Women lead race to take Harvard top job

March 3, 2006

As the smoke begins to clear after the departure of Harvard president Lawrence Summers, at least four women have emerged as potential successors.

If one were appointed, she would be the first female president in the 350-year history of the office.

But the process of replacing the controversial leader is expected to be a long one, complicated by a politically charged atmosphere in which faculty ensured Dr Summers's exit with the threat of a second no-confidence vote.

In the wake of his resignation, announcement, there were calls from faculty and students for Dr Summers to be replaced by a woman. His interim successor, Derek Bok, who will step in on July 1, said he expected to serve at least a year.

Professor Bok was questioned in 2003 about the role of university presidents on a website run by the National Centre for Public Policy and Higher Education. He said: "At present, responsibility lies very heavily in the hands of the president or a very few top officials. I believe that is unwise, because the president is often judged on how much money is raised.

"Without greater support from other constituencies in upholding the essential values of the institution, I fear that this process of erosion is bound to take place - just as it has in athletics," he said.

Dr Summers quit under pressure from faculty after only five years of what observers had expected to be a 20-year tenure. Critics homed in on controversial statements he had made, including one suggesting that women did not have the innate ability to compete in the sciences.

The search for a successor is expected to begin soon with the appointment of a secret selection committee made up largely of members of the governing board, the Harvard Corporation, as well as an invitation for nominations from alumni, donors and others.

Faculty have traditionally not been included in presidential searches, but some academics are demanding to be closely involved this time. Several of Dr Summers's supporters say they would agitate for him to stay.

Meanwhile, several other deanships are or are soon to become vacant, awaiting the selection of a new president to fill them.

Planning, including preparations for an expected $5 billion (£2.87 billion) fundraising campaign, has come to a halt.


* Harvard Law School dean Elena Kagan , also tipped as a future justice of the Supreme Court

* Drew Gilpin Faust , head of Harvard's Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, who Dr Summers called on to oversee a $50 million diversity initiative after the uproar following his comments about women in science.

* University of Pennsylvania president Amy Gutmann , a Harvard alumna and a finalist in the last presidential search.

* Nan Keohane , past president of Duke University and Wellesley College, Harvard alumna and Corporation member. Now a visiting scholar at Princeton and a proven fundraiser

* Harvard provost Steven Hyman

* Stanford provost John Ethemendy

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