I just watched a short piece on CNN on the Summers controversy. They interviewed a Harvard student (in TeaLuxe, I believe), who worried that people around the world, including young girls, would be hearing Lawrence Summers words. The irony is that nowhere in the report was anyone actually quoting Summers, or making concrete references to the arguments that he made in his remarks. Instead, Summers points were summarized in a very un-nuanced fashion by both the CNN reporter and one of Summers detractors, with the only direct quote from Summers being one line to the effect that he thought that the causes for under-representation in the sciences that he listed were in order of significance.
It’s frustrating to have to defend Lawrence Summers. It’s even more frustrating that both his accusers and the news media are doing such a poor job of representing his comments to the public. Summers comments were clumsy and a bit too broad. Their presentation to the public by his detractors seems to reveal an unwillingness to carefully read the transcript of his remarks, rather than simply projecting their own fears and resentments. If Summers is to go, it needs to be for the right reasons. These remarks aren’t those reasons. I hope that the Harvard faculty will focus on addressing the wider issues of Summers’ administration in their faculty meetings, rather than the quotes and mis-quotes that have dominated the media.