Harvard to Hire Token Women

Harvard President Larry Summers has caved to activist groups by committing to spend $50 million to hire less qualified faculty members.

Harvard to spend $50 million on diversity (Reuters)

Harvard University President Lawrence Summers, under fire for comments on women in the sciences, said the school would spend $50 million over 10 years to promote diversity on its faculty and reform the way women in science and engineering are treated.

The announcement on Monday came four months after Summers triggered outrage among the faculty when he said intrinsic differences between the sexes may help explain why so few women work in the academic sciences.

After harsh criticism, Summers appointed a task force to study the representation of women and other minorities at the Ivy League school in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Task force recommendations included appointing a senior vice provost for diversity and faculty development, improved recruitment and mentoring of junior faculty members. “They also propose a series of reforms and enhancements to the way women pursuing science and engineering are treated at every point along the ‘pipeline,’ from undergraduates, to graduate students, to post-doctoral fellows, to the faculty ranks,” according to a statement from Summers’ office.

See NYT story, too.

Summers’ distinguishing attribute had been his standing up against the forces of pseudo-diversity in favor of excellence. He has thrown that away in false hopes that it will make the radicals like him.

Harvard vies with a handful of schools for title of America’s best university. There was no suggestion before the flap over Summers’ comments on women in the sciences that Harvard’s science program was somehow less than excellent. They’re now going to spend $50 million in an effort to get people who would ordinarily not have made it into Harvard into the pipleline, hire faculty members who wouldn’t have rated a phone call, and otherwise lowering their standards.

Shame on Larry Summers.

Update (1350): Jesse Taylor finds my dismissal too glib, arguing that one can promote diversity without lowering standards. Unless there is systematic gender discrimination in Harvard’s hiring process–something that I don’t believe has been alleged, let alone proven–then “diversity” is synonymous with lowered standards.

Currently, Harvard advertises open faculty positions in the Chronicle, various field-specific periodicals, and so forth. Women have as much ability to apply for those jobs and have their packets considered. So, Harvard gets 100-300 applications for a given opening, has the departmental hiring committee vet the list, and selects the candidates with the best credentials (school, publications, grants, whatever) and invites them for interviews. It then picks one.

That process may well be biased in a way that makes it harder for female candidates to emerge, especially in male dominated fields. There are all manner of biases in hiring processes, certainly including those at elite universities–pedigree, region, politics, etc. But, again, Harvard is widely considered one of the very elite institutions. Its professors win Nobel prizes, secure top political appointments, publish great books and articles, and otherwise demonstrate that that prestige is earned.

So, what about the current means for selecting and promoting faculty is not working?

Update (1406): Steven Taylor agrees and wonders “Precisely why it costs more to hire minorities than non-minorities.” Indeed, it’s not as if anyone qualified to teach at Harvard hasn’t heard of it.

FILED UNDER: General
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. LJD says:

    Exactly what is “promoting diversity” and who decides what is diverse (those gaining from the programs)? Does selection of different colors and sexes of people actually create more intellectual variety? Not necessarily.
    Intelligent women in this country have every opportunity a man has, and more. If they don’t like the way the corporate game is played, they are plenty of private and/or entrepreneurial business opportunities. Men and women make this choice every day.
    This is every bit as bad as the recent criticism of Vicente Fox’s comments on blacks in America. Does it hurt because it rings so true? Why wouldn’t the average person discount such a comment as blatantly false and unfounded? Some get so outraged at the audacity of such a defining statement. Bill Cosby has had a lot to say about this. In the case of women, I follow the thinking of the ifeminists…
    Your future is what YOU make it. Whining, complaining, and suing people gets you nowhere but resented. The sooner the “special interest” groups realize it, the better off we all will be.
    Harvard has been forced into this affirmative action by threats, plain and simple.




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  2. James must be on a female kick lately with all these female related posts.

    (Sigh) It’s not what we are given, its the right we have to pursue. It only hurts women when foolish men decide to play foolish games like these.

    Women can suceed in the engineering and sciences without favoritism. I’ve spent the last 20 years proving that very concept and it upsets me when I see things like this happening.




