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Summers, Harvard faculty meet

CAMBRIDGE -- Continuing efforts to soothe professors angry about his remarks on women, the president of Harvard University, Lawrence H. Summers, met last night with faculty members who wrote to him this week that his comments would hurt Harvard's ability to recruit top female scholars.

Summers repeated the apology he has made at least twice in writing, according to spokeswoman Lucie McNeil.

"It was a good meeting," she said. "He apologized, and they moved on to a discussion of a variety of steps the university can take to address the issues, and they agreed to continue to address them in the coming days."

Meanwhile, the National Organization for Women called for Summers' resignation yesterday.

"The women of Harvard -- professors, students, and alums -- merit more than a belated and defensive 'I'm sorry,' " Kim Gandy, president of NOW, said in a statement. "Summers must go, and Harvard must start with a clean slate."

Between a half-dozen and a dozen professors, members of Harvard's official Standing Committee on Women, attended yesterday evening's hourlong meeting at the Barker Center for the Humanities.

The participants were reluctant to discuss details of the meeting for fear of jeopardizing their ongoing discussions with Summers.

"It was a constructive discussion on very difficult issues of importance to the university," said Caroline Hoxby, a professor of economics. "The discussion is ongoing, and we believe there will be some resolution on important issues next week."

Hoxby and others refused to elaborate on the resolution in question.

Many Harvard professors hope the outcry over Summers' remarks will prod him to take more aggressive steps to recruit female scholars.

Also yesterday a Harvard professor collecting signatures on the letter to Summers sent the president more than 100 new signatures.

At an academic conference in Cambridge last Friday, Summers suggested several hypotheses to explain why few women excel at the top ranks of math and science. One hypothesis was that genetic differences between men and women may play a role.

In his apologies, Summers has repeated that he has been misconstrued, and that he never said, and does not believe, that women are intellectually inferior. But he also has acknowledged that what he said was a mistake.

Marcella Bombardieri can be reached at

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