Harvard saves face

Outgoing Harvard president Larry Summers details the university's plans to increase support for women and minority employees.

Published June 13, 2006 7:37PM (EDT)

As the much-berated Larry Summers prepares to resign June 30 from his presidential post at Harvard, details have emerged as to how the $50 million he has allocated for women and minority employees will be spent. After he sparked a cultural firestorm last year with his suggestion that genetics might offer an explanation for why men excel beyond women in scientific fields, Summers committed the money in an unabashed attempt to save face. But the payoff is sweet for the women at Harvard.

Since his controversial statements, there was a 3 percent increase in the number of women on the tenure track in the natural sciences faculty. The newly released plan includes a 53 percent increase in childcare scholarships and the addition of 100 new childcare slots. According to the university's press release, the changes are designed to support students, staff and faculty "as they balance the demands of work and family." "The desire to have and raise a family should never stand in the way of advancement opportunities at Harvard for any of our faculty, doctoral and postdoctoral scholars, or members of our staff," Summers said.

I'm for scientific inquiry -- even when politically incorrect -- but before we campaign to prove women's deficiency in science, let's remedy the known hurdles that stand in their way. Harvard's new plan seems proof of why Summers' original comments are troubling: If the problem is women's brains, then what's the need for all these expensive and involved social changes?

By Tracy Clark-Flory

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