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Fresard flagrantly fouls females

9. March 2006 • David Boyle
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Interesting that “Daily Donn” Fresard chose International Women’s Day to run What are we missing? Why you should want to be offended. , lamenting the

”...deeply illiberal thinking….that led Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences to depose Lawrence Summers after he hypothesized – at an academic conference, of all places – that genetic differences could account for gender inequality in certain fields. ...”

Summers wasn’t “deposed”, he resigned. And this is the same “Leisure Suit Class Larry” who insulted African Americans, insulted Native Americans, insulted women, and called divestment-from-Israel activists “de facto anti-Semites”. Boston Magazine’s Lawrence of Absurdia by Richard Bradley notes,

”...So great was the bewilderment over Summers’s lack of social skills that some in the Harvard community wondered if there might be a clinical reason for his behavior: a neurobiological disorder called Asperger’s syndrome. ...the condition is sometimes known as the “geek” or “little professor” syndrome. ...
...With Summers’s remarks…about women in the sciences, the questions have become even more pressing. Those comments have provoked a massive outpouring of anger from female students, faculty, and alumni, and from women all over the world. Harvard’s president, they say, was legitimizing discrimination. Pointing out that the number of women receiving tenure each year at Harvard had dropped precipitously since Summers became president—down to 4 of the past 32 offers—the National Organization for Women has called for Summers’s resignation. ...”


At least Fresard didn’t print the Muhammad cartoons (printing 12 blank spaces instead), but maybe his essay itself fires a blank, so to say.



  1. Just noticed at Huffington Post: Annabelle Gurwitch, Post-Firing Advice for Larry Summers , “Dear Larry: Having read about your departure from Harvard I thought I’d inquire as to how you are holding up. I myself was once fired by Woody Allen who is considered by many to be the premiere [sic] American comedian and with Harvard being the premiere American educational institution I think I can empathize with how you may be feeling.

    ...Of course, having followed your career, I’m inspired and impressed that you haven’t gotten the boot sooner! I remember reading an internal memo attributed to you when you were the chief economist of the World Bank which announced, “The economic logic behind dumping a load of toxic waste in the lowest wage country is impeccable and we should face up to it.” I thought that pronouncement was pretty funny, in fact, maybe I should have suggested that to Woody Allen and I wouldn’t have gotten fired! ...” , and Eric Alterman, The Story on Mr. Summers: Spinning Harvard Politics , “The consensus narrative with regard to Larry Summers’ forced resignation as the president of Harvard is that an honest, albeit blunt, reformer was hounded out of the university by a spoiled, leftist, politically-correct, and lazy faculty that could not handle the demands that they actually teach their classes or pay attention to real world concerns. The narrative was originally framed during the Summers/Cornel West tiff in which Summers deliberately humiliated one of Harvard’s best known and most politically active faculty members on the basis of false rumors that he was skipping classes to campaign for Bill Bradley. (Summers also did not like the fact that West recorded a rap CD, but nobody with a brain would argue that a professor does not have the right to do what he wants in his free time.) Anyway, a long article in Vanity Fair by Sam Tanenhaus revealed (as we blogged here on the first real day of Altercation back in May 2002) that Summers was completely misinformed and insulted Cornel in public on the basis of his own ignorance. (He did so, moreover, as West was about to enter the hospital for an operation to remove a very serious case of pancreatic cancer.) West missed no classes to campaign for Bradley or for virtually any other reason.

    In any case, nobody cared about the truth and the phony story of West’s allegedly missing classes and that lie has been repeated, over and over, in the coverage of Summers’ forced resignation. Also missing from many, but not all of these stories is much discussion of the extremely expensive role that Summers’ cronyism cost Harvard in the nefarious case of Andrei Shleifer, Summers’ close buddy, who appears to have been involved in some extremely questionable and potentially worse, financail [sic] shennanigans [sic] and who last year agreed to pay $2 million and the university $26.5 million in an out-of-court settlement. ...”


       —David Boyle    Mar. 9 '06 - 05:04AM    #
  2. “Under the rules of this culture, if nearly anything offends you, you are entitled to demand it be taken back.”

    Not just nearly anything. Anything. And—I know it might be a lot for Fresard to absorb—if those demands to take it back offend you, you can demand that THEY be taken back.

    It’s called the First Amendment.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 9 '06 - 05:58AM    #
  3. So Boyle,
    How did you celebrate International Women’s Day. Get castrated? Because you truly lack balls.


       —Interested Woman    Mar. 9 '06 - 06:21AM    #
  4. First of all, who the hell comments on their own blog BEFORE ANYONE ELSE COMMENTS? Why are you so obsessed with the Daily? Here’s a way to celebrate international women’s day since Donn must have forgotten. Why don’t you and Alex Moffett hold a meeting (in the union, prehaps?) slash form a joint commission on over-analyzing the daily to fit your agenda! You could even call it student activism~!


