Last spring, Harvard president Lawrence Summers received a vote of no confidence from Harvard faculty after his January 2005 comments at the National Bureau of Economic Research conference suggesting that it was "issues of intrinsic aptitude" that could account for the lack of female science professionals.
A year later, the faculty once again proposed a vote of no confidence that was set for February 28. The vote will no longer take place owing to Summers' abrupt resignation last week that was announced in The Wall Street Journal. Summers' brash style has led the faculty to believe that he forced William Kirby, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard, to step down after just four years in the position. Kirby will step down June 30, at the close of the spring semester.
Why does it matter?
Harvard has played a major role in the way the American economy has been shaped. So much has been said and written about Summers that people feel like they know what is going on inside Massachusetts Hall, Harvard's administration building.
"If he knew that the vote was going to go against him, it is smart to step down beforehand," says Gene Grabowski, a VP at Levick Strategic Communications. "It allows him to put his own spin on the story and to avoid the embarrassment that would accompany being forced out by the faculty."
1 The Harvard Crimson, the daily student newspaper, forced an early announcement of Kirby's resignation by publishing the story weeks before the announcement was set to take place. The Crimson story cited several anonymous faculty sources that said Summers forced Kirby to resign.
2 During Kirby's tenure, he headed the Harvard College Curricular Review, which has made little progress, owing to the 2005 Summers scandal, and has been criticized
for its lack of strong ideas.
3 The faculty budget has also plagued Kirby's term as dean. The budget has posted a huge deficit, and it is projected to grow to in excess of $100 million by 2010. Kirby has blamed that figure on costs for building new facilities and hiring faculty.
4 More than half of the top 24 administrative positions at Harvard have turned over since Summers became president in summer 2001. Summers has had strained relationships with a few of the people who have departed, but most did not indicate that he was a reason for their leaving.
5 The Council of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard has brought the search process for Kirby's replacement to a halt, stating differences of opinion with Summers over the direction of the search. The e-mail statement suggested the council would not proceed unless Summers resigned.