Campus & Community

FAS votes on motions concerning president

3 min read

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted on two motions concerning Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers Tuesday (March 15) during a meeting at the Loeb Drama Center.

The first motion, offered by J. Lorand Matory, professor of anthropology and of African and African American studies, stated: “The Faculty lacks confidence in the leadership of Lawrence H. Summers.” After discussion, the motion passed, 218-185, with 18 abstentions.

The second motion, offered by Theda Skocpol, Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology, said: “The Faculty regrets the President’s mid-January statements about women in science and the adverse consequences of those statements for individuals and for Harvard; and the Faculty also regrets aspects of the President’s managerial approach as discussed in recent meetings of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The Faculty appreciates the President’s stated intent to address these issues, and seeks to meet the challenges facing Harvard in ways that are collegial and consistent with longstanding faculty responsibilities in institutional governance.” That motion also passed, 253-137, with 18 abstentions. Both votes were taken by secret ballot.

“As I said to the Faculty, I have done my best these last two months to hear all that has been said, to think hard, to learn, and to adjust. I will continue to do that,” Summers said in a statement released after the meeting. “I am committed to doing all I can to restore the sense of trust that is critical to our work together, and to reengage our collective attention with the vital academic issues before us.”

Following the meeting, Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean William C. Kirby said: “The past few weeks have made clear, I think to all of us, how deeply we care about Harvard, and how willing we are to engage in a process of collegial discussion and self-examination, for the betterment of this institution. I value the views of the Faculty, and of President Summers, and I believe we all are committed to moving forward in a constructive fashion. My colleagues and I continue to share the strongest belief in our common purposes: to teach, to extend knowledge in new fields, and to build the best possible community of scholars.”

James R. Houghton, senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, commented as follows: “As I said in my recent letter to the Harvard community, the members of the Corporation fully support President Summers in his ongoing efforts to listen thoughtfully to the range of views being expressed by members of the University’s faculties, and to work collegially and constructively with them to address the important academic matters facing Harvard. We recognize the concerns that have been expressed, most recently in today’s meeting. We have had opportunity in recent weeks to speak with representatives of the FAS faculty, and we will continue such conversations in the time ahead. We of course take seriously the views of faculty across Harvard, as all of us move forward to advance the University’s vital academic aims.”

Faculty members expressed a diversity of views during the meeting, both critical and supportive of Summers and of his critics. Faculty members defeated on voice vote an early move to delay action on Matory’s motion indefinitely.