Wednesday, March 30, 2005

'an arranged marriage gone sour' 

David Warsh, long-time economics reporter at the Boston Globe, ventures into a discussion of Larry Summers' leadership at Harvard. Larry's problem, in short, is that he's an MIT guy, and that the presidency at Harvard cost him his wife and family (who live in DC). Never a shrinking violet, Warsh suggests that what little modulation there was of Summers' persona has disappeared. Caroline Hoxby, a professor of economics at Harvard whom, I would think, voted no confidence in Summers, let him have it at a meeting before the vote took place.
Hoxby ventured that it sometimes seemed as though the president possessed a view of the faculty, at least some of them, "that is a caricature: self-absorbed people who care a great deal about their privileges and not much about their students and the quest for knowledge."

As a result, Summers seemed to have adopted "a management strategy in which decisions are discussed with only a small inner circle, there are forums for airing views but few mechanisms for incorporating them, and resistance is assumed to stem from obstinacy, not thought and experience.

"I do not know where you got this caricatured view of the faculty, but it is not true to my experience." In her view, she said, the faculty "is passionate about research and passionate about students and struggles every day with the tension between the two."

I'm an admirer of Hoxby's work and have used some of it on this blog, but I wonder if the caricature she finds strikes too close to home for her ... or for Summers?

(Hat tip: Grant McCracken.)