Summers resigns Harvard presidency
Larry Summers has resigned as president of Harvard.
The resignation caps an increasingly rancorous stand-off between Summers and disaffected Harvard staff and came just one week before faculty members were to vote in the second no-confidence motion against Summers in 11 months. Summers, whose brusque management style has won both praise and contempt, sparked controversy last year when he said innate differences between men and women may help explain why so few women work in the academic sciences.
He has since apologized repeatedly for his remarks.
"The university has been in a state of paralysis. I've never seen anything like this before," Farish A. Jenkins Jr., a Harvard zoology professor, told Reuters.
Summers' resignation letter says:
I have reluctantly concluded that the rifts between me and segments of the Arts and Sciences faculty make it infeasible for me to advance the agenda of renewal that I see as crucial to Harvard's future. I believe, therefore, that it is best for the University to have new leadership. ... At a time when the median age of our tenured professoriate is approaching 60, the renewal of the faculty has to be a central concern. ... We cannot maintain pre-eminence in intellectual fields if we remain constrained by artificial boundaries of departments and Schools. "Each Tub On Its Own Bottom" is a vivid, but limiting, metaphor for decision making at Harvard. We will not escape its limits unless our Schools and Faculties increase their willingness to transcend parochial interests in support of broader university goals.
I tuned into http://www.wbz.com/ on the advice of a Boston area alum. There's an interview with Summers and Alan Dershowitz. If you listen to Summers you get the sense that despite the bland press release he had been involved in the equivalent of a knock-down, drag-em out academic fight. Alan Dershowitz said (my recollection) 'most of the faculty, students and alumni supported Summers. This is a coup de etat (Dershowitz's exact words) by a small group within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences'.
More from The Harvard Crimson
Summers ultimately fell to mounting pressure from members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences calling for his resignation. They had assailed his leadership style as well as the resignation of Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby and his handling of the government fraud scandal implicating Jones Professor of Economics Andrei Shleifer '82.
In a statement made outside his Mass. Hall office earlier this afternoon, Summers addressed a group of about 150 people, which included a group of student supporters who chanted, "Stay, Larry, stay," and "Five more years."
"This has not been a simple day in my life," Summers told the crowd, many of whom reached out to shake his hand.
"Harvard's greatest days are in the future," he added.
Summers had been slated to face a no-confidence vote at next Tuesday's meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, in addition to a motion asking Harvard's governing boards to intervene in the conflict. Summers lost a similar no-confidence vote last March 218-185.
Free speech is under increasing attack. One would have thought that newspaper caricaturists, professional historians and the president of the richest university in the world could express an opinion. The Mohammed cartoons, David Irving and Lawrence Summers show that even traditional opinion-makers, people whose stock-in-trade are ideas, must watch their back.