Harvard Faculty: “No Confidence” in President Larry Summers
Beleaguered Harvard University president Larry Summers was just given a vote of no confidence by the Arts & Sciences faculty. However, he still appears to enjoy the confidence of the board that oversees the university’s funding.
Harvard University’s largest faculty group approved a no-confidence motion against President Lawrence H. Summers following his comments that women may lack the aptitude to excel in science and engineering. The vote by the 690-member Faculty of Arts and Sciences was 218 in favor and 185 against, with 18 abstensions, said J. Lorand Matory, a professor of anthropology and African American studies who wrote the proposal. “There is no noble alternative to his resignation,” Matory said in an interview following the faculty meeting today. “He should resign as president of Harvard University.”
The faculty also supported a second motion by Government and Sociology Professor Theda Skocpol that expressed regret for Summers’ management missteps and praised his pledge to try to improve relations with the staff.
Skocpol is a legendary figure in the field of comparative politics. I’m sorry to see her join in this farce. Summers’ leadership has energized several interesting debates within the academy, which strikes me more than most university presidents accomplish.
The FAS is one of 10 faculties that comprise the university, and Summers reports to the Harvard Corporation, the university’s governing board, which has expressed its support for him. But the unexpected passage of the vote was nonetheless a significant setback to Summers’ efforts to rebuild his standing with Harvard’s faculty in the wake of the uproar over his comments about women in science at an academic conference in January.
The fact that nothing Summers said was untrue or even legitimately controversial is apparently irrelevant to the discussion.
Update: I should note that I spent a number of years as a member of an Arts and Sciences faculty, albeit not at a place as prestigious as Harvard. My general bias is in favor of faculties and against administrators, especially those, like Summers, who’ve come in from the outside rather than up through the ranks of the faculty-chair-dean-provost track.
Still, Summers has done an admirable job of taking on what I take to be legitimate issues at Harvard only to be met with animosity from a stultified faculty used to being coddled. Presumably, they didn’t expect that from a former Clinton Administration cabinet secretary. Frankly, neither did I.