Harvard President Repents

January 20, 2005

I don’t have an independent opinion on the matter of the relative aptitude of men and women for math and science, other than to say that in my elementary and high school experience, the girls were always a little ahead of us. I attributed it more to their maturity than superior intelligence, but who knows? And who cares?

Apparently, plenty of irate women who cannot abide former Clinton Treasury Secretary, now Harvard President Lawrence Summers’ suggestion that men may be genetically superior in the maths and sciences. I thought Summers said he was merely passing on research to that effect, not opining himself about it. Nevertheless, he has now issued a “lengthy apology, admitting he was wrong to suggest women do not have the same natural ability in math and sciences as men.”

I just have one observation: you can be sure that Summers’ abrupt change has nothing to do with new evidence contradicting the data he cited earlier. He has simply buckled under to the oppressive, coercive onslaught of political correctness and the wrath of the popular culture. It is really nauseating to read his words of apology, as if he caused some irreparable damage to women everywhere. We are so fragile, aren’t we? Here is a link to the letter on his website. Here are a few sickening excerpts:

I deeply regret the impact of my comments and apologize for not having weighed them more carefully. I was wrong to have spoken in a way that has resulted in an unintended signal of discouragement to talented girls and women.

As the careers of a great many distinguished women scientists make plain, the human potential to excel in science is not somehow the province of one gender or another. It is a capacity shared by girls and boys, by women and men, and we must do all we can to nurture, develop, and recognize it, along with other vital talents. That includes carefully avoiding stereotypes, being alert to forms of subtle discrimination, and doing everything we can to remove obstacles to success.

I have learned a great deal from all that I have heard in the last few days. The many compelling e-mails and calls that I have received have made vivid the very real barriers faced by women in pursuing scientific and other academic careers.

I was wrong to have spoken in a way that has resulted in an unintended signal of discouragement to talented girls and women. As a university president, I consider nothing more important than helping to create an environment, at Harvard and beyond, in which every one of us can pursue our intellectual passions and realize our aspirations to the fullest possible extent.