Dangerous Dan Thoughts and musings on the world


The Strange Cases of Ward Churchill and Larry Summers

Filed under: Education,Society — Dangerous Dan @ 11:28 pm

Academia has vigorously defended Ward Churchill's right to free speech and decried all the criticism of him as a chill on academic protections. In contrast, Larry Summers, president of Harvard has been given a no-confidence vote by school's faculty and has been constantly assailed for his recent comments. Let's look at the two cases.

* Called the people who died in 9/11 "little Eichmans"
* Said 9/11 was a case of chickens coming home to roost
* Is a professor and was a department chair at a major public state research university despite not having a Ph.D., which is rather unheard of.
* Has made a career posing as a Native American, which he is not and has none in his ancestry. He has an associate membership to a particular tribe which has as much meaning as Harlan Sanders being a Kentucky colonel. He even dresses and looks like a stereotypical modern-day Indian.
* Has questionable scholarship and is little recognized within his own field. He may have plagiarized another professor's work in at least one instance.
* He blatantly took a drawing from a book, reversed the image, added some color and then passed it off as his own original artwork, for which he charged $100 a print.

While I don't think Churchill should be fired for the first two items, the rest should merit it. Let's compare him to Summers.

* B.A. from MIT, Ph.D. in economics from Harvard
* Taught at MIT and Harvard
* Widely published and edited a prominent economics journal
* Worked in the U.S. Department of the Treasury and was eventually its Secretary
* Made a comment during a speech to faculty that there may be some truth to the notion that there are biological differences between men and women that may influence their respective representation in different academic fields. The event at which he said this was supposed to be an open forum for provocative topics, Summers said he was going to be provocative, and he issued so many backtracks, cautionary statements, and qualifications to this that he all but rolled out a 20 foot flashing marquee that said, "It's a slight, tiny possibility that I'm not really advocating or endorsing."

For this last item, Summers has been mercilessly castigated by academics for being insensitive, sexist, a dunderhead, and what have you. Many have called for his resignation or termination and Summers has prostrated himself before the pitchfork and Foucault carrying professorship horde on several occasions, issued at least four apologies full of verbal self-flagellation, and appointed two overlapping committees to seek out institutional sexism in whatever corner it could possibly still survive at Harvard. I believe one is called the Harvard Un-PC Activities Committee and the other is the Hypersensitivity Recognition Committee. Despite all this, though… despite that he's a marvelous academic, that he was once the man holding the nation's wallet, that he is a thoroughly competent and successful university president, that he made a highly conditional statement at a supposedly open-minded university and at an event meant for brainstorming, and despite him apologizing… the Harvard faculty has called for Summers's head. And many other professors across the country I'm sure agree.

Meanwhile, Churchill is a complete rump of an academic (in the classical liberal sense), who has made a living based on a false identity, and who made noxious comments. In response to criticism of those comments, academia rallied 'round him and warned of a chill on academic free speech.

Yet, how is Churchill an example of the big chill and Summers is not? Summers's case is actually much worse because the censorship is coming from academia itself. At least with Churchill, the professors can repel the hoi-polloi barbarians at the university gate. But what to do when the inhabitants inside the ivied walls set upon one of their own; when the chill wind of censorship is blowing from the inside? Who will rally 'round Summers?


  1. […] ciety Education World — Dangerous Dan @ 11:37 pm

    Last month, I authored this post in which I said the following about Ward Churchill and Larry Summers: Yet, how is Churchill an […]

    Pingback by Dangerous Dan » Barbarians Manning the Gate — 4/8/2005 @ 5:37 am

  2. Yet More Churchill
    LGF reports that there is a tape of Churchill threatening an a member of the American Indian Movement in 1993. From LGF: The transcript is as follows: “You siphoned a half million ripped off from Gadhafi. How many other thousand…

    Trackback by Pete The Elder — 3/17/2005 @ 4:27 pm

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