February 22, 2006

Summers Steps Down

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Harvard University President Lawrence H. Summers resigned yesterday; he will leave the position at the end of the current school year. Former Harvard President Derek Bok, who held the position from 1971 to 1991, will serve as interim president.

This administration change makes Summers the shortest-running Harvard president since Cornelius Felton died in 1862 after two years in office, according to The Wall Street Journal.

“I looked at the extent to which the rancor had emerged in the faculty of arts and sciences, and I had personally had become a larger issue and concluded very reluctantly that the agenda for the university I cared about and my own satisfaction would be best served by stepping down,” Summers said in a telephone conference yesterday.

His resignation preceded a second vote of no confidence by the faculty scheduled for Feb. 28. The faculty first approved a vote of no confidence in March 2005; this was the first such action against a sitting president in Harvard’s history, according to Bloomberg News.

The first no confidence vote followed remarks Summers made in January 2005, which suggested that women may lack a natural aptitude for math and science. The Boston Globe reported the remarks, making the conflict between the faculty and Summers public. He has repeatedly apologized for the remarks and pledged $25 million to promote hiring women and minorities.

The abrupt resignation of William Kirby, Arts and Sciences dean, on Jan. 27 deepened reassignment between the faculty and Summers – several faculty members accused Summers of pushing Kirby out of office.

Others at Harvard have said that professors not on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences did not necessarily share the negative opinion of Summers.

Summers said that he plans to return to teaching at Harvard after a yearlong sabbatical.

Archived article by Sun Staff