Thursday, February 23, 2006

Why you don't put a guy with Asberger's in a prominent public position . . .

Larry Summers is finally out of Harvard, and, while there's not a lot of love lost between us, I'm also pretty pissed about the way the whole thing went down. Was LS a boor/oaf/jerk with a permanent case of foot-in-mouth disease? Abso-freakin-lutely. Would I have picked him were on on the committee? Hells no.

But was he also right about Harvard's doing a number of retardo things, justified solely by "I'm Harvard, bitch!" ? Um, yeah. To wit, unlike 99.9% of all other educational instutions, unlike Summers arrived, Harvard used a 14-point grade scale. Thus, when applying to oh, say, a job, or an internship, or grad school, or pretty much anything on which your GPA was required, you had to convert your 14-pt grade into the 4.0 system. And it took boorish, oafish, jerky LS to say "Hey, that's dumb. Stop doing that." Which is pretty much how he interacted with everybody.

The best summary I've found of the whole shebang is here.
And the worst news from my perspective is that the #2 candidate is rocking Columbia's world while we're back to the drawing board.


8yearoldsdude said...

was he that bad? is the university in shambles? what's the fucking fuss? Larry Summers is like Lindsay Lohan for the NPR set...gasp, what will he do next?

Want to talk baroque, self-important systems? what about the way the semesters are structured which priveleges instructor christmas over student sanity and exam quality? but everyone still attends anyway, proving conclusively that despite the hand-wringing about how things must change at harvard, that is simply not true.

My nasty flippancy makes me pause, because admission of women and minorities were significant steps taken by administrators, and my throwing up my hands to a status quo eliminates the possibility of that. But the overseriousness surrounding what core curriculum students take and whether or not they have coffee dates with harvey mansfield doesn't seem like the most pressing thing on the national agenda.

as al sharpeton says, "college isn't about ED-ucation, it's about CERT-ification [of a cultural elite]"

Wamby said...

"was he that bad?" Yes. Not a bad person. A bad president to try to expand the powers of his office in an instution with entrenched, competing powers and intense national attention. He didn't do a good job responding to people who disagreed with him, nor did he do a good job trying to restructure without first going to a large public venue.

Face it, Harvard has huge cache. The name, the wealth, the fact that the Crimson spits out a lot of people who want to work at the Atlantic, Slate, the New Republic, the New York Times... at some level these places drive what the national media talks about and they are staffed by people often less than 10 or even 5 years out of college. The people who have to work with these alums might take some pleasure in trying to knock Harvard off its high horse.

Dorothy said...

I think the real deal is spliting up message and medium. His messages weren't all bad, but his medium almost universally was. And, frankly, as a president of a university, you kind of have to know how to talk to people. And he couldn't.

As for what's the fuss? For me, it's two parts. One, the university is a cultural behemoth and, whether or not it deserves it, it gets lots of attention for that. It's the oldest, the most famous, and the wealthiest university in the country. Hell, it's richer than several countries.

And, two, I went there, and I would be thrilled if it actually lived up to the hype. Harvard will always get a lot of attention for being Harvard. Wouldn't it be cool if it got some attention for something else? Like being awesome? And, yeah, I think things like student-professor contact and core curriculum go into determining awesomeness.