       —MEOW    Mar. 9 '06 - 06:29AM    #
  5. Now David, are you sure you don’t know a few things about shooting blanks?
    —-

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist the joke. I apologize.


       —Disgruntled wife    Mar. 9 '06 - 06:50AM    #
  6. aaio, I think he’s talking about our society’s moral codes, not legal ones. By “entitled,” he means in the view of society, not of the state.

    Anyhow, I thought the essay was rather brilliant, and it needed to be said, especially on this campus.

    I think it’s rather telling that Mr Boyle declined to address the argument itself. Instead he found some bizarre way in which the piece could be construed as offensive to women. Interesting.


       —J.G.    Mar. 9 '06 - 07:55AM    #
  7. J.G.:

    I agree: It is telling that David chose to sidestep Fresard’s overarching point in order to attack his characterization of the Summers incident(s).

    But its certainly not surprising. Boyle is a part of this hypersensitive “liberal” culture that Fresard is railing against. Despite the fact that Fresard isn’t the first person, particularly in recent weeks, to make this point, Boyle is somehow shocked (and, ironically, perhaps offended) that Fresard would have the audacity to call for open discussion on a sensitive issue.

    Fresard isn’t arguing that the first amendment doesn’t protect hypersensitive speech. Nor is he saying that we should cease to be offended at speech we perceive to be offensive. Rather, his piece is an indictment of the “hear no evil, speak no evil” crowd – a group that has, in recent years, targeted the Michigan Daily as intrinsially racist, sexist, heterosexist, etc, for having the audacity to run controversial opinions on its pages. A college newspaper printing controversial opinions? The nerve.

    Fresard will continue to work to make the Daily a better, more diverse publication. But for years after the boycott, this is a column that has been missing. Its about damn time


       —Daniel Adams    Mar. 9 '06 - 03:05PM    #
  8. I agree – I think Fresard’s essay is a good treatment of the issue, and appreciate its matter-of-factness. “The culture I’m talking about makes it nearly impossible for people to honestly debate sensitive issues in public. That’s counterproductive.”

    MEOW: it’s a long-standing tradition around here for a post’s author to place strong opinions or supplemental material in the first comment to keep the base post cleaner.


       —Murph    Mar. 9 '06 - 03:17PM    #
  9. “By ‘entitled,’ he means in the view of society, not of the state.”

    Well, all right. Then it’s called the free marketplace of ideas.

    Summers’ remarks about women in science may be what he’s best known for, but they had very little to do with the faculty climate that forced him out. The piece is offensive to women because it misleadingly implies that, first of all, Summers’ remarks were no more than academic inquiry and, second of all, that they were the reason he was forced to resign.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 9 '06 - 03:55PM    #
  10. 1) Without defending Summers… At first blush, Summers remarks DO seem to be an academic inquiry. You may find that inquiry misguided or offensive, but that is not indicative of its motivation.

    2) Fresard isn’t the first to speculate that Summers’ infamous comments were a big reason for his departure. I don’t see the harm in saying rather, implying so.


       —Daniel Adams    Mar. 9 '06 - 04:12PM    #
  11. Well, what really makes Summers’ remarks questionable is the unbelievably condescending anecdote about his daughter playing with trucks as if they were dolls.

    Fresard probably didn’t know about all the faculty struggles (resignation of the dean, administrator who said that he could not possibly work with Summers anymore) that were going on in the weeks before Summers’ resignation. The women-in-science issue is certainly more interesting to most people outside of Harvard. But I think that it’s his obligation to find out about something like that if he’s writing a column about it.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 9 '06 - 04:19PM    #
  12. You can certainly say that Fresard could have made a more nuanced point on Summers. I suspect that he parsed some of the other factors leading to Summers’ resignation because they weren’t essential, factually or otherwise, to the point that he was making. You may find this misleading, but I don’t think it was intentionally so. I certainly didn’t find this error fatal or “offensive.”


       —Daniel Adams    Mar. 9 '06 - 04:30PM    #
  13. I just used the word “offensive” because J.G. did. But I think that singling out Summers’ remarks on female scientists to make a point about political correctness suggests a certain point of view. Alan Dershowitz believed that Summers was deposed because of his pro-Israel stance. Others point to the Cornel West dispute. Either of these controversies, while they’re still not the main reason he resigned, could fit into Fresard’s commentary just as well.


       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 9 '06 - 05:50PM    #
  14. I really thought Fresard’s column was quite poor. He begins by boxing a strawman of censorship and then goes on to tell those who are offended to disprove whatever caused offense. He naively suggests science will disprove offense, which is very far from reality. In my opinion he closes more doors for dialogue than he opens in the piece. He editorial even moved me to send him a personal email about it.


