Math is hard

By | March 12, 2012

In 2001 Summers became president of Harvard University and almost immediately alienated some faculty members with his aggressive management style and injudicious and brutal comments.

His abrasive style drove out William Kirby, the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and university star Cornel West, who left for Princeton after Summers criticized his lack of scholarly output. Commenting on a private meeting with Summers, West said: “I have never been attacked and insulted in that particular way,” says West. “It is a matter of respect.”  http://www.npr.org/about/press/020104.harvard.html   http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1161877,00.html#ixzz1oNHF6IhG

In 2005 Summers told an economic conference that women may lack the genetic gifts to succeed at the highest levels in science and math. “I felt I was going to be sick,” said Nancy Hopkins, a biology professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who listened to part of Summers’s speech. She walked out in what she described as a physical sense of disgust.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19181-2005Jan18.html   http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A54826-2005Apr14.html

Critics of his tenure at Harvard questioned his commitment to diversity and pointed out that the number of tenured professorships offered to women dropped sharply over his first four years as president. The Washington Post reported that of the 32 offers of tenure made by Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences in 2004, only four went to women. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A19181-2005Jan18.html

According to one article about Summers’s tenure at Harvard: “So great was the bewilderment over Summers’s lack of social skills that some in the Harvard community wondered if there might be a clinical reason for his behavior: a neurobiological disorder called Asperger’s syndrome.” http://www.bostonmagazine.com/articles/lawrence_of_absurdia_1/

Summers linked a student-faculty campaign demanding Harvard divest Israeli investments from its endowment over Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians to what he termed as growing anti-Semitism at Harvard and other campuses. Faculty accused him of shutting off discussion. ”We are essentially being told there can be no debate,” said John Assad, an assistant professor of neurobiology at Harvard medical school who signed the Harvard divestment petition. ”This is the ugliest statement imaginable to paint critics as anti-Semitic.” http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/21/us/harvard-president-sees-rise-in-anti-semitism-on-campus.html?pagewanted=all&src=pm

Summers resigned as Harvard’s president in 2006 on the eve of an embarrassing no-confidence vote by the faculty.  A scandal involving Summers’ questionable handling of a fraud case involving his friend and Harvard colleague contributed to his stepping down.  http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,1161877,00.html#ixzz1oNIbrlGu

Summers remained at Harvard as a faculty member, and increasing his financial sector activities, receiving $135,000 for one speech at Goldman Sachs. http://chronicle.com/article/Larry-Summersthe/124790/