Summers Was Open To Discussion In Frosh Seminar

To the editor:

University President Lawrence H. Summers has been criticized recently for, among other things, not being open to dissenting viewpoints. As students who were in the freshman seminar on globalization that Summers taught last year, we are writing to provide perspective on his willingness to discuss controversial issues with those who disagree with him.

Needless to say, Summers has strong views about most aspects of globalization. Each time our class met, Summers included his own views in the discussion of economic theory, history, and policy, often quite passionately and fervently. Throughout the course of the semester each of us agreed with him on some occasions and disagreed at other times.

Nonetheless, Summers was always eager to hear our diverse views, and he was thrilled when we would display the sort of passion and rigor that he loves—especially when we reached conclusions different from his and forced him to reconcile his ideas with our evidence. And as important as it is for Harvard’s president to propose theories, it is equally admirable for other scholars and students to challenge Summers’ statements with theories, research and discussions of every kind.

We have a wide variety of political views and differ on issues of international, domestic and Harvard policy. In particular, we fall on all sides of the recent controversy over Summers’ remarks on women in science. But a semester of engaging with Summers has shown us his commitment to teaching and scholarship. He adopted a provocative and challenging approach to difficult questions in the spirit of expanding the bounds of our knowledge. And this, above all, ought to be the primary goal of any academic institution.




February 20, 2005

This letter was signed by 13 students.