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  3. carpeicthus says:

    Begging the question a bit much? If they wanted to hire lower-quality candidates, they could have done that for free. Jeez, it looks like they’re trying to foster a wider pool of better candidates with long-term development, which takes money, but what do I know, I’m just a guy who knows how to read.




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  4. Meezer says:

    “…wider pool of better candidates with long-term developement…” Gee, I didn’t know Harvard had a farm team. Why should today’s students have to have lower quality instruction and research opportunities (assuming better candidates provide such) than students who enroll when the candidates have “developed”? I thought one of the benefits of being the best in any industry was not having to develope, but rather being able to hire the cream right off the top.




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  5. Quote:

    “Task force recommendations included appointing a senior vice provost for diversity and faculty development, improved recruitment and mentoring of junior faculty members. “They also propose a series of reforms and enhancements to the way women pursuing science and engineering are treated at every point along the ‘pipeline,’ from undergraduates, to graduate students, to post-doctoral fellows, to the faculty ranks,”

    Maybe you need to reread?

    Not just throw money at a problem to develope resources, but read the words “diverity…improved recruitment…reforms and enhancements to the way women…are treated at every point along the ‘pipeline’…

    Read “affirmative action”…and we all know how well affirmative action has worked against the races in the end game. So now they want to use it with the sexes?

    No thankyou, I’ll be hired or fired on my own merits if you don’t mind.




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  6. bryan says:

    Maybe they’ll hire more conservatives for some intellectual diversity.

    And didn’t you know there’d be an additional vice chancellor in that package somewhere?




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  7. Jon Cohen says:

    Why not just put up a sign saying “white boys need not apply” and give the $50,000,000 to me?




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  8. Kent says:

    Harvard vies with a handful of schools for title of America’s best university.

    [phony French accent]
    Not any more.
    [/phony French accent]




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  9. Anon says:

    Jesse is right that one can increase diversity, WITHIN a given institution, without lowering standards. Simply offer gobs of money to the finite pool of qualified women. Of course, at the level that Harvard is dealing with, it’s mostly a zero-sum game, so this does nothing to improve the overall degree of diversity.

    I do believe that government action can improve diversity, but the effort/money must be directed at the primary and secondary school levels, where the effect can be much more significant.




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  10. James Joyner says:

    Anon: True enough. Sure, Harvard could go out and identify the best female faculty members elsewhere and bring them in, raising the bar. Of course, one could also do that without respect to gender, simply targetting great scholars.

    The problem with the former approach vice the latter is that it smacks of tokenism. Any woman scholar–including those who would have been hired under the current process–will be viewed as a “diversity” hire rather than simply a brilliant scholar.




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  11. Kent says:

    Tokenism isn’t the only problem with making an extra effort to attract qualified women. There’s the opportunity cost. If it costs twice as much to attract a superb female professor than an equally superb male professor you will end up with admittedly superb female faculty and less than superb male faculty.




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  12. Steven L. says:

    “They should understand the sentiments of NOW and think 101 times before expressing views which hurt feelings of its members.”




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  13. Jack Tanner says:

    I’m not equating Harvard with blackmailers but this is why you don’t pay with blackmailers . It only leads to more blackmail.




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  14. Mr L says:

    “Jesse is right that one can increase diversity, WITHIN a given institution, without lowering standards.”

    There’s another way to do it, one that I’ve seen the diversitoids use elsewhere: simply don’t differentiate between candidates that meet the minimum qualifications. This is how favoring a black student with a 1200 SAT over a jew with a 1440 gets characterized as ‘AA for equally qualified candidates’, which the public theoretically supports.

    Since Harvard’s standards are likely quite flexible (to accommodate the occassional indep. literary geniuses and wunderkinds), functionally this means that they’re going to give a seat to anyone who won’t make a complete idiot of themselves in the classroom (or maybe they will anyway; Harvard-caliber students love overwhelmed teachers, because they’re easier to pressure into giving high marks).




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  15. philip m says:

    Does anyone know where I can find the full context of this speech? If so, please email me at gtg607a@mail.gatech.edu




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  16. philip m says:

    A better word would be full transcript, sorry.




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