Here’s how Harvard Law professor Alan Dershowitz reacted to the news that J. Lorand Matory is leaving Cambridge: “I think it’s the best thing that’s happened to Harvard in a long time. Privately, there’s a real sense of exhilaration and relief that this man is no longer a blot on our community.”
As a Harvard graduate (B.A. and Ph.D.), I echo Dershowitz’s sentiments: Matory’s damage to Harvard was incalculable.
The African-American Studies professor’s campuswide claim to fame came in his sponsorship of the resolution to censure former president Larry Summers. Summers’ sins, according to the resolution that Matory originally penned? (1) The president correctly termed the divest-from-Israel movement “anti-Semitic in effect if not intent”; (2) The president demanded that then-University professor Cornel West produce scholarship, rather than rap records; (3) The president stated, in widely condemned remarks, that—if only to disprove the point and silence conservative critics—scholars should consider whether cognitive differences between the genders, and not discrimination, might explain the disparity between men and women among the ranks of tenured science faculty.
After the faculty revolt succeeded in forcing Summers’ resignation (with critical assistance from Harvard Corporation member Nan Koehane), Matory fumed to the Boston Globe that Summers’ support for Israel represented “one among a variety of issues on which Mr. Summers seemed to advocate the rights of the privileged.” Did Summers’ success in pushing through guaranteed free tuition for lower middle-class students constitute one of the other issues on which he stood up for the “rights of the privileged”?
Matory continued: “Because of his extremely vocal support of Israel, he essentially shut down the national divestment movement.” So, in other words, Summers was worthy of censure not only because of what he said, but because he was effective in saying it. Prof. Matory offers an intriguing model for a university president.
(A point worth recalling: Summers--who served as Treasury Secretary to Bill Clinton and is now a key economic advisor to Barack Obama--was far too conservative for Matory and his faculty allies.)
What institution has taken Matory off Harvard’s hands? Duke, where he will become the new chairman of the African-American Studies Department, as of July 2009. In Durham as in Cambridge, Matory will doubtless use his considerable talents to uphold the position of advocates for the status quo on campus. In Durham, he should find the Brodhead administration far less likely to challenge him in any way than was Larry Summers.
One of the administrative low points of the lacrosse case came when the Duke trustees unanimously elevated African-American Studies to departmental status (citing its “admirable commitment to advanced research, teaching and outreach activities”), despite the weak level of scholarship from many of its faculty, its scant number of undergraduate majors, and the fact that its most recent “outreach activity” had been sponsorship of the Group of 88’s statement.
Matory will become the fourth chairman of AAAS since 2006. His immediate past predecessors?
Charles Payne, the chairman who violated Duke rules in using department funds to pay for the ad, and who further violated procedure by placing the ad on the AAAS website for 183 days.
Charlie Piot, whose definition of what constitutes “scholarship” is almost laughable.
Thavolia Glymph, one of three figures on an April 2006 panel lamenting about how “since the [negative] DNA results were returned Monday, we [have been] moving backwards.”
Quite a distinguished record. Matory should fit right in.
Matory certainly will find an ally in Group of 88’er Karla Holloway. In this week’s Chronicle of Higher Education, Holloway proposes a “diversity” crusade targeting units of the university whose “diversity” performance the 88’er deems insufficient.
Says Holloway about Duke’s record in “diversity” hiring, “There has been growth in arts and social sciences [the departments which produced 85 of the 88 members of the Group], and medicine, but in some ways that growth has arguably allowed other schools or divisions not to work as aggressively with this effort.”
The target, according to the article? The Law School(!)—the one “school or division” whose performance in the lacrosse case did not embarrass Duke. Only in the world according to Karla Holloway would the law school—and not the groupthink-dominated departments in the humanities and (some) social sciences—require new personnel policies.