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post #41 of 49
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by jesperas:
<strong>
If Summers WAS a good administrator, he would have gotten the result he was looking for, and this never would have happened. The fact that the situation blew up into what it did speaks for itself.</strong><hr></blockquote>

No it doesn't. Mr.Summers may be a poor administrator and he may have poor communication skills but Cornel West's reaction doesn't automatically prove your point. You could just as easily point to Mr. Summers' failure to gird himself for Mr. West's possible reaction for your proof.
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post #42 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by roger_ramjet:
<strong>

No it doesn't. Mr.Summers may be a poor administrator and he may have poor communication skills but Cornel West's reaction doesn't automatically prove your point. You could just as easily point to Mr. Summers' failure to gird himself for Mr. West's possible reaction for your proof.</strong><hr></blockquote>

(OK, realizing why boards are not good forums to hold these kind of debates; things almost always come out piecemeal and incomplete.)

Heres a better statement of the entire point Im trying to make. What Im saying is that Steeles white gulit theory of interpreting the incident between Lawrence Summers and Cornel West confuses the issue. What happened between Summers and West was not caused by white guilt. It was caused because Lawrence Summers has an abrasive--boardering on abusive--personality and management style:

<a href="http://boston.com/dailyglobe2/012/metro/Summers_s_style_shakes_up_Harvard+.shtml" target="_blank">Summers's Style Shakes Up Harvard</a>

[quote] From the Boston Globe:

In the past few weeks, Summers has come under pressure from both above and below for his blunt talk. Members of the Harvard Corporation, the university's governing board, admonished him for angering senior black scholars and for allowing a private meeting with the popular professor Cornel West to simmer into a public feud over how strongly the president supports diversity, university officials say. <hr></blockquote>

Also:

[quote] From the Boston Globe:

Henry Louis Gates Jr., the chairman of the Afro-American studies department, emphasized if there's one lesson the president should have learned in the last six months, it's the need for more tact. <hr></blockquote>

And the reason why Summers backed down was because 1) the Harvard corporation told him to (see above), and 2) he realized he was being an ass, and West's reaction was not the response he wanted:

[quote] From the Boston Globe:

''I think it is important to avoid misunderstandings and to clear them up rapidly when they arise,'' said Summers in a phone interview.
<hr></blockquote>

Again, this is not the result of some underlying, social psychosis; its the result of a personality conflict, and poor managerial skills on the part of Summers.

Furthermore, IMO, it is theories like Steeles white guilt that promote mediocrity because they do not hold people accountable for their own actions, and instead place the blame on some abstract, social context. If people can place the responsibility for their own failings, predjudices, or poor performance on some external, social psychosis, and if their denial of personal responsibility is legitimized by theorists like Steele, then change will never happen, and the standard of mediocrity will continue.
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post #43 of 49
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by jesperas:
<strong>
Furthermore, IMO, it is theories like Steeles white guilt that promote mediocrity because they do not hold people accountable for their own actions, and instead place the blame on some abstract, social context. If people can place the responsibility for their own failings, predjudices, or poor performance on some external, social psychosis, and if their denial of personal responsibility is legitimized by theorists like Steele, then change will never happen, and the standard of mediocrity will continue.</strong><hr></blockquote>

You are so missing the point of what Steele is saying.

I have to go right now. I was going to post to this thread earlier but the boards were down. I'll get back to this tomorrow.
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post #44 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by roger_ramjet:
<strong>

You are so missing the point of what Steele is saying.

I have to go right now. I was going to post to this thread earlier but the boards were down. I'll get back to this tomorrow.</strong><hr></blockquote>

Sure. No prob. Actually, the last paragraph you quoted wasn't directed specifically to Steele, but toward these types of social theories in general.
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post #45 of 49
Thread Starter 
[quote]Originally posted by jesperas:
<strong>
Sure. No prob. Actually, the last paragraph you quoted wasn't directed specifically to Steele, but toward these types of social theories in general.</strong><hr></blockquote>

Well, I was going to say that he's not making excuses for anyone. He's doing just the opposite. But more to the point it's not just a theory. I asked earlier in this thread (although I wasn't specifically addressing you) if white guilt doesn't exist, how do you explain the reparations movement?

