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Harvard Rules: The Struggle for the Soul of the World's Most Powerful University Hardcover – March 1, 2005

3.8 out of 5 stars 16 customer reviews

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The Black Presidency by Michael Eric Dyson
"The Black Presidency"
Rated by Vanity Fair as one of our most lucid intellectuals writing on race and politics today, this book is a provocative and lively look into the meaning of America's first black presidency. Learn more

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In an attempt to place Harvard's current president, Larry Summers, in historical perspective, this intriguing study explores his policies, leadership style and previous career in reference to other presidents as far back as Charles W. Eliot (president from 1869-1909). Bradley, author of the bestselling American Son: A Portrait of John F. Kennedy, writes with tactful reserve about the backroom intrigues and infighting that have characterized Summer's presidency, always showing both sides of the issues-and the book is no less gripping for it. These struggles, involving such luminaries as Cornel West, Skip Gates, Robert Rubin and Alan Dershowitz, are riveting even when handled with kid gloves. But Bradley addresses much more than simply the contentious start to Summer's tenure at Harvard. On the one hand, he offers an insightful look at how the role of the American university president has changed from a moral and intellectual leader independent of political and corporate power to the administrator of an institution largely dependent on corporate and government largesse for its continued existence. On the other, he places Harvard's development and growth in a larger context, exploring its shifting goals, pedagogy and values in reference to other prestigious American universities such as Princeton, Stanford and Yale, as well as to American society in general. On a whole host of issues-including unionization, civil rights, affirmative action and militarism-Bradley uses events at Harvard to illuminate wider social trends and vice versa. Although Harvard alums will naturally gravitate toward this timely volume, it will also appeal to anyone concerned with the evolving relationship between higher education and American society.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Its very name a cultural weapon, Harvard arms the fortunate few it admits with such social power that they can "drop the H bomb" on overawed listeners merely by mentioning where they attend school. How this revered institution and its students acquired such daunting social power and whether they still deserve it are the questions at the heart of this incisive critique written from the Left. Bradley agrees that the evolution of Harvard in recent decades has seriously imperiled intellectual life on campus. He acknowledges pervasive problems--a weak undergraduate curriculum, a faculty more interested in extending resumes than in mentoring students, an institutional surrender to external political and economic imperatives. But he blames one man--the current president, Lawrence Summers--for creating (or at least ignoring) these problems. Though Summers won his political credentials as a warrior for liberal Democrats such as Dukakis and Clinton, Bradley characterizes him as the tool of malign conservative forces alien to the university. Bradley apparently believes that the vexing problems besetting Harvard would have been resolved if only Summers had fostered rather than suppressed the high idealism of his distinguished faculty. ' Bryce Christensen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; First Edition edition (March 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060568542
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060568542
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,866,726 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As a Harvard alum, I naturally tend to browse articles about politics at the university. So I was amazed by last Friday's front page article in The Wall Street Journal about the faculty revolt against the centralization of power under Harvard's president, Larry Summers. It seemed amazing that he could be so politically ham-fisted after his years spent in government. Richard Bradley's book is eye-opening: from Summers' unwillingness to attend Peter Gomes' service on the day he was installed as president (I remember Peter Gomes as a wonderful gentleman--the embodiment of Harvard ethics and culture--Larry Summers would have done well not to have missed it!) to his off-the-record smear of Professor Cornel West to the New York Times reporters ("What would you do if you had a professor with a sexual harassment problem?") Summers is a manifestation of inside-the-beltway power grabbing that ill-befits a Harvard president. The book is fast-paced and engrossing. I recommend it highly (and you might as well get it at Amazon because it isn't available at the Harvard Coop!)
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Format: Paperback
I read this book cover to cover in just over 3 days, which is very quick for me. I'm not sure what about the book hooked me. It might have been the tragicomic retelling of events at Harvard during the reign of Lawrence Summers, especially his encounters with students and faculty. Or it might have been the way the author sought to explain Summers' behavior as stemming from the lessons he learned serving in various government agencies. Or maybe it was the thoughtful profiles the author put forth of the various individuals who encountered Summers along the latter's career. Probably the biggest reason for me liking this book was how his profile of Lawrence Summers exemplifies all the traits, good and bad, of many that succeed in the 21st century. Emphasizing image as a way to divert peers away from substance, going thru the motions to appease stakeholders while reserving final decisions to one self, casting away the past to focus on the future, these and other traits characterize Lawrence Summers and others who reach the pinnacle of society. And this is probably the best reason to read this book; it shows what type of society America has become, who and what we've cast away and what he have gotten in return. All told, a great book and probably the best biography I have read in years.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an outstanding book. It covers the first three years of Larry Summers' Harvard presidency and really takes you inside the university. Harvard Rules treats the issues of higher education seriously, but it also conveys all the drama that goes on behind-the-scenes at Harvard. I particularly liked the way Bradley treated the people involved as characters, so that the book reads almost like a novel, which is not what you'd typically expect of a book about higher education. Like him or hate him, Larry Summers is a fascinating man, and this book provides grist for both sides of the mill. If you're interested in Harvard or higher education, this is a must read. But if you're interested in just a good read about ambition and power, I'd recommend Harvard Rules for that, too.
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Format: Hardcover
Disclaimer: I am not a fan of Larry Summers. I didn't care for him when I was an intern at Treasury, and as an alum I really don't care for him as president of Harvard. But even I think this book is unfair to Summers and goes too far in trying to villify the man.

Bradely has written a book that is very easy to read and draws almost all of the issues enveloping Harvard in easy to digest, black-and-white dramas between Summers (always in the black hat) and various members of the faculty and student body (always portrayed sympatetically). This book makes no pretence of being objective or looking any further than skin-deep at the controversies that surrounded Summers before the most recent blow-up over his comments on women in science. Several chapters end with essentially the same line: by doing X, Summers had further consolidated his rule over the university. If all of this is true (it's not), Summers would be the absolute dictator of Harvard Yard by now.

In fact, what has been written here is basically an expanded, book-edition copy of the Harvard Crimson from 2000 to the present. There is little new in the book that readers of Harvard's student newspaper don't already know other than a few re-interviews that Richard Bradley has done with various personalities involved in the recent events at Harvard.

What's lost here is that what is going on at Harvard is a microcosm of what's going on at many other American universities, and that much of it isn't new. As far back as I can remember (and I come from a family of academics), students and faculty alike have hated their university presidents, viewing them as uninterested in academics or out of touch with their student bodies.
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Format: Hardcover
If you want to understand what's behind the current faculty uprising at Harvard, this is a "must read" expose. The Harvard corporation is the powerful committee that selects the Harvard president in secret, and has minimal contact with the faculty. (Amazingly, Robert Rubin, a member of the Harvard corporation, was quoted last month as thinking that there was "no substantial faculty discontact" with Summers' leadership!) So if you're an alum, and thinking of becoming a donor, or if you are simply curious, this is the book to read. It's fast-paced and attention grabbing.
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