Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Harry Lewis Asking Tough Questions (Again)

Harry Lewis is asking Harvard to confront the issue of some of Harvard's professors being involved in money-making opportunities, like working for Libyan dictators, that are embarassing to the university. 

Boston Globe article here

Harry's blog post here

I heard Harry talk about the issue on my way into work on NPR's Morning Edition -- I don't have a link at the moment.

8 comments:

Nomad said...

I found the link. It's from WBUR's local news and not NPR's morning edition.

http://www.wbur.org/2011/04/06/harvard-2

Anonymous said...

Outcome bias much? I guess at Harvard hindsight is always 20/20. I would love to see these "tough questions" asked before, not after, the recent events.

chazisop said...

@Anonymous . Gaddafi has been a dictator for 4 decades. The Lockerbie bombing was in 1988 for crying out loud.

Scaling it up (ridiculously but necessary to expose the fallacy) but keeping the same principle, how would you feel if someone said that the Nazi concentration camps were respecting the global treaties in, let's say, 1943?

Expressing their concerns (but not prohibiting publishing, remember academic freedom!) would only enhance an institution's credibility and show that they serve science and discovering the truth.

Anonymous said...

@chazisop "Gaddafi has been a dictator for 4 decades. The Lockerbie bombing was in 1988 for crying out loud."

This is *exactly* my point. That Prof. Lewis got interested and expressed his concerns now. Not back in 2006 when Prof. Porter started working with the regime.

"Scaling it up (ridiculously but necessary to expose the fallacy) but keeping the same principle, how would you feel if someone said that the Nazi concentration camps were respecting the global treaties in, let's say, 1943?"

Oh, but this is exactly what Prof. Lewis is doing now. Effectively, he starts protesting about the Nazis in April 1945. While in 1940 he remained silent.

I am all for the protest. But it has to be done in a timely manner. Otherwise it is just opportunistic.

Anonymous said...

Gaddafi has been a dictator for 4 decades.

That's exactly the issue here. By framing this in terms of "embarrassing Harvard," it suggests that cozying up to dictators is mainly a problem when those dictators later end up attracting a lot of attention in major news stories.

Harry Lewis said...

I plead guilty: I complain about things only when I know they are happening, not before. If Porter's slide deck was up on his web site in 2006, I was not aware of it, and I don't think any of the newspapers that have reported it recently were aware then either.

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Anonymous said...

I appreciate Prof. Lewis' comments, but outrage is a difficult thing. Where are Harry Lewis' complaints about China - a repressive regime with far more damaging effects than Libya, and significantly more influence than a piddling dictator who has been cozying up to the US for the past several years?

There is something to be said for engagement even with vile regimes (I don't include apologia for Gaddafi in this list), but the eagerness of all top universities today to tap into Chinese money and their willingness to cozy up to the top members of the Chinese apparatchik is a much greater and much more dangerous trend.