Harvard is wasting $50 million

Harvard University, in the wake of intense criticism of its President Lawrence Summers for daring to entertain a hypothesis that women and men may differ in their abilities to undertake science, has announced a plan to buy—off its critics.

Harvard University will spend $50 million over the next decade to support initiatives on women scientists and faculty that were recommended Monday by two task forces formed in the wake President Lawrence Summers' comments on female aptitude in science and math.

The recommendations include a senior administrative post overseeing diversity and faculty development — which Summers had previously committed to — as well as better mentoring for faculty and freshmen interested in science, enhanced faculty benefits in areas such as child care, and safe transportation for researchers working in labs late at night.

The recommendations also call for a "faculty development and diversity fund" to partially support appointees who "contribute to diversity," and for mandatory instruction of science graduate students on gender bias before they are allowed to teach.

This plan is wrong on many grounds, and appalling in its craven groveling before hysterical censors of intellectual inquiry. Political correctness has been enshrined as dogma, and Harvard can no longer claim to foster dispassionate inquiry seeking veritas ('truth'), the Latin motto which adorns its official crest.

I must confess to readers that three diplomas from Harvard grace the walls of my office, and that I have donated thousands of dollars in past years to my graduate alma mater. That act of charity to Harvard will never happen again, though I intend to hang onto the sheepskins. Harvard has amply demonstrated that it can throw away a substantial sum of money, presumably donated for serious purposes, so it does not need any more from me. Or, I suspect, from others who might be inclined to give.

This is a tragedy. Among all the elite universities of America, Harvard has had the best record of resisting racialism, going back a century. Harvard was the first Ivy League school to ease up on the pervasive de facto Jewish quotas which engineered the ethnic composition of the student body just as diversity—mongering does today. Harvard also tended to be more tolerant of academic heterodoxy than other elite universities, though the record is far from stellar for any of them.

'Diversity' is a well—understood code word for preferring some categories of people over others. So appointing a senior bureaucrat to 'oversee' it simply means even further efforts to judge students and scholars not on the basis of the capabilities and accomplishments, but on accidents of birth. A senior administrator is now to be in place, presumably with numerous junior minions attached, to identify and hector those foolish departments and individuals who neglect to place the butcher's thumb on the scale weighing the merits of favored categories when making hiring decisions, and possibly awarding scholarships, grants, and [who knows?] maybe even grades. It would not take too much imagination to wonder if studies of racial and gender disparities in all of these matters might not be one of the many tasks keeping these functionaries visibly busy.

Probably the most troubling aspect of the announced program is the "faculty development and diversity fund" to partially support appointees who "contribute to diversity."

This will create a financial incentive (colloquially known as a 'bribe') to prefer hiring [presumably] females in the sciences, and blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans anywhere. In other words, if you are a white or Asian male, you will have a tax, in effect, placed on your hiring, a tax which does not apply to others. This is an open enticement to illegal race and sex discrimination.

On the surface, safe transportation for researchers working in labs late at night doesn't sound so bad. Calling cabs for people working late actually sounds like it might be nice.

But Harvard wouldn't dream of paying for cabs only for women working late at night, leaving men at the mercy of the muggers in Cambridge Common, would it? That sounds a lot like gender discrimination to me. But the language is ambiguous enough as to admit the possibility that men working late at night in the labs might be covered, too. Let's assume the men would get the free ride, too.

But what about people working late at night in the History Department? Does this policy value the safety on of those in the sciences? Are the humanities folks of lesser concern?

If so, what about the social sciences? Economics claims to be a science. Are we to see various offices where statistics are being nocturnally crunched being renamed 'laboratories,' on the entirely reasonable grounds that late night workers there deserve personal safety no less than wielders of test tubes?

If so, what about Sociology? Some sociologists claim to be scientists, working with lots of statistics. They are known as quantitative sociologist. Others (like me) are qualitative sociologists, examining non—qantitative data, mostly. I would never claim to be a scientist. If I were currently teaching Sociology and working late in my office in William James Hall, would I enviously watch my quantitative colleagues cab it homewards on the University's dime, while Itrudged through the darkened streets?

Here's a thought experiment.

By any measure, two groups are at least as underrepresented at Harvard as women are in the sciences. I refer, of course, to political conservatives and evangelical Christians. I spent 17 years or so at Harvard as a student and in faculty positions. Despite the injunction on evangelicals to share the good news, I never once encountered a faculty member who proclaimed his or her membership in a group that comprises roughly one—third of the American population. The sole student who ever confided in me her evangelical beliefs shed tears at the time, recounting the open scorn she had received. If one wishes to illustrate a 'hostile environment,' I would suggest that Harvard and practically every other elite campus provide one for evangelicals.

Let's try a substitution, and imagine the reactions you would get from the denizens of the Faculty Club:

Harvard University will spend $50 million over the next decade to support initiatives on evangelical Christians....The recommendations include a senior administrative post overseeing diversity and faculty development for people of deep Christian faith— which Summers had previously committed to — as well as better mentoring for faculty and freshmen interested in science, enhanced faculty benefits in areas such as leave of absences for missionary work, and transportation to church services and retreats.

The recommendations also call for a "faculty development and diversity fund" to partially support evangelical Christian appointees who "contribute to diversity," and for mandatory instruction of science graduate students on bias toward people of Christian faith before they are allowed to teach.

Don't hold your breath.

Thomas Lifson, PhD, has graduate degrees in three fields from Harvard, and taught in all three fields as a faculty member there.

