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Lawrence H. Summers left after last night’s vote by Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences.
Lawrence H. Summers left after last night’s vote by Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. (Globe Photo / Josh Reynolds)

Summers gets vote of no confidence

Page 2 of 2 -- The embattled president was hounded by dozens of protesters, many of them students, as he headed for a waiting car after the meeting. Some of them sang, ''Hey Larry, goodbye," to the tune of Steam's 1969 hit, ''Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)."

But inside the Loeb Drama Center, home to the American Repertory Theatre, the mood was described as serious and low key, with less applause and tension in the air than at two contentious faculty meetings last month. Only the student newspaper is allowed to attend faculty meetings.

Over 800 people had the right to vote yesterday, according to a Harvard spokesman, but nontenured professors rarely attend faculty meetings or vote at them because their position at the university is less stable.

J. Lorand Matory, who introduced the resolution for a vote of no confidence, was surprised with the outcome, saying he expected only about 30 percent of the voters to support his motion.

''This was a resounding statement that he should resign." said Matory, professor of anthropology and African and African American studies. ''There is no noble alternative to his resignation. This is about his management style. He is dictatorial and autocratic."

But even some who supported the motion said they weren't convinced that the only thing Summers could do was quit.

''I feel confused about whether he should resign," said Judith Ryan, professor of German. ''But this is really about change and the way business is conducted on the Faculty of Arts and Sciences."

Morton Keller, coauthor with his wife, Phyllis, of ''Making Harvard Modern: The Rise of America's University," said last night that he knew of no vote of no confidence in a Harvard president at least since the Civil War, although he said there had been talk of such a vote against James Bryant Conant in the 1930s, when he fired some popular instructors.

''The real decision is in the hands of the corporation, and they have to weigh a lot of things," Keller said. ''Obviously that vote carries a lot of weight one way, but acceding to it will open up possibilities in the future that any responsible corporation would be very concerned about."

Several professors defended the president at the meeting.

''As someone who went into the academic profession 50 years ago in the days of Senator McCarthy, I said this is very menacing and would set a terrible precedent," said Stephan Thernstrom, a history professor. ''It is a very bad blow to the conception of academic freedom."

One professor offered a motion that would have prevented a vote on the no-confidence resolution, but it was soundly defeated on a voice vote.

The text of the second motion, introduced by Theda Skocpol, professor of government and sociology, read: "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."

Skocpol said some of her colleagues told her they voted for the no-confidence motion but not her resolution because they found it too conciliatory.

But she said she told the gathering that she meant it to ''indicate the faculty was determined to remain vigilant and united as we moved forward."

''It wasn't a statement that everything is fine," Skocpol said.

Marcella Bombardieri can be reached at 

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