More Hot Water for Harvard President Lawrence Summers

Lawrence H. Summers

Last March the faculty of the arts and sciences division at Harvard University approved by a vote of 218-185 a motion of no confidence in university president Lawrence Summers. At issue was Summers' statement that the lack of women faculty in the sciences and mathematics may be due to inherent genetic differences between the sexes.

Conrad Harper, a black man who was one of seven members of the board of the Harvard Corporation, resigned this past summer in protest of the board's decision to give Summers a salary increase. Harper was replaced by Patricia King, a black woman.

Now Summers is facing a second vote of no confidence as a result of the resignation of popular dean of faculty William Kirby. Many faculty members believe that Summers forced out Dean Kirby although a statement issued by the university said that it was a "mutual decision."

A second vote of no confidence by the Harvard faculty may increase pressure on the Harvard Corporation to seek to replace Summers as president of the university. Summers' entire tenure as Harvard president has been engulfed in controversy. And much of that controversy has revolved around his relationship with the black studies department. (See JBHE, Number 46, Winter 2004/2005, p. 20.)

One tenured professor at Harvard told JBHE recently, "It is readily apparent to those of us at Harvard that Larry Summers actually believes that women and minorities are less capable than white men." Because of Summers' history with blacks at Harvard, it seems clear that a change in leadership at the university would, in all likelihood, be good news for African Americans.

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