Professors across Harvard praised University President Drew G. Faust as she announced Wednesday that she plans to step down next year, ending her tenure in good graces that strike a contrast with the acrimonious end to the presidency of her predecessor, Lawrence H. Summers.
While Faculty members are scattered across the globe for academic research and summer breaks, their absence from campus did not diminish their support for Harvard’s first female president.
For English Department Chair James Simpson, Faust’s ardent advocacy of the arts and humanities was commendable.
“Drew Faust has been a great President: Olympian, majestic, yet democratic, optimistic and above all meritocratic,” Simpson wrote in an emailed statement. “To work with her is to be inspired to serve the university as a whole.”
Beyond academic support, Faust received near-universal praise from Faculty members for her success in raising over $8 billion in Harvard’s historic capital campaign.
“I was very sad yesterday to read the news,” Human and Evolutionary Biology professor and Faculty Council member Daniel E. Lieberman ’86 wrote in an emailed statement from Kenya. “Despite the many financial challenges the University has faced, President Faust managed to achieve a great deal, especially the campaign, and she guided the University in a steady, thoughtful, and principled way.”
Faust’s rave reviews from Faculty come after an often tense and vitriolic period of conflict between former University President Lawrence H. Summers and Harvard’s professors. Summers resigned in 2006 due to a “clear sense of hostility” between him and FAS. Faust’s relationship with Harvard’s “sleeping giant” has been comparatively jovial.
“President Faust's exceptional leadership has strengthened every part of this institution and positioned Harvard well for the rapidly developing challenges and opportunities of our time,” Dean of FAS Michael D. Smith said in a statement. “I cannot overstate the gratitude I feel for her efforts to create an unparalleled learning environment for our undergraduate and graduate students and an intellectually generative environment for our faculty and staff.”
While Faust’s decade-long relationship with FAS was undoubtedly less controversial than that of her predecessor, recent years have seen tensions between the body and Massachusetts Hall increase over a 2013 email search scandal and most notably, the controversial single-gender social organization sanctions.
But those who have disagreed with Faust’s policies remained muted following Wednesday’s announcement. Some Faculty detractors on the controversial single-gender social organization policy like former Dean of the College, Harry R. Lewis ’68 and biology professor David A. Haig declined to comment.
Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana, Faust’s ally in the implementation of the sanctions, applauded Faust for her “globally respected” tenure.
“For the past decade, Harvard University is fortunate to have been stewarded by such an innovative, forward-thinking leader,” Khurana said in a statement. “From a personal perspective, she has been a role model of kindness, thoughtfulness and integrity. I am a better person for having worked with her, and I look forward to working with her in the coming year."
According to to History and Literature lecturer Timothy P. McCarthy ’93, professors have not been further notified about the impending search committee or any potential successors.
“Drew’s been there for a decade and she’s done great work at the university and I’m sure is eager to hand over the reigns of a strong and stable university to her successor,” McCarthy said. “My hope is that the powers that be who make the decision about who a successor can be will continue to prioritize the breaking of barriers and shattering of glass ceilings.”
Faust will resign the office of University President on June 30, 2018. The Harvard Corporation is tasked with naming her successor.
“She’ll be a tough act to follow,” Lieberman wrote.
—Staff writer Joshua J. Florence can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaFlorence1.