently advised him to learn from his mistakes and move forward. The political counselor David Gergen has helped on damage control. Surrounded by the best minds of Harvard, he has turned for guidance to the public intellectual Henry Louis Gates Jr., the empirical social psychologist Mahzarin Banaji and the campus wise man Henry Rosovsky, among others.

He is reading tomes about leadership. He also recently took his children to see "Hitch," a new movie, as it happens, about men who are trying to improve their social skills.

At the age of 50, Lawrence H. Summers, the 27th president of Harvard since its founding in 1636, finds himself trying to become a new kind of man as he seeks an end to a controversy centering on his leadership style.

"The days have been long, and the weeks have been long, too, because there's a lot to talk about," Dr. Summers said, sitting beside a fireplace on Friday in his office at Harvard. "I've spent a lot of time here talking to people, I've been out meeting people, I've talked to people in my home, I've spent a lot of time on the phone and I've spent a lot of time on e-mail. It certainly has not been a lonely month."

During much of the interview, Dr. Summers's voice was controlled, and his hands were occasionally thrust deep into his suit pockets. "I think I do have a tendency to challenging dialogue in the way of a graduate seminar," he said. "It's probably both a strength and a weakness, depending on the context. But there are also very much issues of relationships. That's why the things you work through with people, you don't work them through overnight, but you work them through with a lot of discussion and dialogue."

Some members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard's largest college, remain furious after his comments last month about women's lack of success in math and science careers set off a broader crisis in confidence about his choice of words, his treatment of colleagues and their perception that he lacks respect for the faculty.

They confronted him angrily at one tumultuous meeting this month, and a few who are his most ferocious critics are trying to schedule a vote of no confidence for the next faculty gathering, on March 15. (No one expects the vote to go anywhere.)

But Dr. Summers sounded on Friday like a man planning to stay at Harvard, and succeed, for many years to come. Asked how he would regain momentum for his agenda, he listed a range of goals for five minutes like planning new buildings, working with the faculty on new undergraduate curriculums and supporting financial aid for students from low- and modest-income homes.

"I'm actually glad that concerns and anger that clearly were felt are now in the open and are now things we can discuss," Dr. Summers said. "I'm learning from all of this, and thinking about all of it, and I suspect I'll be a better president for all these discussions."

At no point, Dr. Summers said, has he felt that his position was in jeopardy with Harvard's governing corporation, a board of seven people, including himself and three others he has helped appoint since becoming president in July 2001.

Indeed, he has drawn strong support from its members, including his mentor, Robert E. Rubin, the former treasury secretary whom Dr. Summers helped coax into the corporation.

Mr. Rubin did not return phone messages seeking comment, but friends of Dr. Summers say the two men have been in regular contact. The Harvard president, an economist who also is a former treasury secretary, said he had spoken once with his and Mr. Rubin's former boss, Mr. Clinton, during the controversy.

"He gave me good advice, which was, it's very important to look forward, learn from your mistakes and recognize the opportunities that they provide," Dr. Summers said. "Certainly we're going to be working very hard."

"The intensity of the focus on advancing women is something different, is very high. I think that's going to add energy and enable us to do some important things more rapidly than we otherwise would have."

In recent weeks, Dr. Summers has been turning to a cast of so-called Hitches, the name of the movie character played by Will Smith, who plays a personal dating coach helping awkward men reveal their lovable inner selves to beautiful women who then fall in love with them. (Asked in the interview whether he had drawn any parallels between Mr. Smith's clients and himself as a university president needing help in changing aspects of his style, Dr. Summers smiled tightly. "I suppose that analogy's there, but I confess it didn't occur to me," he said.)

One coach is Mr. Gergen, an adviser to four presidents who is a professor of public service at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.

"This experience has not been without personal pain," Mr. Gergen said of Dr. Summers's ordeal, adding that "it's a good thing when a male demonstrates vulnerability."

"He takes a very Socratic approach," Mr. Gergen said, referring to Dr. Summers's customary method of intellectually engaging others through probing, even combative, questioning and challenging.

It was this method, perhaps, that was on display at a conference last month when Dr. Summers suggested that "intrinsic aptitude" might be one explanation for women's relative lack of success in math and science careers. Many women scientists and other academics at Harvard and around the country were furious.

Mr. Gergen said: "Socrates was ultimately put to death. People couldn't deal with the hard questions all the time. History tells us that this approach can be jolting."

The long-term challenge facing Dr. Summers is "to rebuild his presidency," Mr. Gergen added. "To put it in political terms, the second campaign began Wednesday morning." He was referring to the morning after the emergency faculty meeting on Tuesday where professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences continued to discuss problems with Dr. Summers's style, but with less fury than the meeting the previous week.

Still, there are clear signs of strain. A copy of The Harvard Crimson from Friday on a table outside Dr. Summers's office had a front-page headline reading, "Two Senior Professors Consider Leaving - Controversy Spurs Rival Schools to Recruit Faculty." (One of the two, Caroline Hoxby, is one of only two tenured female economics professors at the university.)

