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Harvard: Summers' Feedback Taken Amiss

January 17, 2002

Peer review is a pillar of academe, which makes the tense standoff between Harvard President Lawrence Summers and Harvard superstar professor Cornel West all the more unfortunate and ridiculous ("The Summers of Harvard U.'s Black Discontent," Commentary, Jan. 11). As institutions of higher learning, universities are centers of debate and engines in the search for truth and objectivity. West's uneasiness with the constructive feedback of Summers, however, reveals that some professors refuse to adhere to even minimal professional standards. Since when did higher education become an exercise in flattery?

To West's credit, the fact that he ventured outside of academia to assume additional roles is commendable. In fact, such action helps to bridge the gap between theory and the real world. But to trivialize this incident as one of insensitivity or even racism misses a darker trend throughout university campuses. Indeed, West's discomfort with Summers' peer review points to the creeping conservatism of academe's "diverse" voices.

Efren O. Perez

Santa Clarita

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