Poll: Students Say Summers Should Stay

Meanwhile, Corporation conducts limited probe of professors' opinions

By a three-to-one margin, undergraduates do not think that Lawrence H. Summers should resign his post as University president, according to a poll conducted by The Crimson this weekend.

Just 19 percent of undergraduates in the survey said that Summers should resign, while about 57 percent said he should not. The online survey polled 424 students and carried a margin of error of approximately 4.6 percent.

“I think he's doing a fine job,” said Derek J. Horton ’08. “I know the faculty hates him, but I think he's kind of running Harvard like a business—and I respect that,” Horton said yesterday in an interview in Currier House dining hall.


The Crimson sent e-mail messages to 840 Harvard undergraduates early Friday asking each of them to respond to three questions about Summers. The online polling tool iCommons ensured that all responses were anonymous, that only students who received the e-mail message could tap into the poll, and that each respondent could only vote once.

Of the 840 students, 50.5 percent responded, with slightly more freshmen than upperclassmen—and slightly more males than females—choosing to take the poll.

The first question was: “Do you approve or disapprove of the way that Lawrence H. Summers is handling his job as Harvard president?” Of respondents, 39 percent said they “strongly approve” or “approve” of Summers’ job performance, while 30 percent said they “strongly disapprove” or “disapprove.” The remaining 31 percent said they were neutral or had no opinion.

The second question was: “Do you lack confidence in the leadership of Lawrence H. Summers?” Just 27 percent said they lacked confidence in Summers’ leadership, and 55 percent said they did not.

When a similar question was posed to Faculty of Arts and Sciences members at a meeting last March, 218 professors voted for the no-confidence motion, and 185 voted against it.

Summers will face another no-confidence vote at the Feb. 28 Faculty meeting—assuming that he is still president at that point.

The resignation of Faculty Dean William C. Kirby in late January sparked the latest round of uproar over Summers’ leadership among professors—and it appears to have left some students disaffected with the president as well.

Physics concentrator Elizabeth B. Wood ’06, interviewed in Cabot House dining hall yesterday, said: “I think that the dismissal or resignation of Dean Kirby dealt a serious blow to the curricular review, and I think it was certainly poor planning.” Four individuals close to the University’s central administration told The Crimson last month that Summers forced Kirby to step down.

But elsewhere in Cabot dining hall, Daniel T. Kettler ’07 said that despite the fact that Summers “can be a little rough around the edges,” the junior engineering concentrator doesn’t want Summers to resign.”

“He was hired to get things done,” Kettler said.

The Crimson consulted FAS political scientist Barry C. Burden, Kennedy School political scientist Thomas Patterson, and former Statistics Department chair Donald B. Rubin in formulating the poll.


The third question—“Should Lawrence H. Summers resign his post as Harvard’s president?”—came as members of the Harvard Corporation reportedly presented some professors with a similar query in private conversations.

The Crimson reported last Tuesday that the Corporation members have conducted meetings with professors to discuss Summers’ leadership since last March’s no-confidence vote.

Three members of the Corporation—James R. Houghton ’58, Nannerl O. Keohane, and Robert D. Reischauer, met with four Faculty members in early February—The Crimson reported on Tuesday, citing an assistant professor of visual and environment studies and of English, J. D. Connor ’92.

The Wall Street Journal also reported on Saturday that Keohane and Reischauer “have been interviewing faculty, deans and key alumni about Mr. Summers,” citing that fact only to “people familiar with their inquiries.”

The dean of the Graduate School of Design, Alan A. Altshuler, told The Crimson last week that he has been recently contacted by a Corporation member who wanted to discuss “current controversies.” Altshuler, a Summers appointee, said that he praised Summers' “extraordinarily effective” leadership of the University in the conversation with the Corporation member.

The chair of the Government Department, Nancy L. Rosenblum ’69, told the Boston Globe in an article published yesterday that she was asked by a Corporation member: ''How would the faculty react if Larry were to resign?”

The chair of the History Department, Andrew Gordon, wrote in an e-mail to The Crimson last Monday: “I know of at least 10 colleagues who have met with one or more members of the corporation, either individually or in groups, since last March, and I'm certain there are others.”

“Members of the corporation are clearly concerned about the sentiment of the faculty, as they should be,” Gordon wrote.

Gordon added in an e-mail yesterday that he had not been contacted by any Corporation members since Feb. 7, when the full Faculty met and when more than a dozen professors confronted the president with criticisms.


The Corporation’s survey of faculty appears to be limited, though. Several prominent professors said their opinions have not been sought.

In a phone interview yesterday, the chair of the African and African-American Studies Department, Henry Louis “Skip” Gates Jr., said: “No one has contacted me. I haven’t been polled, period, by members of the Corporation or anyone else.”

Also yesterday, the chair of the anthropology department, Arthur M. Kleinman, who is a member of the Faculty’s 19-member governing council, said of the Corporation: “I haven't heard from them.” The Linguistics Department chair, Jay Jasanoff, said he had not been contacted either.

The professor who placed a no-confidence motion on the agenda for the Feb. 28 Faculty meeting, Judith Ryan, likewise said she has not been contacted by the Corporation.

David R. Gergen, a professor of public service at the Kennedy School, has advised four U.S. presidents—but since the Feb. 7 Faculty meeting, he hasn’t been asked for advice by members of the Corporation.

“They've lowered a veil of privacy around this matter, and I think that's healthy,” Gergen said in a phone interview from Cape Cod yesterday. “They're clearly conducting conversations but not yet talking until they've reached a consensus.”

"My sense is they're being calm and deliberative about it,” Gergen added.

A 40-year veteran of the Harvard Law School faculty, Charles R. Nesson ’60, said: “I have not had any contact. I've read the papers with eagerness, but nobody's called me up.”

And Frankfurter Professor of Law Alan M. Dershowitz said in a phone interview yesterday: “I don't know that any Law School people have been contacted.”

Asked why he hasn’t sought out Corporation members himself, Dershowitz said: “Nobody ever told me the secret handshake. I would be delighted to talk to anyone in the Corporation, but I wouldn't know how to begin a call. They darn well ought to be talking to people beyond the Arts and Sciences unless this University is going to become beholden to one faculty.”

-Staff writers Daniel J. Hemel, William C. Marra, Anton S. Troianovski, and Ying Wang contributed to the reporting of this story.
-Staff writer Javier C. Hernandez can be reached at
-Staff writer Daniel J. T. Schuker can be reached at


1. What is your expected year of graduation? (424 responses.)

A. 2006: 24.1%.

B. 2007: 21.2%.

C. 2008: 22.4%.

D. 2009: 32.3%.

2. What is your gender? (424 responses.)

A. Male: 56.1%.

B. Female: 43.9%.

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the way that Lawrence H. Summers is handling his job as Harvard president? (424 responses.)

A. Strongly Approve: 11.8%.

B. Approve: 27.1%.

C. Neutral/Don’t Know: 31.4%.

D. Disapprove: 23.8%.

E. Strongly Disapprove: 5.9%.

4. Do you lack confidence in the leadership of Lawrence H. Summers? (423 responses.)

A. Yes: 26.7%.

B. No: 54.8%.

C. Not Sure/Don’t Know: 18.4%.

5. Should Lawrence H. Summers resign his post as Harvard's president? (424 responses.)

A. Yes: 18.6%.

B. No: 57.1%.

C. Not Sure/Don’t Know: 24.3%.