Harvard University, in the wake of intense criticism of its President Lawrence Summers for daring to entertain a hypothesis that women and men may differ in their abilities to undertake science, has announced a plan to buy—off its critics.

Harvard University will spend $50 million over the next decade to support initiatives on women scientists and faculty that were recommended Monday by two task forces formed in the wake President Lawrence Summers' comments on female aptitude in science and math.

The recommendations include a senior administrative post overseeing diversity and faculty development — which Summers had previously committed to — as well as better mentoring for faculty and freshmen interested in science, enhanced faculty benefits in areas such as child care, and safe transportation for researchers working in labs late at night.

The recommendations also call for a "faculty development and diversity fund" to partially support appointees who "contribute to diversity," and for mandatory instruction of science graduate students on gender bias before they are allowed to teach.

This plan is wrong on many grounds, and appalling in its craven groveling before hysterical censors of intellectual inquiry. Political correctness has been enshrined as dogma, and Harvard can no longer claim to foster dispassionate inquiry seeking veritas ('truth'), the Latin motto which adorns its official crest.

I must confess to readers that three diplomas from Harvard grace the walls of my office, and that I have donated thousands of dollars in past years to my graduate alma mater. That act of charity to Harvard will never happen again, though I intend to hang onto the sheepskins. Harvard has amply demonstrated that it can throw away a substantial sum of money, presumably donated for serious purposes, so it does not need any more from me. Or, I suspect, from others who might be inclined to give.

This is a tragedy. Among all the elite universities of America, Harvard has had the best record of resisting racialism, going back a century. Harvard was the first Ivy League school to ease up on the pervasive de facto Jewish quotas which engineered the ethnic composition of the student body just as diversity—mongering does today. Harvard also tended to be more tolerant of academic heterodoxy than other elite universities, though the record is far from stellar for any of them.

'Diversity' is a well—understood code word for preferring some categories of people over others. So appointing a senior bureaucrat to 'oversee' it simply means even further efforts to judge students and scholars not on the basis of the capabilities and accomplishments, but on accidents of birth. A senior administrator is now to be in place, presumably with numerous junior minions attached, to identify and hector those foolish departments and individuals who neglect to place the butcher's thumb on the scale weighing the merits of favored categories when making hiring decisions, and possibly awarding scholarships, grants, and [who knows?] maybe even grades. It would not take too much imagination to wonder if studies of racial and gender disparities in all of these matters might not be one of the many tasks keeping these functionaries visibly busy.

Probably the most troubling aspect of the announced program is the "faculty development and diversity fund" to partially support appointees who "contribute to diversity."

This will create a financial incentive (colloquially known as a 'bribe') to prefer hiring [presumably] females in the sciences, and blacks, Hispanics, and Native Americans anywhere. In other words, if you are a white or Asian male, you will have a tax, in effect, placed on your hiring, a tax which does not apply to others. This is an open enticement to illegal race and sex discrimination.

On the surface, safe transportation for researchers working in labs late at night doesn't sound so bad. Calling cabs for people working late actually sounds like it might be nice.

But Harvard wouldn't dream of paying for cabs only for women working late at night, leaving men at the mercy of the muggers in Cambridge Common, would it? That sounds a lot like gender discrimination to me. But the language is ambiguous enough as to admit the possibility that men working late at night in the labs might be covered, too. Let's assume the men would get the free ride, too.

But what about people working late at night in the History Department? Does this policy value the safety on of those in the sciences? Are the humanities folks of lesser concern?

If so, what about the social sciences? Economics claims to be a science. Are we to see various offices where statistics are being nocturnally crunched being renamed 'laboratories,' on the entirely reasonable grounds that late night workers there deserve personal safety no less than wielders of test tubes?

If so, what about Sociology? Some sociologists claim to be scientists, working with lots of statistics. They are known as quantitative sociologist. Others (like me) are qualitative sociologists, examining non—qantitative data, mostly. I would never claim to be a scientist. If I were currently teaching Sociology and working late in my office in William James Hall, would I enviously watch my quantitative colleagues cab it homewards on the University's dime, while Itrudged through the darkened streets?

Here's a thought experiment.

By any measure, two groups are at least as underrepresented at Harvard as women are in the sciences. I refer, of course, to political conservatives and evangelical Christians. I spent 17 years or so at Harvard as a student and in faculty positions. Despite the injunction on evangelicals to share the good news, I never once encountered a faculty member who proclaimed his or her membership in a group that comprises roughly one—third of the American population. The sole student who ever confided in me her evangelical beliefs shed tears at the time, recounting the open scorn she had received. If one wishes to illustrate a 'hostile environment,' I would suggest that Harvard and practically every other elite campus provide one for evangelicals.

Let's try a substitution, and imagine the reactions you would get from the denizens of the Faculty Club:

Harvard University will spend $50 million over the next decade to support initiatives on evangelical Christians....The recommendations include a senior administrative post overseeing diversity and faculty development for people of deep Christian faith— which Summers had previously committed to — as well as better mentoring for faculty and freshmen interested in science, enhanced faculty benefits in areas such as leave of absences for missionary work, and transportation to church services and retreats.

The recommendations also call for a "faculty development and diversity fund" to partially support evangelical Christian appointees who "contribute to diversity," and for mandatory instruction of science graduate students on bias toward people of Christian faith before they are allowed to teach.

Don't hold your breath.

Thomas Lifson, PhD, has graduate degrees in three fields from Harvard, and taught in all three fields as a faculty member there.