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C Giagnocavo

I logged onto this site because I was doing some research on Posner's writings and saw a link on a list of publications. What a disappointment--I expected more intellegent entries than Mr. Posner's unbridled indignation.
Mr. Posner, your article on the resignation of Mr. Summers is just plain silly. In the world of business and institutions (financial, academic or otherwise) CEOs,presidents, managers,etc. get booted out of their jobs all the time (at higher levels they resign). Why? Because they fail to lead and keep together a relatively conflict-free team. The level of conflict wasn't good for Harvard and I imagine that even Mr. Summers would agree to that. I don't have enough reliable information to know if Summer's ideas for the university were good or not, but to give him the benefit of the doubt, let us agree that his ideas were wonderful.However, good ideas are not what make a good leader or Harvard president--a necessary but not sufficient condition you might say.It seems to me that Mr. Summers would do well to take a few courses in leadership skills.
Or was it that he was expecting tenure as president?


"he had the temerity to challenge the absenteeism of a prominent faculty member, Cornel West, who as a result resigned in a huff"

it happens all the time. certain groups (eg, women) that were truly oppressed 20-30 years ago get away with murder today. okay, not "murder", but absenteeism, questionable work ethic, not acessible, etc. this is a very hard issue for a high-performing, diverse organization that offers opportunity to a wide variety of people.


If I understand Judge Posner's argument, Harvard would be better off if the role of the faculty more closely resembled an employee model rather than a worker cooperative model. I agree with him. I understand that this might have negative implications for "academic freedom," but does such a thing even exist at Harvard anymore? I think the Harvard faculty has made it pretty clear that it will not tolerate provocative questions, so perhaps it is time for the faculty to explain why it deserves the privilege of academic freedom in the first place.


"Faculty pay is far better than they can get elsewhere with their degrees."

I have a law degree and am working very hard to break $120,000.00. My brother has a M.A. in history, runs his own business and made a pre-tax income of $750,000.00. He thinks that his study of history gives him an advantage over his competitors. He owns a Jeep dealership and is of the opinion that the communication skills he learned in school prepared him for business. He thinks that in his course of study he was required to read critically and because all his tests were in essay form, he is light years ahead of students from business school. Bill says there are no multiple choice questions in real life. Had he stayed for his Ph.D would they pay him $750,000.00 a year to teach?


"it happens all the time. certain groups (eg, women) that were truly oppressed 20-30 years ago get away with murder today. okay, not "murder", but absenteeism, questionable work ethic, not acessible, etc."

I have some news for you. The competence of members of "certain groups" who rise to positions of power and respect in elite institutions is more easily and more often brought into question by members of the privileged majority.

Here at Indiana, our own University president has been facing severe criticism almost since his first day as the first african-american president the university has ever seen. (This criticism waned when he landed two of the largest donations the school had ever seen right at the height of the attacks, but it has not stopped.) Black Professors at this school are faced with a non-rebuttable presumption by students that they were Affirmative Action hires and are somehow less competent. (Ironically, the few black professors here are among the most independently brilliant.)

Do you believe that Cornel West was the only professor at Harvard who engaged in outside research or pushed the boundaries of traditional academic practice? Do you think he was even the most prominent professor to do so? I see Tribe and Dershowitz on TV so often I wonder if they even have time to teach a seminar.

The same can be said for women in sciences. Against the historical background of overt racism and sexism, minorities and women enter fields where their presense is still unique enough to be a topic of conversation. They perform under greater scrutiny that is inevitable when a field has not moved beyond token participation rates. People have not stopped presuming that women and minorities are somehow inferior, they have simply stopped talking about it. True oppression does not disappear within a generation.

If you find that statement controversial, think about Summers' choice of targets. (Women in science, West.) Think about women or blacks in academia that have been first introduced to you in a context of a referendum on their competence.

Those who find political correctness to be a limiting concept should look critically at the contents of the statements that they would want to make if sensitivity to oppressed groups was not the norm.



you make interesting points.

i realize that some groups of people face hostile and uncomfortable environments, and that this can affect performance and outcomes. I also realize white males occassionally have to miss work, and people may not instantly jump to stereotypical conclusions. i also realize there are gains from building inclusive environments and giving people opportunity, including protection from sabotagers.

the flip side: people have had anecdotal experiences. people pay a lot of money to go to fancy private schools. some can compare fancy private school to state university.


Judge Posner: "The result is a faculty many of whose members are both smug and superannuated."

I cannot agree more with Judge Posner. I would add that this in part explains why a typical university faculty today has so few minority members - women, people not of the white race. Hiring and promotion decisions/recommendations are made by the current tenured members of the faculty. Being perceived as one of the same type, as a conforming colleague, as sharing the same values, is critical to a favorable hiring decision for a university faculty, much more so than most of the for-profit organizations.


The summers resignation bodes ill for the fate of university presidents everywhere. Every university president is now fully cognizant of the dire consequences of deviating from the liberal agenda. Presidents are now enslaved by the predominantly liberal faculty. Im reminded of Hayeks eternal words of how we're now on "the road to serfdom".


Here is perhaps something interesting:

What is the impact on profits from women at legacy organizations who take many maternity leaves?

How does this compare to a single person (no kids, not married) who works diligently at a corporation or organization?

How much does maternity insurance cost?

How many maternity leaves does a typical large employer fund during a year? Do or can corporations manage this expense? (similar to any other expense)

Is it possible: from Friedan to bankruptcy? What is "privilege" today vs. 30 years ago?


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