2005 March 16 Wednesday
The Nation Should Lose Confidence In Harvard's Faculty

The Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences (which I'm guessing does not include some of the specialized schools such as the medical school) voted for a motion stating a lack of confidence in Harvard President Lawrence Summers.

``This was a resounding statement that this faculty lacks confidence in President Summers and President Summers should resign,'' said anthropology professor J. Lorand Matory, author of the motion.


The measure passed 218 to 185 with 18 abstentions.


A less stern motion taking Summers to task for his comments on women and his leadership also passed 253 to 137 with 18 abstentions, faculty members said.

A parochial and small-minded Harvard faculty turns its back on science. How pathetic.

What is missed in the Boston Herald report above but brought out in a Harvard Crimson report on the same vote is that Matory is also an African Studies prof.

Wielding a giant “report card” failing Summers in every category of leadership, the rowdy group also surrounded Professor of Anthropology and of African and African and African American Studies J. Lorand Matory ’82 as he issued a statement to the press.

Matory submitted the lack of confidence motion that the Faculty passed—with 218 in favor, 185 opposed, and 18 abstaining—at yesterday’s meeting.

Many ethnic studies departments have low academic standards and were created as a sop to assorted ethnic groups. Summers earned the ire of the African Studies profs at Harvard when he criticised then Harvard African Studies prof Cornel West for spending most of his time in unscholarly pursuits. Summers' drive to raise the standards in ethnic studies departments made him a lot of enduring enemies. The racial preferences racket and the sexual preferences racket are natural allies in a battle against Summers.

In these two votes the Harvard faculty seems to have more severely disapproved what Summers said about women than they did about his performance overall. Well, the text of what Summers said about women (which I urge you to click thru to) was quite reasonable and was consistent with the existing body of social science and biological science research on sex differences and on psychometric research in particular.

It says something disappointing about the human race in general that so many high IQ faculty at Harvard University can be so blatantly irrational and in denial about human nature. Higher IQ combined with large amounts of education are obviously not sufficient to ensure that people are willing to learn and accept the truth regardless of any implications. Therefore when genetic engineering to raise IQ becomes possible large groups of humans will continue to embrace mythologies all the while proclaiming themselves to be reasonable and well-informed.

Steve Sailer says Harvard's elite has unresolved contradictions in their beliefs about IQ.

Yet, Harvard's IQ elitism sharply contradicts its professed egalitarianism. The typical Harvard professor or student considers himself superior to ordinary folks for two conflicting reasons: first, he constantly proclaims his belief in human equality, but they don't; and second, he has a high IQ, but they don't.

Further, he believes his brains weren't the luck of his genes. No, he earned them. Which in turn means he feels that dumb people deserve to be dumb.

For insights into why a mostly male and very high IQ faculty would vote to condemn a highly rational and informed discourse on sexual differences see Steve Sailer's essay Why (Some) Men Don’t Support Summers.

Should Summers have made his speech in the first place? I have to take issue with Razib over at Gene Expression on his contention that it was unwise for Summers to make his sexual differences speech.

OK, as president of Harvard, this was a stupid thing to say. That's pretty obvious. This sort of stuff is left to academics who have tenure and who are battling it out in journals. In fact, some of the scholars Summers cited are doing just that.

If academics are busy arguing about, say, some 2 million year old skull or the intricacies of quarks in physics there are probably no implications for university governance in such disagreements. But the whole reason Summers was invited to give his talk in the first place is that the question of the causes of differences in sexual representation on the faculty of Harvard has policy implications for the governance of Harvard. If sexist male faculty members are the cause of the difference in sexual representation on Harvard's faculty then that has very different policy implications than if less female interest in working 80 hour weeks or a narrower IQ distribution in females are the reasons for the difference in outcomes. Summers can not responsibly carry out his job and make correct decisions if he ignores the scientific evidence on sexual differences. He can't ignore the evidence and still have an honest discussion with Harvard faculty and sexual representation at Harvard.

