Given the current Harvard brouhaha over President Summers, I for one am glad we have Morty Schapiro at Williams. President Summers, in his drive to change the status quo, certainly seems to have rubbed a whole bunch of people the wrong way.

OK, I’ll admit it. Having read the full text of Dr. Summers’ January conference remarks, I certainly feel like telling the Harvard faculty, “Get a life.” But whether you agree or disagree with the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ no confidence vote, these skirmishes detract from the daily life of an educational institution. Ultimately, the administration and faculty spend more time posturing/arguing and less time researching/teaching, to the detriment of the students and the vitality of the community.

Unlike his predecessor, from my outside vantage point, Morty appears to have the general support of the Williams community. (My only interaction with Hank Payne was when I asked him a direct question about student life during a Williams Today Q&A and he promptly answered along the lines of, “I’m so glad you asked me about the weather in Wichita….” In short, he sure rubbed me the wrong way. First, by not answering my question and, second, by assuming that I wasn’t bright enough to notice that he hadn’t answered my question.)

In my view, Morty strikes the right balance between discussion and activity. He allows and encourages discussion, but then says, “OK, let’s do it.” Academic communities too often mistake inactivity for deep reflection. (Trust me, I know. My father was both a university professor and a Dean.) Morty seems to have brought a zing, a certain joie de vivre, to the college, and I like it.

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