Harvard Alumni Want Summers to Stay

Alumni in Poll Say President of Harvard Shouldn’t Quit (NYT | RSS)

A majority of Harvard alumni believe that the university’s president, Lawrence H. Summers, has done a good job over all and should not resign, according to a poll conducted for a new independent alumni magazine.

In January, Dr. Summers ignited a firestorm when he suggested that “intrinsic aptitude” could be one reason that there are few women in science and engineering. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences in March passed a resolution expressing a lack of confidence in Dr. Summers’s leadership.

The majority of respondents to the survey, 62 percent, said they disagreed with Dr. Summers’s statements, and 58 percent said they thought discrimination and upbringing, not aptitude, was the biggest factor contributing to the under-representation of women in science.

Asked whether Dr. Summers had diminished the university’s reputation, 42 percent of respondents said yes, 28 percent said no, and 30 percent said they did not know or refused to answer the question.

Nearly two-thirds of respondents, or 63 percent, said Dr. Summers should keep his job, and just over one-half had a favorable impression of him and said he was a victim of political correctness. A spokesman for Dr. Summers declined to comment.

In other words, even though alumni clearly object to his statements, they want him to retain the presidency. The results, which come at the heels of his diversity plan, provide further job security. It also helps that Theda Skocpol, a very vocal critic, has been named dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. She’s now reportedly willing to work with Summers — and apparently placated.

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Robert Garcia Tagorda
About Robert Garcia Tagorda
Robert blogged prolifically at OTB from November 2004 to August 2005, when career demands took him in a different direction. He graduated summa cum laude from Claremont McKenna College with a Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics and earned his Master in Public Policy from Harvard's Kennedy School of Government.