Appeasing tyrants is a bad idea. That’s what the Summers fiasco teaches. I’ve been disappointed by Summers’ repeated apologies for raising legitimate intellectual questions in a fair and respectful way. I consoled myself with the thought that, if Summers remained in place, he might ultimately do more for reform than he might have by standing up for principle. Now even this second-best consolation is gone, making it all the more obvious that Summers ought to have stood up to the Harvard’s dictators from the start, even if it cost him his job. Now Summers must either remain silent, or hit back and implicitly acknowledge that all those apologies were bogus.
So Summers behaved badly. But that just shows how serious the problem of our politically correct campuses is. Students face a daily choice between speaking their mind and harming their own career prospects by alienating the professors who control their grades and recommendations. And students are far less able than Summers to fight back. Now the pressure for silence grows. Our only consolation is that the academy is daily more discredited with the public. So I hope we’ve now learned that, at home or abroad, appeasing dictators is a mistake.