Summers To Face No Confidence Vote

Second, more conciliatory motion also filed for next Tuesday’s meeting

University President Lawrence H. Summers will face two votes of Faculty dissent at next Tuesday’s Faculty meeting—one of which calls for an explicit up-down vote of no confidence in the embattled president.

The two motions, submitted just before the meeting’s agenda was finalized on Monday, indicate that Faculty discontent—both with Summers’ January remarks on women in science and with his management style—has not dissipated.

The motions also ensure that a discussion of Summers’ leadership will, for the third time running, dominate a meeting of the full Faculty.

The no confidence motion, submitted by Professor of Anthropology and of African and African American Studies J. Lorand Matory ’82, reads, in its entirety, that “the Faculty lacks confidence in the leadership of Lawrence H. Summers.”

The second motion, submitted by Thomas Professor of Government and Sociology Theda Skocpol, enumerates specific grievances against Summers, though it also takes a more conciliatory tone than does Matory’s motion.

While most professors agree that Matory’s motion is unlikely to pass, many, including Professor of Economics Edward L. Glaeser, believe Skocpol’s motion may receive a significant portion of the Faculty vote.

“I would be surprised if the motion does not engender a great deal of support,” said Glaeser, who advocated Faculty reconciliation with Summers at a Faculty meeting last month.

Though Matory’s motion is first on the docket, Skocpol’s milder one, submitted after Matory went public with his motion, could allow the Faculty to register formal dissent even if Matory’s motion fails.

While both motions are symbolic—only the Harvard Corporation may ask Summers to step down as President—they could, depending on how the Faculty votes, result in significant changes in the distribution of power over Faculty governance.

Matory’s brief motion, which he said is tantamount to asking Summers to resign, differs sharply from a 450-word motion he submitted to the preliminary docket on February 28. The original motion, which received national media attention, did not include the words “no confidence” but listed specific grievances against Summers.

Many professors dismissed this initial motion as too narrowly tailored to garner significant support among the Faculty. That motion even referenced a 1991 memo Summers signed while Chief Economist for the World Bank, arguing that the third world is under-polluted.

Matory said he revamped his motion because he felt the grievances against Summers were too numerous to list.

Skocpol’s 90-word motion expresses Faculty regret both with Summers’ Jan. 14 remarks about women in science and with aspects of the President’s managerial style. It goes on to stress a need to return more governance power to the Faculty, and indicates a willingness to work with Summers to resolve Faculty concerns.

Skocpol’s motion also thanks Summers for his intent to address issues regarding Harvard women and his governing style. She also writes that the Faculty “seeks to meet the challenges facing Harvard in ways that are collegial and consistent with long-standing faculty responsibilities in institutional governance.”

In a Crimson poll conducted between Feb. 18 and Feb. 21, 38 percent of 273 faculty respondents said they would vote no confidence in Summers. Fifty percent said they would vote confidence, while 12 percent said they did not know how they would vote.

Some speculate that since then, faculty support for ousting Summers has mellowed, and that more professors are inclined to work with him.