The correct policy response for one factor (say unfair discrimination) as a cause of the male domination of Harvard faculty is the wrong policy response if another factor (say a smaller standard deviation in female IQ or average difference in interests or in drive) is the cause. Many women faculty members are making demands on the Harvard Corporation that may be entirely unjustified if unfair discrimination is not the reason few women get tenure at Harvard. So how can Summers not address the possible reasons for the difference in outcomes when he responds to these women?

Imagine the women were demanding that Harvard propitiate the rain god that is causing too much rain to fall in Cambridge Massachusetts. Should Summers respond by saying he'll take their complaints under advisement and then let the faculty debate the causes of the rain god's anger at Harvard? Or should he trot out scientific research on what causes weather? Are our universities to be justified based on Enlightenment principles about truth and reason and science or not? To argue that Summers should not discuss social and biolgical science research underlying sexual differences is to accept the attempts of irrational people to control the debate in universities. The people opposing Summers are ideologues. They should be treated as such. Arguments that are presented with rigor and scientific evidence should always be treated as legitimate in academia.

One other point: Harvard is hypocritical when it comes to whether under and overrepresentation of groups is acceptable. Don't expect to hear Harvard's faculty complaining about overrepresentations of a number of other categories aside from males.

And one final point: the obvious character flaws of Harvard's elite serve as a useful reminder that the nation needs to embrace technology that breaks up the higher education oligopoly. Mass filming of college lectures would bring true competition for each individual course. Rather than signing up for education at a single college you could pick and choose over hundreds of thousands of courses of lectures. Individual courses should be unbundled and made available cheaply.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 March 16 11:32 AM  Education

razib said at March 16, 2005 12:36 PM:

randall, you make a very viable point. in isolation it is a slam dunk. but, and this is a big but, but over the past generation the primary role of the president of harvard, from what i can gather, has been to be a fundraiser for its gargantuan endowment. so, when viewed in the context of "but is it good for the endowment?" it might be a more mixed picture.

GUYK said at March 16, 2005 1:11 PM:

razib: you are probably correct. Could it be that Harvard's reputation as 'THE' place for a quality education is as phoney as the bunch of far left profs who voted no confidence in the prez?

Oscar said at March 16, 2005 3:33 PM:

As a Harvard grad (65), I have not been sympathetic to their fundraising for many years. The faculty may have been just a left when I was there as it is now, but it certainly has gone more whiny left than it used to be. The reputation is probably still justified on the quality of the student body more than the quality of the faculty - you can take a course from a famous prof, and only see him twice a month, with the rest of the time grad students. That hasn't changed for better or worse in 40 years.

rdg said at March 16, 2005 3:43 PM:

This all assumes one thing -- that the vote of no-confidence is directly related to Summers' comments.

A more likely scenario:

Summers runs Harvard like a business, not a university. This pisses off the faculty, and they look for an excuse to get rid of him. The present controversy provides just such an excuse.

PacRim Jim said at March 16, 2005 8:24 PM:

Knowledge is not wisdom. Intelligence is not common sense.

Curious Citizen from Sweden said at March 17, 2005 10:50 AM:

Where do I find good evidence that females have a smaller standard deviation in IQ scores than men? I see the claim quite often (and I also think its true), but it is rarely backed up. Preferably the source includes scores on different sub-tests (spatial ability, etc).

Randall Parker said at March 17, 2005 11:36 AM:

Curious Swede,

Does this do it for you?

Dr. Arthur Jensen’s Bias in Mental Testing explores the question of male/female differences in ability in a very interesting section of Chapter 13. Jensen cited studies indicating a difference of approximately one IQ point in the standard deviation of males and females in general intelligence, with males having the greater variability.

Most of the sources I've seen mentioned for this are books and journal articles. Probably there are articles on the web that have tables taken from those sources. You'd have to spend some time googling on it. I just spent about 15 minutes on it myself.

If you restrict your Google searches to lrain.com and mugu.com with site:lrainc.com and site:mugu.com in your Google searches (which I did not do) you'll probably find the info pretty quickly.

Try, for example, this search on lrainc.com and this this search on mugu.com and read through some of those articles.

John S Bolton said at March 17, 2005 2:50 PM:

This also shows that the public should vote no confidence in government funding of education, if the irrational left has such a stranglehold on the professoriate.

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