Raise for Harvard's President Led Board Member to Quit
By: ALAN FINDER
New York Times
August 2, 2005
The decision by Harvard to grant a 3 percent raise to its controversial president, Lawrence H. Summers, was the final straw that led to the resignation of the only African-American member of the university's governing board, according to a resignation letter released yesterday by the university.
The board member, Conrad K. Harper, also said in the letter that he had argued months ago that Dr. Summers should resign, and that he still felt that way.
"I believe that Harvard's best interests require your resignation," Mr. Harper wrote in the letter to Dr. Summers, dated July 14. He noted in the letter that Dr. Summers had insulted people attending a Native American conference, alienated black professors and suggested that women might not have an "intrinsic" aptitude for science and engineering.
"I saw a pattern," Mr. Conrad wrote. "Your statements demeaned those who are underrepresented at the top levels of major research universities."
Of the board's decision to grant Dr. Summers a raise for the academic year that began July 1, Mr. Harper wrote, "In my judgment, your 2004-5 conduct, implicating, as it does, profound issues of temperament and judgment, merits no increase whatever."
Dr. Summers had a base salary of $563,000 in the 2004-5 academic year, a university spokesman said. The 3 percent raise, which was granted last month, was the smallest of his four-year tenure, a university official said.
Mr. Harper's resignation was the first outward sign that Harvard's seven-member board was not united in its support of Dr. Summers, after a vote of no confidence by the Faculty of Arts and Science last March. It remains unclear whether he was the only critic on the board, which includes Dr. Summers. When Mr. Harper's resignation was announced last Thursday by the university, he said only that he could no longer support Dr. Summers. Mr. Harper declined to release his resignation letter, though he said he was not opposed to its release. He said the decision was up to Harvard, which declined at first, saying that the letter was private.
Over the weekend, however, several Harvard faculty members began organizing to lobby for the letter's release. Charles J. Ogletree Jr., a law professor, and Henry Louis Gates Jr., chairman of the department of African and African-American studies, said they had written a letter calling on the university to make Mr. Harper's letter public. They said that about a dozen faculty members, both black and white, had signed on and that they had intended to release the letter yesterday or today.
"Obviously, someone caught wind of what we were doing," Professor Ogletree said.
But James R. Houghton, the senior fellow of the board, which is known as the Harvard Corporation, said in a statement that the board had decided to make the letter public because Mr. Harper had made clear in interviews that it contained his reasons for stepping down from the board and because he did not object to its release. Mr. Houghton also said Dr. Summers now thought the letter should be made public.
Mr. Harper, a graduate of Harvard Law School who practices law in Manhattan, said in his resignation letter that he had become increasingly dissatisfied with Dr. Summers's leadership. He said, too, that he was unhappy with the way that the board decided to award a raise to the president.
While it is not clear whether any of the other board members shared his view, Mr. Harper said he had wanted the board to discuss Dr. Summers's salary and ways to measure his performance in the coming academic year during a board retreat in the third week of July. Instead, Mr. Harper wrote, Mr. Houghton and two other board members decided to award the 3 percent raise before the retreat.
"I cannot in good conscience remain a member of the corporation when the procedures that should guide our deliberations are not followed," Mr. Harper wrote.
Mr. Houghton, the board's senior member, said in his statement that the members had decided to grant the raise after discussing it at an executive session last spring and in the weeks that followed.
Mr. Harper also referred in his letter to a series of controversial episodes in Dr. Summers's tenure. He cited a public dispute with Cornel West, a star professor in the black studies department, that led to Professor West's departure to Princeton in 2002.
He also cited remarks by Dr. Summers at a Native American conference in September that were viewed as insulting by some participants. And he referred to comments by Dr. Summers about female scientists at a conference in January.
Mr. Harper called the remarks "an insult heard worldwide."