Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Harvard Presidential Pick Marks Rise of Feminism

The selection of Drew Faust as the next president of Harvard University marks a triumph of gender equality at the height of American academe. This Los Angeles Times story has the background:

Drew Gilpin Faust, a Civil War historian and dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, on Sunday was named the 28th president of Harvard University, becoming the first woman to hold the post....

As a scholar, Faust focused on the history of the Civil War and the South, teaching at the University of Pennsylvania for more than two decades before becoming dean of the Radcliffe Institute.

"I am a historian," Faust said Sunday. "I've spent a lot of time thinking about the past, and about how it shapes the future…. Our shared enterprise is to make Harvard's future even more remarkable than its past. That will mean recognizing and building on what we already do well. It will also mean recognizing what we don't do as well as we should, and not being content until we find ways to do better."

Faust succeeds Lawrence H. Summers, the former U.S. Treasury secretary who aroused controversy two years ago by suggesting that the paucity of female science and engineering professors at Harvard stemmed from women's lack of "intrinsic aptitude" for science. Summers announced his resignation nearly a year ago.

"I hope my appointment can be one symbol of an opportunity that would have been inconceivable even a generation ago," Faust said at a news conference at Harvard after her appointment was announced at the Cambridge, Mass., campus. "I'm not the woman president of Harvard. I'm the president of Harvard."
In a Newsweek interview, Richard Bradley, the author of Harvard Rules, had this to say about Faust's selection:

It’s hard not to look at Faust in the context of the Summers presidency. Summers got in trouble for his remarks about women in science and mathematics; Faust is, of course, a woman. Summers was never considered a great booster of the humanities; Faust is a historian. Summer’s governing style was-how can I put it nicely?—aggressive; Faust is said to be much more of a consensus builder. Even though Summers had taught at Harvard, he’d been gone for about a decade and was effectively a Harvard outsider; Faust was an internal candidate. So in almost every instance, if Summers was X, Faust is Y.
Bradley was also asked "What else does her selection say about the Harvard presidency?"

That it’s very hard to find someone who fits all or even most of the criteria Harvard wants. Drew Faust has a lot going for her but there are also some real question marks. Every one of the final candidates mentioned also had some pretty large question marks. That’s a testament to the fact that this is a very tough job and that the number of people qualified for all its responsibilities is minuscule. The corollary is that a number of people who seemed qualified—perhaps better qualified on paper than the final choice-wanted to nothing to do with it.
Over at City Journal, Heather MacDonald argues that the selection of Faust reflects the "feminist takeover of Harvard":

[As the Director of the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study] Faust runs one of the most powerful incubators of feminist complaint and nonsensical academic theory in the country. You can count on the Radcliffe Institute’s fellows and invited lecturers to proclaim the “constructed” nature of knowledge, gender, and race, and to decry endemic American sexism and racism. Typical guest speakers include left-wing journalists Susan Faludi and Barbara Ehrenreich. At Radcliffe, Faludi argued that 9/11 had triggered yet another “backlash against feminism,” while Ehrenreich lectured on “Weird Science: Challenging Sexist Ideology Since the 1970s.” It is received truth among Radcliffe Institute lecturers that obstacles throughout American society block women’s progress.

With typical feminist hypocrisy, Faust has managed to wield massive power even as she rues female powerlessness. She headed the
Task Force on Women Faculty, created after the firestorm over Summers’s recklessly honest speculations about women in science, that strengthened the feminist hold on faculty hiring and promotions. The Task Force won a $50 million commitment to increase faculty “diversity efforts” at Harvard, notwithstanding that for decades the university has tied itself in knots trying to increase female and black faculty representation. Faust’s Task Force also muscled into existence a remarkable new bureaucratic sinecure: the Senior Vice Provost for Diversity and Faculty Development. This new official sits with the president, the provost, and the deans of faculties, in order to push “diversity” quotas in every corner of the university’s academic operations. Naturally, Harvard gave the new position to one of Faust’s two co-chairs on the Task Force: Evelyn Hammonds, a professor of the history of science, and of African and African-American studies, who specializes in discerning bias against minority women in science and medicine. (Please do not question how Hammonds’s unobstructed rise through the most elite American universities comports with her thesis of pervasive discrimination against black women.)

Should the Board of Overseers confirm Faust, the Senior Vice Provost for Diversity that she created will be even more redundant than before. Expect a constant push for ever greater female and minority representation throughout the university, backed up by academic “research” showing widespread discrimination against those favored beneficiaries—research unclouded by the fact that women now run many of the nation’s most prestigious universities. Asked whether her appointment showed that gender inequities were ending at Harvard, Faust responded: “Of course not. There is a lot of work still to be done, especially in the sciences,” reports the New York Times. Unbiased inquiry into why certain groups may not enjoy proportional representation in scientific and technical fields, of the sort that Summers engaged in to his demise, will be even more proscribed. This triumph of feminist ideology is a tragedy not just for Harvard, but for the American academic world, which will undoubtedly follow Harvard’s lead in elevating feminist politics to premier intellectual standing.

See also this Washington Post article on Faust's selection.

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