TCS Daily

Harvard Forgives Larry Summers

By James D. Miller - April 1, 2005 12:00 AM

Harvard president Larry Summers finally earned the forgiveness of his faculty. Dr. Summers initially incurred the wrath of academia when he suggested that researchers consider the possibility that biology partially explains the dearth of female science professors. Although Dr. Summers had repeatedly apologized for his comments, Harvard's Arts and Science faculty still voted for a resolution expressing lack of confidence in him. But today Larry Summers took an action that, in the words of a Harvard Woman Studies professor, "was so pure in its support of diversity that we the peoples of Harvard not only forgive him his previous hate speech, but also exonerate him for being a straight white male."

To atone for his crimes against diversity Larry Summers mandated that all Harvard faculty, staff and students install Fox Blockers on their televisions. As its name implies, the Fox Blocker prevents a television set from receiving the Fox News Channel.

Dr. Summers' Fox-blocking has convinced Matrix star Cornel West to teach again at Harvard. Cornel West had been a professor of African-American Studies at Harvard but left for Princeton after Larry Summers disrespected him. Now that Summers has banished Fox News from Harvard minds, however, Dr. West feels it's safe to return to Harvard.

In explaining why Fox-blocking promotes diversity Professor West pointed to Fox's slogan, "fair and balanced." Fair and balanced, Dr. West said, "implies that white and African-American people can play on a fair, level, balanced playing field in the marketplace of ideas. But this ignores centuries of white oppression that make any such equality a farce. By picking 'fair and balanced' as their slogan Fox News is basically saying that slavery, Jim Crow and Bush's 2004 election never happened and therefore Fox is marginalizing African-American people, turning us into others. So it's impossible for black people to contribute to the dialogue at an institution in which anyone is watching Fox News."

MIT biologist Nancy Hopkins was perhaps the most delighted over Dr. Summers' Fox-blocking action. After hearing Dr. Summers' now infamous comments first hand Professor Hopkins told the media that "[I] felt I was going to be sick. My heart was pounding and my breath was shallow." And, "I just couldn't breathe because this kind of bias makes me physically ill." Nancy Hopkins has confided to this reporter that the existence of Fox News has the same effect on her as did Dr. Summers' original sexist comments. Professor Hopkins told me "knowing that some dirty old conservative white male Harvard janitor is watching the O'Reilly Factor just makes it impossible for me to concentrate on my experiments. I thank the Goddess for enlightening Larry Summers and providing him with the strength to block Fox, thereby making it possible for me to be a productive scientist, who can meaningfully contribute to scientific academic diversity."

Several Harvard professors of government expressed confidence that Dr. Summers' bold Fox-blocking will help Hillary Rodham Clinton win the U.S. Presidency in 2008. As one prominent Harvard political scientist said, "Fox News poisoned the minds of Red State simpletons and so allowed Bush to win in 2004. But deep down, working class people in states such as Alabama and Wyoming yearn for moral guidance from Ivy League professors. And when word goes forth that Harvard has banished Fox News, this biased-Republican news network will lose its appeal to Red Staters, thereby losing its ability to unfairly help Republican presidential candidates."

Several Harvard Law School professors are attempting to extend Fox-blocking to the rest of the country. They have filed a brief with the San Francisco Federal District Court arguing that Fox News threatens a woman's constitutional right to an abortion. Fox News, they write, "is actively supporting Republican efforts to pack the Supreme Court with right-wing zealots who actually believe in Jesus. Unless every American installs a Fox Blocker, Roe vs. Wade might soon be overturned by a rogue Republican-controlled Supreme Court, so the same constitutional penumbras that protect abortion also require this court to ban the Fox News Channel."

The one academic upset with Summers' recent actions is celebrated University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill. Professor Churchill believes that Summers' Fox-blocking is a cynical ploy designed to prevent Churchill from replacing Summers as President of Harvard. Apparently Harvard's humanities professors had been on the verge of sponsoring a resolution calling for just such a replacement. But now that Dr. Summers' Fox-blocking has convinced the humanities faculty that he shares their values, the resolution has been withdrawn. Professor Churchill defiantly proclaimed that "Summers' Fox-blocking is just another white man's trick designed to keep me down because I'm a Native American."

James D. Miller writes The Game Theorist column for TCS and is the author of Game Theory at Work. Happy April Fool's Day.



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