[Paleopsych] NYT: Harvard Seeks to Advance Opportunities for Women
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Fri Feb 4 14:37:18 UTC 2005
The New York Times > National > Harvard Seeks to Advance Opportunities
By SAM DILLON and SARA RIMER
Moving to counter widespread criticism of his comments last month on
women's science capabilities, the president of Harvard University
announced initiatives yesterday to improve the status of women on the
faculty, including a commitment to create a senior administrative
position to strengthen recruiting.
The president, Lawrence H. Summers, appointed two task forces, one on
women in the faculty and one on women in science and engineering, and
charged them with developing recommendations on how to recruit,
support and promote women more effectively.
The committees are to complete their work by May 1 so the university
can act on their recommendations by the fall term.
In an interview, Dr. Summers declined to say how many new women the
university might hire as professors in the short term, or how much the
initiatives would cost. But in a public statement announcing the
measures, he said, "It is time for Harvard to step up and affirm in
strong and concrete terms its commitment to the advancement and
support of women pursuing academic careers."
Dr. Summers's actions yesterday echoed his handling of the outcry that
followed his dispute in 2001 with Cornel West, a prominent member of
the African-American studies department. At that time, Dr. Summers
publicly affirmed his commitment to affirmative action, and Harvard
subsequently created several new positions in that department.
Barbara Grosz, the dean of science at Harvard's Radcliffe Institute
for Advanced Study, who has long been active on women's issues at
Harvard, was named to head the task force on women in science and
engineering. She said she had accepted the leadership post only after
receiving assurances "that our recommendations were going to be taken
"There is now an opportunity that didn't exist before," Professor
Grosz said, "and I am willing to put effort into grabbing that
opportunity and doing what I can to see that the changes at Harvard
The chairwoman of the other task force, on faculty women, is Evelynn
Hammonds, a professor of history of science and of African and
Altogether, Dr. Summers named 27 professors and senior administrators
- 22 women and 5 men - to participate in the two task forces.
Dr. Summers's announcement came as his remarks suggesting that innate
sex differences might explain the scarcity of women in math and
science careers continued to stir international media coverage and
Scientists, feminists and hundreds of members of his own faculty have
criticized Dr. Summers as seeming to ignore years of research showing
that societal and cultural obstacles, including discrimination at
universities, are the most significant impairment to women's
advancement in academic math and science careers.
A smaller number of people, including some prominent conservatives,
have praised Dr. Summers for what they call his defiance of political
correctness. Dr. Summers has apologized repeatedly for his remarks,
which were made on Jan. 14 at an academic conference in Cambridge and
were intended to be off the record. He has said his remarks were
misconstrued, but has declined to release a tape recording of them.
Harvard's announcement yesterday referred only obliquely to the
outpouring of criticism. "Recent public discussion about women and
science has brought renewed attention to longstanding issues
concerning the representation of women in the faculty," it said.
Prominent female professors in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences have
been expressing concerns since June over the decline in offers of
tenured professorships to women during Dr. Summers's tenure.
While Dr. Summers said publicly that he would take steps to remedy the
decline, many of the female professors have said they are skeptical of
his commitment. At an October meeting, some 50 female professors
presented Dr. Summers and William Kirby, the dean of the Faculty of
Arts and Sciences, with proposals to improve the number and status of
women on the faculty, including the appointment of a dean of faculty
diversity for Arts and Sciences.
Dr. Summers and Dean Kirby rejected the proposal for the new dean,
saying they thought they could help female faculty members better
through existing associate deans.
"The task force on women faculty will be charged with making
recommendations for a series of specific institutional measures -
including the creation of a new, senior position at the center of the
university - to strengthen the recruitment, support and advancement of
outstanding women faculty," yesterday's university statement said.
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