Harvard Controversy Inspires Student Activism

February 23, 2005

Calling for everything from Larry Summers’ resignation to more benefits for Harvard workers to the “democratization” of the Harvard Corporation, student activists have taken advantage of the public attention garnered by the recent controversy to demand numerous changes on campus at a student-organized “Speak Out for an Anti-Sexist Harvard” rally. “Students for Larry,” a group of students concerned with preserving academic freedom on campus, also turned out to speak in defense of the Harvard president. Summers’ words have clearly provoked public discussion of real issues that impact students, staff, and faculty—but Summers, who only became Harvard as president in 2001, cannot reasonably be directly responsible for a historically sexist culture at Harvard. Concerned community members should not resort to making one individual a scapegoat for all they see as negative aspects of the university, but think critically about what the real root causes are for the things they want changed and about the most effective ways of changing them. And they certainly should not let an emotionally charged controversy distract them into chilling freedom of expression on campus, the means through which campus activists can publicly call for change in the first place.

Schools:  Harvard University