       —Dumi    Mar. 10 '06 - 12:13AM    #
  15. Here I is.
    —1. Crapulently Interested Woman: I have not been castrated, nor do I lack balls, since back in the storage closet I believe there may be a football and a baseball etc.

    2. “meow”: I am not obsessed with the Daily; but, just as “Where the Buffalo” Noam Chomsky spends mucho time analyzing the New York Times, I report on bad (and GOOD) things the Daily does.

    3. diswifeled grunt: keep on shooting those blanks, or grunts, or whatever.

    4. JAG: I agree with the “main thrust” of the Fresarticle, that newspapers have some right to print offensive material in a free society. Good.
    That being the case, though, there may be limits of sensitivity, good taste, etc. Do we really want a Daily with (say) child pornography on the cover every day? Or, if you say, “Well, that’s illegal, they couldn’t”, then how about faux child pornography (models over 18, etc.) which just barely manages to be legal, but is still filthy, exploitive, and disgusting?

    Dandams: Halp! Watch out for those “liberals”!!!!!

    aaio: You are seriously underrated!

    Etc.

    ...”By the way”: Why are so many people so quick to defend some Establishment hack who harassed Cornel West just before his pancreatic cancer surgery, anyway???


       —David Boyle    Mar. 10 '06 - 12:24AM    #
  16. I guess my experience with my two and a half year old twin daughters who were not given dolls and who were given trucks, and found themselves saying to each other, look, daddy truck is carrying the baby truck, tells me something.

    is condescending?


       —peter honeyman    Mar. 10 '06 - 12:28AM    #
  17. If Summers were speculating about, I don’t know, the natural abilities of Jews, he probably wouldn’t mention that some Jewish guy he knows is really stingy with money. Even if this guy really is stingy, it adds nothing to the debate and raises distracting questions about the speaker’s prejudices. An anecdote about how his daughters are too sweet and nurturing to appreciate trucks is along the same lines.

    If he hadn’t made that comment, I’d still disagree with his remarks, but I’d be hard-pressed to point to a place where he veers away from purely academic inquiry.

    (thanks, David!)


       —ann arbor is overrated    Mar. 10 '06 - 01:01AM    #
  18. “Dandams: Halp! Watch out for those “liberals””

    David: I usually take you seriously. Even when I can’t bring myself to do that, I try to take the argument seriously. I ask for the same in return.

    “Do we really want a Daily with (say) child pornography on the cover every day?”

    You’ve got an analogy problem David. The step one is admitting that your powerless over your addiction. Step 8 is making a list of all those that you’ve harmed and making amends with them all. I suggest starting with your law professors – folks who surely taught you better.

    Granted, the Daily cannot, as a practical matter, print pornography on its pages. But Fresard isn’t arguing that the Daily should be able to print pornography; he’s arguing that open dialogue means the discussion of controversial issues.


       —Daniel Adams    Mar. 10 '06 - 04:38PM    #
  19. A little humor is no crime. You were not the only person I mentioned humorously…

    I was offering a reductio ad absurdum, to make the point that not everything legal is morally (or aesthetically) acceptable. Of course we all doubt that even the Daily would print any kind of porno or faux-porno, although their sex columns and nudie ads have come close, actually.

    ...Dialogue is fine, but you don’t need to show a cartoon of Hitler holding hands with Anne Frank to discuss Nazism and the forced use of Jewish women as prostitutes by Nazi officers, now do you? I certainly hope not.

    Good luck at Analogies Anonymous; sounds like you have some experience…(heh)

    And what about Larry Summers? What do you see that the National Organization for Women and others do not? Should “those aggressive women” just shut their feminine mouths, or what?
       —David Boyle    Mar. 11 '06 - 03:03AM    #
  20. The New Republic had a couple of columns on the deposing of Summers. I’m not sure if those are available online but they provided some interesting contrary points. For example, they claimed that much of the rebellion against Summers wasn’t over his comments but that he was pushing professors to actually spend time teaching students. He also appeared to have support among the student body. I don’t know the biases of the writers but I think it provided some additional perspective on the issue beyond the “Summers hates women” viewpoint espoused by some.


       —John Q.    Mar. 11 '06 - 04:56AM    #
  21. I’ve heard some of that too. If it’s true, then good on him; but everything else bad he did, is more than enough to make him an untenable president of Harvard, I think.


       —David Boyle    Mar. 11 '06 - 05:11AM    #
  22. “Dialogue is fine, but you don’t need to show a cartoon of Hitler holding hands with Anne Frank to discuss Nazism and the forced use of Jewish women as prostitutes by Nazi officers, now do you?”

