Summers' New Gig: Ivory Tower Blogger

The former University president to blog about current events and academia for TNR

The next time campus controversy sets the media ablaze, former University President Lawrence H. Summers may find himself blogging rather than simmering in the spotlight.

The president-turned-professor has joined 18 prominent academics from across the country to offer thoughts on campus life and current events on “Open University,” a new blog launched by The New Republic last week.

Summers enters the blogosphere along with his wife, English professor Elisa New, and Johnstone Family Professor of Psychology Steven Pinker, a close ally of Summers throughout his tumultuous stint as Harvard’s 27th president.

Summers, who is currently on sabbatical from his post as the Eliot University professor, said in an e-mail that he does not expect to spend much time blogging but looks forward to the opportunity to “be part of intellectual dialogue on issues of the day.”

“I’ll see if any subjects of interest arise,” he wrote.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Summers had not yet contributed to the blog. But the first public comment posted on the blog made an apparent reference to the fallout following the former president’s January 2005 comments on women in science.

Martin Peretz, editor-in-chief of The New Republic, said that Summers’ university expertise and intellect made him a good choice for the blog.

“He’s about as smart as anybody around,” said Peretz. “He writes quickly and with a funny, ironic touch.”

Richard Bradley, a Harvard watcher who runs his own blog on academia and politics, said that “Open University” faces several challenges, namely the fact that contributors are unpaid and that the format is not conducive to individuality.

“I would think that after an initial burst of blogging enthusiasm, there’ll be a big drop-off,” Bradley wrote in an e-mail.

But David Greenberg, a Rutgers journalism professor and an organizer of the project, is optimistic about the blog’s future.

“[B]ringing together a variety of academics of different fields, political persuasions, and ages—as well as of different levels of blogging experience,” he wrote in an e-mail, “seemed like a way to generate some distinctive and exciting contributions.”

<i>-Staff writer Javier C. Hernandez can be reached at jhernand@fas.harvard.edu.