ABSTRACT

In 2005, Harvard University’s then-president, Larry Summers, came under fire for asking

a question in a conference speech about whether men perform better than women in the

sciences because of innate differences. Amid the uproar, Richard Freeman, one of the

conference organizers, argued that the conference planners did not invite the president as

the president, suggesting that Summers was to speak as an individual. Harvard’s Standing

Committee on Women responded with a letter arguing that “the president of a university

never speaks entirely as an individual, especially when that institution is Harvard” (Fish,

2005, ¶12). This situation highlights the importance of organizational affiliations in

Correspondence: Rebecca J.Meisenbach, 115 Switzler Hall, Department of

Communication, University of Missouri-Columbia, Columbia, MO 65211-2310; phone:

(573) 882-4431

Communication Yearbook 30, pp. 99-141

today’s society and how both rhetors and message receivers participate in creating

identifications between organizations and individuals (Cheney & McMillan, 1990). In

this way, rhetors are increasingly understood and interpreted as organizational beings,

speaking about or on behalf of organizations (Crable, 1990).