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Sally C. Pipes is President and CEO, Pacific Research Institute [go to Pipes index]

Engendered Strife at Harvard
Un-diverse diversity
[Sally C. Pipes] 2/8/05

Harvard, that venerated institution of higher education, now offers a post-grad course in feminist hostility. Consider the reaction to recent remarks by president Lawrence H. Summers.

On Friday, January 14, at a session on the progress of women in academia, organized by the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) in Cambridge, MA, president Summers said that the shortage of elite female scientists might be due to "innate differences" between men and women.

As most people realize, there are indeed many innate differences between men and women. Therefore, this is a legitimate point of inquiry. Summers alluded to research showing that while median scores of both sexes are the same, girls are less likely than boys to score top marks in standardized math and science tests. He said he did not know the reason for this but offered a number of hypotheses, including the innate differences concept.

Harvard economics professor Claudia Goldin told reporters she was elated at Summers's ideas and "proud that the president of my university retains the inquisitiveness of an academic." But professor Goldin’s remarks were drowned out by shouts from the feminist benches.

MIT biology professor Nancy Hopkins, a Harvard grad, said, "I felt I was going to be sick" and stormed out in a huff. Others found it offensive that the president of Harvard would suggest that women's propensity to have children and devote time to them, an observable phenomenon, had anything to do with it. The feminist critics, of course, assume that if there are fewer women than men in any field it means women are "underrepresented." This proceeds from the idea that, in jargon that George Orwell would have loved, women and men are "not undifferentiated." They are the same, in other words.

The dogma also includes the notion that, in every endeavor, job, school, and government department, men and women, along with ethnic groups, must be represented in equal numbers. Just where this assumption of political correctness is actually codified has yet to be established. If women are not so represented, according to the theory, the cause must be discrimination. Of course, this must be remedied by government action.

The discrimination charge was led by Denice D. Denton, chancellor-designate of the University of California at Santa Cruz, every bit as politically correct as Berkeley. She pointed out that four of the 10 UC campuses were run by women who are all at the top of their profession. So maybe there is not, after all, rampant gender discrimination in academia?

One never knows with this crowd. The Harvard president found out the hard way that the "diversity" he is supposed to promote does not include statements, or people, at odds with prevailing campus orthodoxy.

Predictably, Summers wound up apologizing to a group of angry feminist professors. This is a group seldom, if ever, called to account, much less apologize, for their own gender dogmas. Press reports even hinted that Summers might be fired. That threat underscored a remark by David Goldston of the House Science Committee, who was present for Summers's January 14 speech. He told reporters that "there ought to be some place in America where you can have a thoughtful, non-ideological private discussion."

Yes, there should be such a place. And sadly, academia doesn’t seem to be it. tRO

copyright 2005 Pacific Research Institute




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