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Harvard Minority Board Member Quits in Protest of Summers’ Raise

Harvard Minority Board Member Quits in Protest of Summers’ Raise


A member of Harvard’s top governing board says he resigned over a proposed raise to university President Lawrence H. Summers, according to a copy of the board member’s resignation letter released by the university earlier this week.

Harvard Corporation member Conrad K. Harper also cited his dissatisfaction with Summers’ leadership, including his controversial comments about women’s aptitude for science and math, as a reason for his resignation.

Harper, who is Black, was the only minority on the board.

“I saw a pattern,” Harper told Summers in his resignation letter, dated July 14. “Your statements demeaned those who are underrepresented at the top levels of major research universities.”

Harper’s departure became public last week but he declined to disclose the reason or provide a copy of his resignation letter. However, he said Harvard was free to release the letter if it chose.

In the three-page letter, Harper said his concerns “came to a head” when the Harvard Corporation decided last month to give Summers a 3 percent salary increase. That would raise his salary to about $580,000. Summers earned about $563,000 in salary in the 2005 fiscal year.

“Despite your apologies and your creation of important task forces,” Harper wrote, “I could not and cannot support a raise in your salary. I believe that Harvard’s best interests require your resignation.”

Harper also revealed in his letter that on March 17 — two days after faculty members took a vote of no-confidence — he told Summers and other board members that he thought Summers should resign. Publicly, however, Harper had joined the seven-member Harvard Corporation in supporting Summers.

“Your presidency has been marked by a number of considerable successes,” Harper wrote. “Yet, as I said during our meeting (in June), my dissatisfaction with your performance as President has increased.”

In response to Harper’s letter, Summers thanked him for his service on the board and stressed his commitment to diversity at Harvard.

“Expanding opportunities for outstanding individuals from groups that are traditionally underrepresented is of fundamental importance to the University,” Summers wrote in a letter this week.

“You have contributed significantly to the work of the University,” Summers wrote, “and your advice and counsel will be missed.”

James Houghton, senior fellow of the Harvard Corporation, said the board decided to release copies of both letters with Harper’s permission and at Summers’ urging.

Houghton also said the board decided to give Summers a raise after weighing the “difficulties of the past year” against Summers’ “broader efforts and contributions.”

He said the decision was made after the board’s regular spring meeting and “after further discussion and reflection in the weeks that followed.”

Harper said that he wanted to discuss Summers’ performance and salary at a board “retreat” last month, but Houghton had told him before the retreat that he already had decided to give Summers a raise.

“I cannot in good conscience remain a member of the Corporation when the procedures that should guide our deliberations are not followed,” Harper wrote.

Harper, who was elected to the Harvard Corporation five years ago, was on the search committee that selected Summers in 2001. A 1965 graduate of Harvard Law School, Harper is a partner at the New York law firm Simpson Thacher & Bartlett.

His successor hasn’t been named.

— Associated Press

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