    This isn’t a function of “need.”


       —Daniel Adams    Mar. 11 '06 - 03:49PM    #
  23. What isn’t a function of need? Sorry, am not comprehending…


       —David Boyle    Mar. 11 '06 - 09:06PM    #
  24. I agree. One doesn’t need to “show a cartoon of Hitler holding hands with Anne Frank to discuss Nazism and the forced use of Jewish women as prostitutes by Nazi officers.” But true dialogue isn’t a sterilized environment. Offensive things might be said or done regardless of need. Offense has its place. The damage done is outweighed by the value of the free exchange of ideas.


       —Daniel Adams    Mar. 13 '06 - 04:58AM    #
  25. True at times; you’re right to an extent.

    There is “good offense” and “bad offense”, though; “good” is more like George Washington saying “King George sux like a terrible tyrant, let’s have a free America instead”, and “bad offense” is like the Nazis’ use of anti-Semitic cartoons to make Jews miserable. Not all offense is good.
       —David Boyle    Mar. 13 '06 - 05:13AM    #
  26. Let’s see what Dr. F himself has to say, on his “Editor’s Page” Daily blog , in the article Mea culpa ,

    “Last week, the Daily printed a series of profiles (here and here []) on the Michigan Student Assembly presidential candidates. The profiles were intended as a look at the personalities of the candidates—to give readers something beyond their platforms…

    Overall, I thought they were interesting and insightful. Just like in a national election, readers want to know about the personalities and idiosyncrasies of student government candidates.

    Having said that, I’d like to address some of the concerns that readers have brought to us. The Nicole Stallings profile, in particular, was heavily criticized as sexist for focusing too much on the candidate’s looks.

    I think it’s legitimate to discuss a political candidate’s personal appearance in this context. Whether we like it or not, a candidate’s image does matter to voters, and the way candidates play with their images (see Carter’s sweaters, Bush’s cowboy imagery, Gore’s “earth tones”) can say something about them.

    I also don’t buy the argument that descriptors like “easy smile” and “high, clear voice” are unfair because they wouldn’t be used with male candidates. In the last presidential election season, think of how many times you read about John Edwards’s pretty-boy image or John Kerry’s physical awkwardness. If you don’t believe me, search Lexis-Nexis for “John Edwards” and “easy smile” or “great hair.”

    In this instance, though, I think it’s obvious we made a mistake. The Stallings profile overemphasized her looks rather than her personality. And, yes, phrases like “Career Barbie” and “perfect package” are stereotypical and unfair. In hindsight, I also should have cut the “nice girl” line from the Rese Fox profile for similar reasons.

    I think it’s also obvious that the writer’s intent was not to objectify women in leadership positions, nor was it her fault. She was asked to write the profiles in a lighthearted and entertaining style, and it’s easy to see how unintended connotations could have cropped up. It’s the editor’s job, not the writer’s, to spot and fix potential problems with the language.

    To sum up, this was an error in judgment on my part. I regret not seeing the problems while editing the stories and apologize for letting them through.

    Update: In her excellent column today, Daily editorial page editor Emily Beam offers a much more perceptive and thorough take on the double standards we apply to women in leadership roles than I could manage. Be sure to read it.

    posted by Donn M. Fresard on 03.27.06 @ 1:03 am |

    2 Replies so far Contribute to Discussion I’m not often sympathetic to demands that the Daily apologize for various aspects of its coverage, but an apology was absolutely in order here. The story was inappropriate as it ran, and I’m glad that we as a paper have admitted that. By Christopher Zbrozek on 03.27.06 2:19 am I just wondered why they were allowed to print in the first place. Did no one ever think that covering candidates like People covers Hillary Duff was inappropriate for a hotly contested presidential election? By Article Commenter on 03.28.06 10:05 am” Of course I give DF (and Editorial Page co-ed C. Zbro) points for candor and decency here.
       —David Boyle    Mar. 28 '06 - 06:31PM    #
  27. The end of that should have looked a little more like (I hope this works)

    2 Replies so far

    Contribute to Discussion

    I’m not often sympathetic to demands that the Daily apologize for various aspects of its coverage, but an apology was absolutely in order here. The story was inappropriate as it ran, and I’m glad that we as a paper have admitted that.

    By Christopher Zbrozek on 03.27.06 2:19 am

    I just wondered why they were allowed to print in the first place. Did no one ever think that covering candidates like People covers Hillary Duff was inappropriate for a hotly contested presidential election?

    By Article Commenter on 03.28.06 10:05 am”

    Of course I give DF (and Editorial Page co-ed C. Zbro) points for candor and decency here.


       —David Boyle    Mar. 28 '06 - 06:35PM    #