Black On Campus
Higher Education and the African American Experience

Harvard to Name First Woman President

February 10th, 2007 by Ajuan Mance

from Washington Post reporters Valerie Strauss and Susan Kinzie (Saturday, 2/10/07):

Harvard University is about to name its first female president since its founding in 1636, tapping a Civil War historian to succeed Lawrence Summers, whose tenure was marked by controversial remarks about women and clashes with faculty members.

Drew Gilpin Faust, 59, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and a leading historian on the American South, will be formally appointed president as early as this weekend, according to a source with knowledge of the decision.

With Faust’s selection, half of the eight Ivy League schools will be run by women: Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Brown University.

Faust, a popular figure on campus known for her collegiality, will succeed the blunt Summers, an economist and former U.S. treasury secretary whose combative five-year tenure as president ended last year. His departure followed a faculty revolt fueled by criticism after he suggested that the shortage of elite female scientists may stem in part from ”innate” differences between men and women.

Many educators said Harvard’s decision would send a message to other major research universities in the country – 14 percent of which are headed by women.

”Harvard is making a statement at a critical time when we are seeing student bodies (at many schools) that are well over 50 percent women,” said Claire van Ummersen, director of the Office of Women in Higher Education at the American Council on Education. ”We see women faculty increasing in number, and the place where we have lagged most is in research institutions having women at the executive level. … Hopefully this will have some influence on boards of trustees or overseers of other institutions.”

At present only one of the eight Ivy League schools has an African American president, Ruth Simmons of Brown University. Still, it is my hope that this move on the part of the United States’ oldest institution of higher learning will inspire other schools to open the ranks of their highest excutive positions, not only to women, but to all groups that have historically been excluded from academia’s most coveted posts.

Posted by Ajuan Mance

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Posted in Academia, Current Events, Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard University, Higher Education, Ivy League, Lawrence Summers, My Favorite Blogs, Ruth Simmons, Women

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