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Larry Summers Offends Again By: William Katz
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, May 13, 2005


Larry Summers is in trouble again.

The Harvard president, who lost any chance to go to Heaven when he proposed in January that men and women might have different aptitudes, has upset members of another group with a "do not offend" sign on their door.

The fire this time involves a speech Summers gave on September 17th of last year, about Native American studies. Some seven months later, several attendees announced their horror at some of his comments.  "Quite problematic," intoned one scholar. Another, using the precise language of the academy, declared Summers's remarks "really, really insulting," according to The Harvard Crimson. An associate professor of ethnomusicology and American Indian studies at UCLA pronounced herself "appalled," again according to The Crimson.

What prompted this latest convulsion was Summers's comment that "…for everyone who was killed or maimed in some attack by European-descended Americans on the Native American population, for every conscious death that came in war, ten were a consequence of the diseases that came to North America with the European immigrants." He went on to say that "…the vast majority of the suffering that was visited on the Native American population as the Europeans came was not a plan or an attack, it was in many ways a coincidence that was a consequence of that assimilation.  Nobody's plan. But that coincidence caused an enormous amount of suffering."

Apparently, Dr. Summers was actually hinting that not all white guys were genocidal maniacs, and remarks like that clearly won't cut it at the P.C. University.

But even The Crimson became disgusted with the piling on. In an editorial its editors said, "While his presentation of these facts may have ruffled some feathers, the way in which critics turned what was ultimately meant to be a thoughtful reflection on the unintended consequences of Americans' actions into a pro-genocide diatribe is crass and dishonest."

Well stated.  But wait, fairness requires that we question The Crimson's use of the phrase, "ruffled some feathers," in a discussion of Native Americans. Crude?  A stereotypical comment on Native American dress?  An unconscious expression of bigotry toward the fashion-challenged?  The Crimson's editors may need emergency sensitivity training.  That ethnomusicologist from UCLA might be the person to call.

But this latest Summers episode illustrates a larger point – the hypocrisy and corrupt standards that prevail on our campuses today.  Sensitivity is reserved for certain groups – those popular on the political left.  For others, it's open season.

Consider, for example, this comment by Diana Chapman Walsh, president of Wellesley College, on September 5th, 2001, six days before the terrorist attacks:

"…we know that a distinctly feminine world view – a product of historical conditions that have shaped women's experiences as 'the other' – embodies those aspects of human striving that are more contextual, more holistic, and more attuned to the environment, to connections, to relationships than is the patriarchal male model within which this feminine prototype has had to make an uneasy peace.  In contrast, the masculine project has denied the feminine, dominated women, and advanced competition, militarism, imperialism and environmental degradation."

Now, let's step back.  There is no known record of Queen Victoria jumping from her throne, smashing her crown to the marble and screaming, "Would you please free those people in India.  I'm a woman. It's embarrassing!"

Nor did Margaret Thatcher, after sending British troops and ships to secure the Falklands from Argentina, win admission to the Pacifist Hall of Fame.

And Golda Meier did not order the dismantling of the Israel Defense Forces while strumming a guitar and singing "Give Peace a Chance."

And President Walsh might be reminded that it was Bonnie and Clyde, not Sonny and Clyde.

President Walsh, an otherwise fine educator who apparently runs her college well, should have received the Summers treatment after her comments, but they were entirely ignored.  Coarse remarks about groups out of favor with the campus establishment are tolerated, even encouraged. Any Zionist on a campus today can provide story after story.  And yet there is silence from the "sensitivity" crowd.

Sometimes it's not a comment, but a gesture, a symbol, that should provoke outrage.  Students at Evergreen State College, in the state of Washington, will hold their graduation on June 10th in a part of the campus named "Red Square." Do they know how many were murdered by the regime "Red Square" honors?

But there is silence.

And a visitor can go up to Bard College and actually meet the Alger Hiss professor.  No comment required.

Yet Larry Summers is hit by what amounts to an academic class-action suit. No wonder that families, with tuition soaring past $30,000 in some places, are starting to ask questions about these "educational" institutions.

They should ask, but they shouldn't be surprised if the answer that comes back is, "I'm offended."

William Katz is a New York writer, author of ten books, and a former editor on The New York Times Magazine.




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