Friday, September 14, 2007

UC Regents invite Lawrence Summers to speak. WTF?!?

Just received this petition, and thought I'd share it. If you're with the UC, I encourage you to sign it:


Colleagues,

It has come to our attention that Dr. Lawrence Summers has been invited to address the upcoming meeting of the University of California’s Board of Regents on September 19, 2007, at the Sheraton Grand Hotel inSacramento. We the undersigned faculty of University of California believe this invitation is not only misguided but inappropriate at a time when the University is searching for a new president and continues to build and diversify its community.

Dr. Summers, who resigned as president of Harvard in 2006, gained notoriety from his poor relationships with both women and underrepresented minority faculty at Harvard University. In 2002, Summers created controversy by attacking the scholarship and teaching of noted African American Studies Professor Cornel West, a conflict that contributed to Dr. West’s decision to leave the Harvard faculty. In January 2005, in a much-publicized speech to the National Bureau of Economics Research (NBER) Conference on Diversifying the Science & Engineering Workforce, Dr. Summers ascribed the under-representation of women in science, math and engineering to, among other things, the “relatively clear evidence” that men and women differ for attributes such as “overall IQ, mathematical ability, [and] scientific ability.” Perhaps most importantly, theBoston Globe (January 17, 2005) noted that Dr. Summers’ actions as Harvard University president had matched his controversial words. From the time of his appointment in 2001 until his NBER speech, the number of women offered tenure in the arts and science faculty at Harvard had declined dramatically, reaching a nadir in 2004, just prior to Summers' speech, when only four of 32 tenure offers were made to women.

The Regents represent the leadership and public face of the University of California. Inviting a keynote speaker who has come to symbolize gender and racial prejudice in academia conveys the wrong message to the University community and to the people of California. It is our fervent hope that the Regents will rescind this invitation and seek advice elsewhere.

We urge those who share the University of California's long history of commitment to enhancing diversity and fighting prejudice to make their views known to the Regents and to the citizens of California.

Please join us by signing the petition.

1 comment:

InquisitiveObserver said...

I’m curious, can you point me to the evidence which shows equal distributions for men and women concerning “overall IQ, mathematical ability, [and] scientific ability?”

I didn’t think so.

The point Mr. Summers was making dealt with distribution and standard deviation. On these points, which seem to be the basis for your objection, the data support his conclusions. As I hope you’re well aware, average IQ tends to be about the same between men and women, but men’s scores tend to be more dispersed, with a larger proportion being at both the higher and lower ends of the distribution (the tails), i.e. there is, in fact, “relatively clear evidence” that men and women differ for attributes such as “overall IQ, mathematical ability, [and] scientific ability.”

If you read the entire speech he gave, and if you have any understanding of mathematics, statistics, and science, then it’s difficult to make a strong case that what he said is worthy of such harsh criticism. I’m not saying he is correct in all his arguments, but the statements he makes are nuanced and well thought out, and he was open to quality debate on the matter.