Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Andrew Cline thinks he knows the real reason why the Arts and Sciences faculty at Harvard wants to get rid of Larry Summers.
At many, probably most, universities, a faculty council or the full tenured faculty is charged with granting tenure. At Harvard, that responsibility rests fully with the president. Faculty vote to give tenure, but the president has the final say and has full authority to nullify a faculty vote.

Last year, Summers vetoed the unanimous decision of the African and African-American Studies department to offer tenure to Marcyliena Morgan, whom the Boston Globe describes as a "hip-hop scholar."

Probably Morgan's most noted accomplishment was founding Harvard's Hip Hop Archive. Her academic credits consisted of publishing exactly one book, and the Globe reported that her classes received poor reviews from students. Nonetheless, the department voted to grant her tenure. Her husband, Lawrence Bobo, whose academic work was more noteworthy, already had tenure at Harvard. After Summers' veto, both Bobo and Morgan left for Stanford.

Summers' refusal to grant tenure to someone who so clearly did not deserve it, though she had the support of her department, had to have sent shockwaves throughout the faculty.

The president's unwillingness to cave to political correctness (remember his warning that "profoundly anti-Israel views are increasingly finding support in progressive intellectual communities") and his desire to push out professors who prefer dabbling in pop culture to creating serious scholarship should have made him a hero at an institution that prides itself on being America's most prestigious and intellectually challenging institution of higher education.