As to Mr. Summers abrasiveness which you even call abusive, why are you so insistent? You may be right but only by accident. You don't know what it was that was said to Mr. West. The conversation was private (precisely the way such matters should be handled by an administrator) until Mr. West chose to make the matter public. When he described their conversation Mr. West didn't directly quote Mr. Summers. Yes, Mr. West was offended but that may only be because he has a thin skin. As someone I'm not accustomed to quoting (Al Hunt) <a href="http://www.opinionjournal.com/wsj/?id=95001717" target="_blank">put it</a>,

"Larry Summers's towering intellectual capacity always has exceeded his interpersonal skills. But the message he delivered to Mr. West is precisely what he has told other Harvard dons. The message has merit, and it's ridiculous to accuse him of racial insensitivity. This was about academic brinkmanship, not race. (Academic politics is so bitter, Pat Moynihan once remarked, because so little is at stake.)"

Here's another piece. This one is written by a Harvard student and is from friday's Harvard Crimson, <a href="http://www.thecrimson.harvard.edu/article.aspx?ref=161286" target="_blank">Let Us Now Praise Cornel West</a>

[ 01-15-2002: Message edited by: roger_ramjet ]</p>
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post #46 of 49
On the article just posted by roger_ramjet, two things:

1. When I saw the page load, I thought to myself "...those stripes are oddly familiar..."

2. I have some trouble following the student's argument. At times he even seemed sarcastic against West. Here's another thing that caught my attention:

"the author, according to his web site (www.cornelwest.com, for the curious)...

...Cornel West is a genius-- 'one of the most preeminent minds of our time,' according to cornelwest.com, with a 'deep grasp of a multitude of subject matter.'...

...but by what an essay in The Cornel West Reader calls his 'ego-deflating humility.' This humility is on prominent display at (where else?) cornelwest.com, which introduces the professor CD, Sketches of My Culture, with the announcement that'in all modesty, this project constitutes a watershed moment in musical history.' A lesser man, having produced such a watershed work, might have been tempted to caper and preen, to indulge in self-congratulation. But Cornel West, modest genius that he is, does everything with 'ego-deflating humility.'"

HA!

The first two segments don't seem to jive with the last. I found it ironically amusing. Besides, I like to rip on Harvard students at every chance I get.
post #47 of 49
Thread Starter 
<a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0203/davis.php" target="_blank">This one</a> is from the Village Voice (not "right-wing" torifile, although I suppose that still won't appease you). The article is mostly about the harm this controversy has done to other black scholars but then there was this (my emphasis):

[quote]Summers... had by all reports spoken to a number of faculty, black and white, about their jobs too, and while some admire him as an intellectual, no one has said he's a tactful darling. But neither Summers nor any of the other faculty he has privately upset went public with the content of their conversations.<hr></blockquote>

This suggests to me that the noise that surrounded the conversation with Mr. West was indeed as much a consequence of Mr. West's thin skin as it was Mr. Summers' lack of social skills.

Returning to the primary theme of this article:

[quote]The most damning aspect of West's power play is the possible backlash for academics, black and white, in African American studies all over the country. These thousands of scholars, some doing brilliant and unheralded work, have struggled for respectability for years, and they don't need the kind of fallout that comes when privileged men call the race troops to arms for no greater reason than to enhance their already cushy careers.

Rutgers University professor David Levering Lewis, author of the award-winning two-volume biography W.E.B. DuBois, was in residence at Harvard's history department and taught some of West's classes during West's recent medical leave. Lewis, who's pretty sanguine about the dustup, says he's "glad to know Harvard is interested in academic standards" and that he suspected "it's been much overblown." In situations like this, he said, "people reach for the maximum uppercase noun, LIBERTY, FREEDOM, etc., but I doubt if a commitment to this field of study is in jeopardy."...

But another Ivy League professor, who does not wish to be named, was more aggrieved: "It is tawdry to be called upon to go to bat in what is really a negotiation for further job advantage, when people are out of work, millions are going without health care, and there are real problems." He may be right. A January 10 New York Times report states that Summers's office says that talks with the principals continue, "including discussions that would match Princeton offers."<hr></blockquote>

[ 01-18-2002: Message edited by: roger_ramjet ]</p>
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post #48 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by roger_ramjet:

I asked earlier in this thread (although I wasn't specifically addressing you) if white guilt doesn't exist, how do you explain the reparations movement? <hr></blockquote>

