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February 24, 2005

Matthew Yglesias Gives His Take on Discontent in Harvard Yard

He writes:

Matthew Yglesias: Why So Mad?: To a very large extent the faculty revolt against Summers is... about general discontent with his presidency. This has a lot of aspects....

  • The steadily declining number of senior job offers going to women since Summers took office....
  • [A]n effort to centralize the administration of the University (naturally enough stepping on more than a few toes)
  • [R]elocat[ing] several major units out of Cambridge and into Allston (more toes)
  • [G]enerally denigrated the importance of all scholarship outside the fields of natural science and economics...
  • [A] desire to change the nature of the College into something more like MIT where he was an undergraduate.

One could go on and on like this, but I'll just add that last, and by no means least in my estimation, some of us are a bit sick and tired of Summers' willingness to serve as a useful idiot for the right's ever-intensifying campaign against the American academy coming in the midst of what's really an unprecedented assault on the concepts of objective knowledge and disinterested scholarship from a rapacious but increasingly demented conservative movement....

Many of these appear, to me at least, to have considerable merit. Donors to the endowment who want to see Harvard do something with their money rather than sit on it are expecting the university to expand--and that means the move to Allston. "Centralizing" can mean "challenging the allocations of resources made by entrenched fiefdoms." "Denigrating" can mean "elevating the natural sciences to their appropriate position." "More like MIT" can mean "making it harder to slide by doing next to nothing."

But in all these, of course, the devil is in the details.

Posted by DeLong at February 24, 2005 10:14 AM