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 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.