In a wide-ranging interview in his Massachusetts Hall office last night, Summers reaffirmed his commitment to attracting underrepresented groups to Harvard’s faculties and said the number of “outreach appointments” would continue to expand. But he declined to provide an accounting of how the University would disburse the $50 million it committed last year to female and minority recruitment over the next decade.
The spending pledge came in the wake of the uproar over Summers’ remarks on women in science last semester and the report of a faculty task force that found the University had made “only limited progress” in recruiting women and minorities to its ranks.
“We want to make certain that budgetary considerations never preclude a situation where we are able to recruit an extraordinary faculty member who adds diversity,” Summers said yesterday.
Evelynn M. Hammonds, who was appointed this summer to the newly created post of senior vice provost for faculty development and diversity, “is in the process of organizing her office,” Summers said. In an unusual arrangement for the University, Hammonds will advise Summers on junior faculty appointments and tenure decisions at all of Harvard’s schools.
Asked yesterday if he viewed the new initiatives for female and minority recruitment as affirmative action, Summers said, “No,” then stopped himself and added, “I mean, in a sense, I suppose it represents an affirmative action. But I don’t think the vocabulary of affirmative action is necessarily helpful in talking about it.”
Summers also said he was encouraged by the College’s efforts to recruit low-income applicants as part of the Harvard Financial Aid Initiative he launched nearly three years ago for students with family incomes under $60,000. Twenty-two percent of students in the Class of 2009 qualified for the initiative, up 22 percent from the previous year.
“I’m told that the recruiting over the summer went very well,” Summers said, “so that upward trend is likely to continue.”
A NEW START
As Summers begins what could be the most crucial year of his presidency, attempting to recover from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ no-confidence vote last semester, he said he has reached out to the Harvard community.
“I think I’ve had a lot of good conversations over the summer and in the fall with many members of the Faculty in trying to focus on issues that are of great concern to the University,” he said.
Summers suffered a further setback this summer as Conrad K. Harper, the only black member of Harvard’s top governing board, stepped down from the Corporation, saying he “could no longer support” the president. But Summers declined to address the issue yesterday.
A six-member committee of the Corporation and Board of Overseers is searching for Harper’s replacement on the seven-member board. Summers said he and committee members had “talked about what kinds of people are important to have on the Corporation, the attributes that are important.” But he would not say whether he thought Harper’s seat should be filled by another minority or a woman.
PICKING UP THE TAB
Summers began yesterday’s interview with a preamble on his commitment to improving undergraduate student life. Last month, he put his money where his mouth is by earmarking between $6 and $7 million for student space, including a café in Lamont Library and a pub in Loker Commons.
The pub, high on the wish list of Harvard undergrads, is slated to open next fall.
“I definitely will stop by,” Summers said.
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