February 21, 2006

Breaking News: Sayonara Summers

Quench can't be behind the Times. Larry's gone. The idealist in me wants to believe that his general lack of concern for equality, for civil rights, led directly to his demise. Yet his actual resignation follows not social or political scandal but outright legal and financial woes.

Official confirmation came from the NYTimes 24 minutes ago:

Lawrence H. Summers, the president of Harvard University, has decided to resign and is expected to make his decision public later today or tomorrow, three officials affiliated with the university said today.

Dr. Summers may remain at the university as a professor, although the details were still being worked out, an official said.

The president's decision came after several weeks of agitation by many members of the faculty of Harvard's largest school, who were upset over the resignation of their dean, William C. Kirby, late last month. Many of the professors, who are part of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, accused Dr. Summers of having forced out Dr. Kirby. They scheduled a vote of no confidence in Dr. Summers for their next faculty meeting, on Feb. 28.

The decision to step down came from Dr. Summers, after he decided that his situation had become untenable, a university official said.

After some members of the university's governing board talked in private with professors and administrators, trying to gauge the depth of the faculty's anger, the board also came to the conclusion that the relationship between the president and the faculty could not be repaired. Many of the professors who spoke with board members urged them to end the conflict by asking Dr. Summers to step down, said a professor who had talked with a board member.

The board, known as the Harvard Corporation, determined in the end that every time the faculty met, it would be consumed by issues involving Dr. Summers's management style and interpersonal relationships, a university official said.

Last March, the arts and sciences faculty approved a no-confidence measure, 218 to 185, after Dr. Summers said at an academic conference that women's "intrinsic aptitude" might contribute to their low numbers in science and engineering.

The governing board continued to back Dr. Summers in the aftermath of that controversy.

Derek Bok, who served as president of Harvard from 1971 to 1991, and before that as dean of the law school, is expected to step in as interim president, starting in July, according to a university official.

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