Meanwhile, questions abound about whether Dr. Summers can successfully lead Harvard's next big capital campaign, which is expected to start in the next few years and aim for at least a record $4 billion while also planning a huge new campus across the Charles River in Allston.

"To some extent, this controversy has put Harvard in a lose-lose situation," said Sidney Verba, a senior professor of government and director of the university library, who is sympathetic to Dr. Summers. "I think it would be a bad idea, and we would lose a lot, if Larry were to resign now or forced out. On the other hand, there are clear downsides right now, because he is damaged, and people are so upset, and the way forward is unclear. I think everyone is really concerned about that."

Dr. Howard Gardner, a professor of cognition in the Education School, said Friday that Harvard presidents had traditionally embodied and reflected "a basic civility" that energized the faculty and staff and helped make the university a special place.

"Under Summers, this civility has been strained to the breaking point and will be difficult to repair," said Dr. Gardner, who described himself as an admirer of the president's intellect and vision. "Larry Summers has taken advantage of and, perhaps, benefited too much from this underlying and pervasive civility."

"How many more university-straining episodes are needed before the tipping point is reached?" Dr. Gardner asked.

Dr. Summers said he did not feel that his presidency was weakened or that faculty members now had him over a barrel. Asked whether he thought any of his critics had been unfair to him, he struck a conciliatory note while also saying he would not roll over and accept any and all attacks.

"I think it's very important for people to really feel free to express whatever views they have. That doesn't mean that I agree with everything that was said," Dr. Summers said. Of the criticisms lodged against him, which included intimidating and humiliating behavior, he added, "There was some that was said that I'm sure was right, there was some that was said that I don't agree with, there are some things that were said that I hope aren't true."

Yet he made clear again and again that he was looking to show his best, most inviting side to his critics.

When a reporter asked if Dr. Summers would take another question right after a photographer asked him to hold a pose, he replied, "As long as you don't write that the unsocialized Summers didn't look at the reporter as she asked a question."

Which job was harder, he was asked, secretary of the treasury or president of Harvard?

"They both have moments when they can feel almost impossible," Dr. Summers said. "I had some tough moments in Washington, but this has a certain uniqueness."

And finally this...


"Scientists Are Made, Not Born"


W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm

February 28th, 2005

The New York Times

The national debate on the issue - touched off by the unfortunate comments of Harvard's president, Lawrence Summers - has so far missed the central point: scientists are made, not born. Athletic talent or musical genius may be gifts of the gods (or genes), but scientific knowledge requires years of education at the college level and beyond. So in our efforts to create more female scientists, what matters are the choices and opportunities open to young women at our universities

Until the last 30 or so years, few women studied the sciences, so there was little mystery about why most people in those professions were men. Over the past generation, however, our research shows, there has been a truly stunning change. As an illustration of the gains by women in historically male disciplines, consider, at right, how the percentages of women receiving bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and doctorates in the sciences increased from 1970 to 2002 (the last year for which we have complete data).

Clearly, debating whether women are intellectually equipped for sciences makes little sense. Women themselves have already settled the issue, one degree at a time. The younger generations within the science professions are decidedly more female than the older ones. The "femininization" of the ranks will take place as a matter of simple math because the older, male-dominated groups will retire.

And, in terms of women's roles, the sciences aren't much different from many other occupations that require education. In the early 1970's, women received less than 10 percent of all graduate degrees in law, medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine. They were below 20 percent in pharmacy.

However, as the chart at bottom right indicates, today women earn about two-thirds of the degrees in veterinary medicine and pharmacy. They're approaching 50 percent in law, and they've topped 40 percent in medicine. More than a third of new dentists are women.

Likewise, women's share of master's degrees from business schools rose from 3.6 percent in 1970 to 41.1 percent in 2002.

Women have also greatly expanded their presence in the social sciences, including economics, political science and sociology. Overall, women earned 46.3 percent of the doctorates awarded in 2002, up from 13.3 percent in 1970.

Women themselves deserve credit for this extraordinary migration into higher education. They made different choices, perhaps because of the feminist movement's consciousness-raising, perhaps because the growing economy offered new opportunities while barriers to entry fell in many professions.

Women also changed how they expected to spend their adult lives. Back when most intended to leave the labor force after marrying and having children, it hardly made economic sense for them to invest time and money in demanding academic pursuits. But as more women contemplated longer, uninterrupted careers, academic effort began to pay off.

Labor-force participation rates bear this claim out: From 1950 to 1968, less than 40 percent of women age 20 and older were working or looking for jobs. But that rate has been rising for decades, passing 50 percent in 1984 and nearing 60 percent today. (Men's labor force participation, although declining over the past two decades, is still higher, around 75 percent.)

There are of course still a few hot-button issues concerning gender and employment: equality in pay, maternity leave, flexible time for family commitments. But in terms of education and opportunity, women are getting ever closer to a level playing field.

If nothing else, the debate set off by Mr. Summers's remarks gives us a chance to recognize this remarkable change.

W. Michael Cox and Richard Alm are, respectively, chief economist of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and an economics writer with the bank.

I don't think that this is strictly an academic issue and should not be ignored.

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