Summers resigns amid controversy

Published February 22, 2006

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) - Lawrence Summers ended his tumultuous stint as Harvard University president yesterday, choosing to resign June 30 rather than fight with a faculty angered by his management style and comments that innate ability may explain why few women reach top science posts.

Jessica Boullion
Harvard University President Lawrence Summers, center, speaks outside his office in Harvard Yard after announcing his resignation yesterday. (AP PHOTO)

"I have reluctantly concluded that the rifts between me and segments of the Arts and Sciences faculty make it infeasible for me to advance the agenda of renewal that I see as crucial to Harvard's future," Summers wrote in a letter posted on the school's website.

"This is a day of mixed emotions for me," he added in a conference call with reporters.

Effective at the end of the academic year, Summers' move brings to a close the briefest tenure of any Harvard president since 1862, when Cornelius Felton died after two years in office. Summers has led America's wealthiest university, with an endowment of more than $25 billion, since 2001.

He became embroiled in several controversies early in his tenure, among them the departure of prominent black studies professors such as Cornel West.

Last year's comments to an academic conference on women in science grew into a broader debate of Summers' management style, which some considered brusque and even bullying. He was also criticized by some for his handling of plans to expand Harvard's campus across the Charles River in Boston.

The discontent prompted a 218-185 no confidence vote from Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences last March. Faculty votes are symbolic because the seven-member Harvard Corporation has sole authority to fire the university's president.

Another no confidence vote was scheduled for next Tuesday. It was called following the resignation of Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean William Kirby: Some faculty believe he was pushed out by Summers, though Kirby has said the decision was mutual.

Yesterday, Kirby issued a statement saying Summers had accomplished a great deal during his tenure, and "he has set in motion important initiatives for the university's future."

Derek Bok, Harvard's president from 1971 to 1991, will serve as interim president of the University from July 1 until the conclusion of the search for a new president.