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Harvard appoints professor to senior diversity post

Official will track women's status

Harvard University named professor Evelynn Hammonds yesterday as the school's first senior vice provost for diversity, a major addition to the Harvard administration born out of almost a year of turmoil on campus.

Only nine months ago, the university's president, Lawrence H. Summers, argued that the Faculty of Arts and Sciences did not need a dean for affirmative action, a position that had been abolished several years earlier, even though the number of senior job offers to women each year had dropped markedly during his presidency.

But Summers speculated in January about possible differences in men's and women's ''intrinsic aptitude" for science. In the wake of an outcry about those remarks, Summers set in motion a sweeping analysis of how Harvard could recruit more female professors and better support their careers.

Prominent among the results is Hammonds's new job, broader in scope than that of the affirmative action dean that Arts and Sciences once had. In addition, each one of Harvard's 10 schools will name its own diversity adviser.

Hammonds, a professor of the history of science and African and African-American Studies, has not been among the more vocal critics of the administration during the last year. But she is a respected scholar and won kudos for her work chairing one of two task forces that spent the spring devising recommendations for how Harvard could improve its record on gender issues. Her task force, on female faculty, was charged with designing the job she will now assume, formally known as the senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity.

In an interview in February, Hammonds said she thought Harvard ''has been slow to respond" to the need to promote the advancement of women.

''I spent 10 years at MIT, and I would say that Harvard has not advanced over that decade, while MIT went miles ahead of where Harvard is now," she said. ''At this point, our lack of focus is not a good thing, and we intend to rectify it."

Yesterday, Drew Gilpin Faust, dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, who worked closely with Hammonds on the task force, said it was ''a great day for Harvard."

''Evelynn was marvelously effective, steady, and insightful," Faust said. ''She was just very good at moving through the issues facing the task force, being inclusive, yet moving everyone along. She showed real leadership in that situation, and I think she will do so in her new post."

Hammonds, who starts her new job immediately, will be the central figure implementing the task forces' recommendations. That will include launching a systematic effort to collect data on the status of women and underrepresented minorities at Harvard. This fall, Harvard will conduct a ''climate survey" measuring junior professors' perceptions of how they are treated.

She will also oversee the creation of a training program for key members of the faculty, such as search committee chairs, on strategies for recruiting women and minorities and avoiding hidden biases.

Hammonds will also advise the president and provost during tenure proceedings and will administer funds to hire professors who are women or underrepresented minorities when funding might not otherwise exist because there are no openings in their fields.

The task forces had countless other recommendations, but Harvard is still considering whether many of them should be implemented and how much they will cost. Summers pledged to spend at least $50 million in the next decade to improve the status of women at Harvard.

Hammonds came to Harvard from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2002. Among her areas of expertise are gender and race in science and medicine, the history of disease and public health, and African-American history.

Hammonds served on a faculty diversity council at MIT and has participated in other national projects on women and underrepresented minorities in science.

Faust noted that Hammonds's interests span several disciplines, meaning she understands the challenges facing women in difference parts of the university, especially the science and technology fields, where they are most underrepresented. Although her doctorate from Harvard is in the history of science, she earned a master's degree in physics at MIT and a bachelor's degree in physics at Spelman College.

Summers thanked Hammonds in a statement yesterday, saying: ''Our goal is to make Harvard more welcoming and diverse, and in so doing to create a stronger and more excellent university overall. I have every confidence that Evelynn Hammonds will take us a long way toward achieving our goal."

''I think we came through this spring with a lot of momentum for change," Hammonds said in an interview yesterday. ''I believe we need to tap that and move forward."

Marcella Bombardieri can be reached at

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