The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Friday, February 04, 2005  

Rittenhouse Readers Say No

A week ago I asked readers whether Lawrence H. Summers should resign his position as president of Harvard University.

Just more than half of Rittenhouse readers, 51 percent, said Summers should not resign in light of his controversial remarks about women in science and mathematics; 40 percent of readers said Summers should leave office; and 10 percent were undecided.

Participation in the poll was remarkably light. In part that was my fault: I posted the survey a few days too late to capitalize on public sentiment surrounding the issue (i.e., that which the diminishing Tina Brown has built a career under the catch-all, but still lame, term "buzz").

By saying that, however, have I raised another question? The attention span of each of us, and all of us collectively, can be amazingly brief. In this particular case, I was surprised to see how short were the story's legs, as they say in the business.

And I say that despite unenthusiastically having voted "no" in the poll, putting my sentiment within the slimmest of all possible majorities. The decision to cast a negative vote in this poll was a difficult one, and I don't mean to be giving Summers a free ride.

Some say Summers has a bad case of foot-in-mouth disease, while others say he's being deliberately provocative in order to generate debate on important issues. (Summers himself hints the latter is the case.)

I lean toward the "provocative" interpretation, but I do not accept the explanation in its entirety. Summers is being just a little too cute, too clever by half, at most, for his own good, let alone the good of the august institution for which he raises money he leads.

For what it's worth, pal, this was your last chance, at least here.

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