Sorry, but Im not touching that one! If I did, wed be here for another 40 posts. Im sure that there was a lot of guilt involved, much of it "white," but the question I ask you is, are you sure that its the same "white guilt" that Steele defines? Remember, Steeles definition of "white guilt" is very narrow and doesnt involve personal guilt at all. Again, he defines it as, "a vacuum of moral authority" on the part of whites, in regards to black issues. Steele contends that this lack of moral authority perpetuates affirmative action, in the sense that it makes whites unable to contest it without being labeled as racists, but can you really say that the reparations movement resulted from this "vacuum of moral authority"? This is another "chicken or the egg" question. If theres no chicken (white moral authority to implement policy on behalf of blacks), how can there be an egg (reparations movement)?

What I dont like about Steeles article is that it assumes whites have better judgement that blacks, and that unless they are able to exercise power as a moral authority, blacks will not perform beyond mediocrity. I know you said that was, "my embellishment" earlier, but it really isnt. Its an underlying assumption of Steeles argument. See:

[quote] From the article:

One terrible feature is that it means whites lack the authority to say what they see when looking at blacks and black problems. <hr></blockquote>

and

[quote] From the article:

The muteness that white guilt imposes on whites undergirds black power. It lets blacks live inside the silence of whites, and have our weaknesses be unutterable by whites even as they are plainly visible. Messrs. Jackson and Sharpton are enforcers of white silence. And when whites are silent, black mediocrity is no deterrent to black advancement.
<hr></blockquote>

and

[quote]From the article:

The mediocrity of Mr. West is visible everywhere across the landscape of black academia, where so much deference corrupts black talent. Nearly every campus has at least one black professor whose special talent is the racial indignation that white guilt loves to reward. Yet in a field like jazz, where white guilt does not intercede, black excellence is the norm.<hr></blockquote>

Now, I realize that Steele is actually trying to argue for the empowerment of blacks, but that is not what this article is doing. If Steele sees Cornel West as an "academic lightweight," why does he not criticize West directly as the main point of his article? (Granted, criticizing West directly would probably not have motivated West to any action, but neither did the criticism of Summers motivate Summers to action either.) Steele does criticize West to a certain extent, but not as the main focus of his article, which is directed at Summerss deferment to West in the face of "white guilt," or a "vacuum of moral authority." Criticizing West directly would acknowledge him as a black man and would recognize his power to govern himself. By instead criticizing Summerss deferment to West, Steele is saying that blacks will not perform beyond mediocrity unless they are motivated to do so by a white moral authority.

Now, you know thats stupid, I know that stupid, and Im pretty sure Steele knows thats stupid, but whether or not he intended it to be there, its there, and its a part of his thesis, and Im surprised it wasnt something that Steele didnt address or clarify in this article.

[quote]Originally posted by roger_ramjet:

As to Mr. Summers abrasiveness which you even call abusive, why are you so insistent? You may be right but only by accident. <hr></blockquote>

...well I like to think it was my keen insight and stunning good looks, rather than "accident."


[quote]Originally posted by roger_ramjet:

You don't know what it was that was said to Mr. West. The conversation was private (precisely the way such matters should be handled by an administrator) until Mr. West chose to make the matter public. When he described their conversation Mr. West didn't directly quote Mr. Summers. Yes, Mr. West was offended but that may only be because he has a thin skin. <hr></blockquote>

I guess Id have to call it a matter of perspective. I tend to see this more as Summerss responsibility, simply because hes the boss. As the boss, Id expect him to get results, and he didnt get em. Its a simplistic way of looking at things and maybe a little unfair...but hey, hes president of Harvard after all, not some junior level exec. At that level, Id expect him to know how to manage people with difficult/fragile personalities.

But youre right: West seriously overreacted. West does share part of the blame, but IMO the responsibility belongs to Summers.

[ 01-18-2002: Message edited by: jesperas ]</p>
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post #49 of 49
[quote]Originally posted by roger_ramjet:

I asked earlier in this thread (although I wasn't specifically addressing you) if white guilt doesn't exist, how do you explain the reparations movement?
<hr></blockquote>

Oh, one more thing I'd like to add for clarification, since I've had a couple of days to think about this. In general, I think Steele's assessment of a "vacuum of moral authority" is accurate, as is the ultra-political correctness he describes. But I don't think it applies here, in this instance, as a viable explanation of events between Lawrence Summers and Cornel Steele.
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