Larry Summers, President of Harvard, has resigned. (Thanks to the many readers who e-mailed me links.) What Kieran Healy (Sociology, Arizona) says about the resignation is consistent with what I've heard from various folks, namely, that his unlovely bedside manner cost him a lot of support. Here are my comments on the earlier brouhaha about his ignorant remarks on women in the sciences, which was only the tip of the iceberg as to why he irritated his faculty. His departure, though, is probably a loss for Harvard: he forced the Harvard Law School to have actual tenure standards, and he had rather sensible instincts about academic merit. (He was also the President who oversaw a total change in tenure policies in the Harvard Philosophy Department [note: see Update below]--something that, if it had happened 20 years ago, might have prevented Harvard's slide from the very top ranks of U.S. departments.) Yes, he was a somewhat arrogant economist who didn't know what he didn't know. And the first rule of university administration is: if you are an administrator, you have no free speech rights. The combination of the former attribute, together with his failure to honor the second rule, probably doomed his tenure.
UPDATE: Richard Moran, Chair of the Harvard Philosophy Department, writes: "In the...cases [of Siegel, Pryor, and Simmons, the tenure decisions during Summers's Presidency] Summers played no role until the final stage of approval, as is normal across the University. These decisions were all initiated from the Philosophy Department, and not in response to any change in policy from the President. Insofar as there is now an initiative across Harvard to make it a more realistically tenure-track place, this is an initiative from former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Bill Kirby." The original posting wrongly implied that President Summers played a role specifically in the Philosophy Department, which was not my intent. He certainly did trumpet publically the need to tenure from within the junior ranks at Harvard, though as Professor Moran reports, this initiative apparently came from the Dean of the Faculty of Arts & Sciences. (President Summers's role in tenure cases in the Law School has been more significant, based on reports from faculty.)