Recently, Larry Summers (ex-president of Harvard) was invited to speak at a dinner for the University of California system Regents. His speech was supposed to center on "pursuing academic excellence." However, after a protest by UC faculty, the invitation was rescinded, and Mr. Summers expressed his regret over the matter:
"I was looking forward to speaking and exchanging views with the regents on a wide range of higher education issues," Summers told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Saturday. "I talk frequently with groups involved with higher education and find I always learn from the exchange of views. I am sorry that the regents do not feel the same way."
Some in the land of the ivory tower are decrying the incident as censorship. As you may recall, Summers is most famous for having declared that biological differences are responsible for women's lack of success in pursuing scientific careers. Happily, most people were outraged by this statement, and it led to his downfall and ouster from the Crimson presidency. You can imagine what this has done to his career, and this latest snub has provoked some reaction from free speech proponents:
Said Harvey Silverglate, a prominent civil rights lawyer and Summers supporter: "It doesn't occur to them in an academic environment ... there's something very wrong with vetoing somebody because you disagree with or are offended by their viewpoint."
While I think free speech is wonderful, and I support it, I don't think this is a free speech issue. I think it's marvelous that professors are refusing to support junk science about women being defined by their "biological differences" from men. Summers is quite welcome to say anything he wants, but not at the Regents' dinner.
I sincerely hope that this issue will continue to resound through the halls of Academe. I would love for us all to be reminded that it is people like Larry Summers who keep the subtle system of assumption of women's abilities in place to keep women down.