Harvard is a great University. I taught there from 1996 to 1998 and I was married in its Faculty Club. That said, the world spends too much time thinking about this place. I asked my father why the New York Times devotes so much ink on this one joint. He said: "Everyone has either gone there or been rejected by them." I hope that Larry Summers enjoys seeing his name in the New York Times. I sometimes wonder whether if the Presidents of Princeton or Stanford lit themselves on fire would this merit a mention in the Times?
You tell me, is this a newsworthy article? I do like Ed Glaeser's quote at the end of the piece.
February 14, 2006
Harvard's President Is Again at Odds With His Faculty
By ALAN FINDER
CAMBRIDGE, MASS., Feb. 13 — A year after weathering a no-confidence vote by the faculty, Harvard University's president, Lawrence H. Summers, is facing another showdown with dissident faculty members, raising new questions about his ability to maintain control over the university and perhaps even to remain in office.
The latest conflict was set off by the abrupt announcement late last month that William C. Kirby, the dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, the university's largest school, would step down in the summer. The arts and science faculty has scheduled a vote on Feb. 28 on a new resolution of no-confidence in Mr. Summers.
"I believe that the business of the university has been seriously compromised by this bad leadership and it has become evident to a lot of people on campus," Mary C. Waters, a sociology professor, said in an e-mail message.
Mr. Kirby, a professor of Chinese history, has said the decision to relinquish his post was reached mutually with Mr. Summers, but many professors say they view it as a forced resignation, particularly because The Harvard Crimson, the student daily newspaper, quoted unidentified university officials as saying Mr. Summers had pushed out Mr. Kirby.
Professors are now demanding a significant role in the selection of a new dean, a decision that is ordinarily the province of the president and the six other members of Harvard's governing board. Mr. Summers has already agreed to give the faculty a bigger role than it has played previously, but some professors have begun calling for his removal from the process altogether.
Some faculty members also say they would like the university's governing board, the Harvard Corporation, to force Mr. Summers to resign. Some professors have begun talking about adding a vote calling for Mr. Summers's removal to the Feb. 28 agenda, along with the no-confidence resolution.
"Is it not time to reverse this tide of chaos and dysfunction, to appoint an acting president, and to allow a new presidential search to be initiated?" Farish A. Jenkins Jr., a professor of biology, recounted telling Mr. Summers at a closed faculty meeting last week.
Mr. Summers has declined to comment, and it is not clear where the board stands. Several members did not return phone calls seeking comment. Mr. Kirby, who will remain a Harvard professor, declined Monday to discuss his relationship with the president or the circumstances of his resignation.
He spoke instead about ways he said the arts and science had improved in his four-year tenure. "We've overseen a period of faculty growth in the last four years larger than the growth we've had in the last 40," Mr. Kirby said.
Mr. Summers's critics said the anger unleashed by Mr. Kirby's pending departure was comparable to the uproar last winter over the president's suggestion that women's "intrinsic aptitude" might contribute to their low number in science and engineering.
At the extraordinary meeting of the Faculty of Arts and Science last week, about a dozen professors, including at least one department chairman, spoke bluntly to Mr. Summers for an hour about their deep reservations over how he ran the university. Several suggested that it was time for him to step down.
They cited deficits in the budget of the Faculty of Arts and Science; what they described as a slowdown in the hiring of new faculty members in disciplines not favored by Mr. Summers; the departure of a number of senior administrators; and a $26.5 million settlement by Harvard of a civil suit filed by federal prosecutors that involved investments by a Harvard economics professor, a friend of Mr. Summers, who was working on a federal contract to help privatize Russia's economy.
No one stood up to defend the president, although he still appears to have considerable support among some segments of the faculty.
This latest debate comes after a relatively quiet fall semester. Mr. Summers survived the controversy that roiled the university last year, despite the no-confidence vote by the Faculty of Arts and Science in March, which passed 218 to 185. The governing board has continued to back Mr. Summers.
Mr. Summers embraced a series of recommendations made in May by two committees he appointed on how Harvard could better recruit, support and promote women for the faculty, especially in science and engineering. He appointed several of his most public critics within the faculty to senior positions. And he apologized repeatedly for his remarks about women in science.
Some of the president's supporters said his critics were now emboldened precisely because he sought accommodation last spring.
"I think they feel that he is more and more vulnerable, because when he was attacked, he did not defend himself," said Ruth R. Wisse, a professor of Yiddish and comparative literature. "I think that this is a posse looking for excuses to lasso its target."
The Crimson has twice written editorials in the last week chiding the faculty as allowing grievances with Mr. Summers to distract from what it said were more important matters, like revising the curriculum.
The newspaper came strongly to the president's defense in an editorial Monday, saying he had done nothing conspicuously wrong, as it says he did a year ago in his comments on women and science, and did not warrant another vote of no-confidence. "The time has come to move past the melodrama that plagued last year," the editorial said. "Summers has done his part; faculty members must do theirs."
Professors who support Mr. Summers say he has been moving Harvard forward.
"I think he's been a terrific president," said Edward L. Glaeser, an economics professor. "There's no question that he's made some mistakes, but governing Harvard is very difficult."
Dr. Glaeser added, "The idea of tossing the president out of the dean selection process strikes me as a really dangerous break from Harvard tradition."
Several supporters said the attacks on Mr. Summers had their root in political differences.
"These people are mostly the feminist left and its sympathizers," Harvey Mansfield, a professor of government, said of the president's detractors. "They fear that affirmative action will be abolished or diminished. They want more diversity, which means, paradoxically, more people like themselves. They want to run the university, and I think that Larry Summers wants to take it in a different direction."
Many professors, though, continue to chafe under Mr. Summers, saying he has not altered his abrasive personal style or brought order to the university. "The faculty didn't have the sense that the president had really turned the situation around," said Everett Mendelsohn, a professor of the history of science.
Judith L. Ryan, a professor of German and comparative literature, who introduced the no-confidence resolution, said, "He's a superb economist, but he has less experience in other fields." Ms. Ryan added: "And we're troubled by that. And we're troubled by his emphasis on subjects that are of interest to him."
Jonathan D. Glater contributed reporting from New York for this article.