Winkelevoss twins fire back at former Harvard president Larry Summers

Wed, Jul 27, 2011


Last week, former Harvard president Larry Summers created quite a stir when he called the Winklevoss twins assholes (you know, the duo who sued Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg for stealing their social networking idea). In a recent interview, Summers mocked what the Winklevoss were wearing (tie and jackets at 3PM) and said that he had never encountered such swagger in his life.

Not willing to take a public lashing lying down, the Winklevoss twins along with Divya Narenda wrote a letter to current Harvard president Catherine Drew Faust, firing back at Summers and labeling his negative statements about them as a betrayal.

The letter’s a doozy.

Dear President Faust,

We (Cameron Winklevoss ’04, Divya Narendra ’04 and Tyler Winklevoss ’04) are writing to discuss the recent remarks made by current Charles W. Eliot University Professor of Harvard Lawrence H. Summers at Fortune’s “Brainstorm Tech Conference” on July 19, 2011. Specifically, Mr. Summers referred to us as “a-–” for wearing ties and jackets to our meeting with him in April of 2004. To be clear, his remark was not limited to us, but extends to any undergraduate who chooses a particular form of attire.

As a matter of background, on March 15, 2004 we petitioned the Administrative Board (Ad Board) of Harvard regarding a disciplinary issue concerning Mark Zuckerberg ’06-’07 in connection with the development of a website the four of us had been working on together. Despite what was, from our perspective, a clear violation of the Student Handbook, which states “all students will be honest and forthcoming in their dealings with members of [the Harvard] community,” the Ad Board declined to involve itself. As students of a university that promulgated an expectation of “intellectual honest[y] [and] respect for the dignity of others,” we sought a discussion with then President Summers regarding what we believed to be an inconsistency in the University’s posture on this matter.

As a result, we decided to attend student office hours of the President, a two hour monthly block of time specifically allotted by President Summers for students to discuss any and all matters of concern with him. We sent a polite and rather un-swaggering email beforehand for the purposes of background (please see attached). It should be noted that Mr. Zuckerberg’s name was purposely omitted from our email in an effort to focus the discussion on what we perceived to be a larger issue than the incident specific to ourselves. Simply put, we went to his office seeking advice and mentorship, not further conflict.

At office hours, we waited in his reception area but were told that we would have to return next month because there were more students in the queue than time allowed In April of 2004, we returned to office hours and were successful in meeting with President Summers. His manner was not inconsistent with his reputation and present day admissions of being tactfully challenged. It was not his failure to shake hands with the three of us upon entering his office (doing so would have required him to take his feet off his desk and stand up from his chair), nor his tenor that was most alarming, but rather his scorn for a genuine discourse on deeper ethical questions, Harvard’s Honor Code, and its applicability or lack thereof.

We now further understand why our meeting was less than productive; someone who does not value ethics with respect to his own conduct, would likely have little interest in this subject as it related to the conduct of others. Perhaps there is a ‘variability of aptitude’ for decency and professionalism among university faculty.

Regardless, it is deeply disturbing that a professor of this university openly admits to making character judgments of students based on their appearance. It goes without saying that every student should feel free to bring issues forward, dress how they see fit, or express themselves without fear of prejudice or public disparagement from a fellow member of the community, much less so from a faculty member.

Ironically, our choice of attire that day was made out of respect and deference to the office of the President. As the current President, we respectfully ask for you to address this unprecedented betrayal of the unique relationship between teacher and student. We look forward to your response.


Cameron Winklevoss ’04 Divya Narendra ’04 Tyler Winklevoss ’04

Ohhh wee! Now first, that’s some good writing there.

Second, they make some interesting points.

I mean, how great is their use of “un-swaggering email” and their snide comment how he didn’t shake hands with them because that would have required that he get his dusty ole’ feet off of his desk.

Brilliant nerd drama at its finest!

And regarding their attire – let’s be fair. While at first glance dressing up in a tie and jacket seems pretentious, we’re inclined to believe that most students might prefer to dress up a bit before meeting the president of their University.

As to the twins’ lawsuit, their second lawsuit was dismissed last week. Despite winning $65 million in their first legal go-around, the twins alleged that Facebook had intentionally suppressed evidence as to diminish the actual value of the Facebook shares they received.


1 Comments For This Post

  1. jamwriter73 Says:

    The Winklevoss twins and Mr. Narendra have written some excellent points here. When the president of a university criticizes students for trying to maintain a certain level of dress and decorum, I think that is deplorable. When has respect and decency become a matter to be dismissed? The very least that then-President Summers could have afforded to the trio was the same courtesy they extended to him– a real audience. What in the world was being taught in this situation? At Harvard, in this case, chivalry was most certainly deceased.
    My full support goes to the young men who diplomatically pled their case.

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