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Harvard’s New Old-Girl Network By: Heather Mac Donald
City Journal | Friday, July 29, 2005


Remember when radical feminists first burst on the scene, presenting themselves as virtuous outsiders untainted by old-boys-club politics? They’ve dropped the pose. Harvard’s feminists have now emerged as the ultimate insiders, doling out sinecures to themselves with a shamelessness that even Boss Tweed could admire.

Earlier this year, Harvard created a Task Force on Women Faculty in order to “affirm the University’s commitment” to women. The move was part of President Lawrence Summers’s penance for tentatively suggesting that women may have different innate mathematical skills than men. In May, the Task Force called for the creation of a powerful new administrative position—the Senior Vice Provost for Diversity and Faculty Development. From her large and heavily staffed office (the Task Force report had specified the size and staffing of the office as well as the gender of its occupant), the new Senior Vice Provost for Diversity and Faculty Development would police every faculty appointment and promotion, to ensure that Harvard was attaining “gender and racial equity.”

And now Harvard has revealed the identity of this privileged new bureaucrat: none other than a co-chair of the Task Force itself! The selection of Evelyn Hammonds, as the only black among the Task Force’s three female co-chairs, was—to borrow a favorite deconstructive usage—overdetermined. This professor of the history of science and of African and African American Studies has specialized in discerning bias against minority women in science and medicine. But in a burst of self-sacrifice, Hammonds has agreed to reduce her teaching and research responsibilities in order to pursue “gender equity [and] diversity” all the more zealously, she announced.

Something curious happened between the Task Force report and the crowning of the quota czarina, however. The report had called for a Senior Vice Provost for Diversity and Faculty Development. But Hammonds will be the Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity. With this word-reversal, Harvard image-makers undoubtedly hope to snooker naïve observers into believing that the Senior VP for FD & D is about something more universal than bean-counting—making sure that all junior faculty, say, have the library resources they need to perfect their scholarship. Don’t be fooled. The only “faculty development” the new Senior VP for FD & D will engage in is the reengineering of every department’s gender and race ratios.

Harvard’s burgeoning feminist establishment was not about to be satisfied with just one new outpost of power. Their motto could be: Hit a man when he’s down—as many times as he’ll let you. Summers’s purgatory for his ill-considered reference to actual gender science—rather than to the usual gender ideology—was an opportunity to be exploited again and again. And so, beyond the Senior Vice Provost for Faculty Development and Diversity post, the feminists have procured from the university six new diversity deanships at six Harvard schools.

The first appointment was just announced: a sterling member of the feminist hierarchy. Lisa L. Martin, Dillon Professor of International Affairs, has “long-standing ties to the women's community at Harvard,” reports the Harvard Crimson, including service on the Standing Committee on Women and on the Government Department's Committee on Sexual Harassment. Martin will act as special advisor on diversity to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. As an academic dean, she will commandeer her very own office in Harvard’s venerable University Hall, seat of many of Harvard’s top leaders. Martin will also assume the chairmanship of the Standing Committee on Women upon taking her post as special diversity advisor, showing that feminists understand how to secure power grids by building in redundancies.

Despite her occupancy of a prestigious endowed chair in the government department, Martin knows that Harvard’s “practices . . . have unintended negative effects on the careers of minorities and women," she told the Crimson. Harvard will be hearing a lot about those negative effects in the future. "My goal is to generate widespread awareness of . . . unconscious sources of bias," she added.

Remember, these metastasizing “diversity” posts are entirely empty of content, despite their preposterous designation as “academic” deanships or provostships. The administrative diversity function consists of counting the number of women and minorities and enforcing quotas. Computers already tally faculty ratios, and quota enforcement is easily accomplished by an incentive system that penalizes laggard departments and rewards eager diversity beavers. You don’t need a special academic dean to figure out at the end of the year which departments have decreased their proportion of white and Asian males. Moreover, every elite college in the country has for decades searched frantically for qualified women and minority hires, and does so to this day. The chance of discovering an unknown diamond in the rough is negligible. No wonder the history of gender and race preferences is littered with defunct bureaucratic titles—Harvard’s new “special diversity deans,” for example, merely replicate a moribund post of “associate dean for affirmative action.”

However vacuous the role, a diversity portfolio is a wonderful way to boost a bureaucratic resume, expediting the ascent up the university pyramid. And Harvard’s new diversity commissars will be certain to look busy. Senior VP for FD & D Hammonds, for example, will be implementing university-wide “diversity education programs,” a delicious prospect for anyone eager to see the academic elite pay for its passive complicity in higher education’s demise.

The feminists’ lust for power is crystal-clear. And apparently Harvard’s cowardly administration is going to simply hand it to them.


Heather Mac Donald is a contributing editor of City Journal and the John M. Olin Fellow at the Manhattan Institute. Her latest book, coauthored with Victor Davis Hanson and Steven Malanga, is The Immigration Solution.


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