Friday, April 21, 2006

Re: From Howard Gardner

----- Original Message -----

From: "Dean Lawrence R. Velvel"
To: "hgasst"
Sent: Friday, March 17, 2006 1:44 PM
Subject: Re: From Howard Gardner

March 17, 2006

Dear Howard:

Thanks much for the email.

You know, because I have (unfortunately?) been in large law firms and relatively high level Department of Justice offices, I have seen lots of guys like Larry Summers. Those firms and offices are filled with them. So it was no real trick to spot the fact that, if I may put it bluntly, the guy's underlying problem is that he is a jerk. Since his resignation, pundits have been trying to base all kinds of theoretical and abstract propositions on the relevant events. It has been said that they illustrate a faculty out of control, that they are the product of a widening gap in prestige and resources between sciences and other disciplines, that they show it is no longer possible for a university to make strides. This is all bushwa if you ask me. The fundamental problem, it seems to me, is simply that Summers is a jerk who stridently mouthed off in various dumb ways and, in doing so, caused people to intensely dislike him.

If you are still close to the situation at Harvard, there is one point that I would pass on for whatever it is worth. (Nothing, perhaps?) As you know, the failure of Summers and Kagan to punish people in the law school who richly deserve punishment for academic sin was one of the things I questioned. And, of course, it turns out that, totally unknown to me before Summers resigned, his failure to impose any punishment on his buddy Shleifer was one of the things the faculty was unhappy about. Now, however, Kagan's name has surfaced as a possibility for the presidency, perhaps a distinct possibility. But she too was involved in the failure to punish law professors who committed academic sin and, beyond this, as I wrote in a recent blog, when she was a student she was a participant, apparently a reasonably major one, in one of the two law professors' misconduct. In my view, it would be pretty awful if Harvard replaced one president who countenanced academic sin with another one who both countenanced and participated in it.

This, of course, is just my personal view. But one cannot help wondering if this, like so many things, might prove to be one of those time bombs that lie around for a long time, only to explode in people's faces years later for reasons that cannot even be guessed at right now. And of course Harvard can find a first rate president, male or female, whose career has been virtuous, has been without academic sin.

Anyway, thanks again for the kind words. I greatly appreciate them.

All best wishes.

Larry Velvel

----- Original Message -----

From: "hgasst"
To: "Dean Lawrence R. Velvel"
Sent: Thursday, March 16, 2006 9:51 AM
Subject: From Howard Gardner

> March 16, 2006
> To Dean Lawrence Velvel
>>From Howard Gardner
> E mail
> Many thanks for sending me your collected blogs. I am pleased to have them
> and hope to have a chance to look through them before long. As you may
> know, I have been pretty close to the Summers' situation at Harvard and
> you were certainly on to some of the problems well before other observers.
> Regardless of where various faculty members stood on the matter, most of
> us are relieved that this particular Larry is moving on and that Derek Bok
> will be the interim president. I hope that Harvard will not provide
> material for you in the near future-there are more than enough serious
> problems in the wider world to keep us all very busy.
> With best wishes.
> Howard Gardner
> Hobbs Professor of Education and Cognition
> Harvard Graduate School of Education
> 14 Appian Way
> Larsen Hall 201
> Cambridge, MA 02138

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