Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Summers resigns as Harvard President

Harvard President Lawrence Summers has resigned before having to face a second no-confidence vote by the governing board. Summers has been at odds with several faculty groups and set off a storm of controversy last year when he suggested that innate differences between men and women could be the cause of the lack of women in academic sciences. Personally, I think his comments were blown out-of-proportion and that he honestly meant to stir up a dialogue and not imply that women can't do science. The lack of female faculty members in the sciences is a problem that does need to be addressed. Physics and engineering are still male-dominated fields, but in the life sciences, graduate students and post-docs are overwhelmingly female. Here at BU, over 80% of the graduate students in my department are female. However, higher level positions (faculty, Principal Investigators, etc) are still largely dominated by men, especially at Harvard. Why? Are more women going into biotech instead of staying in academia? Is it due to slow turnover (for the most part, faculty positions don't open up until someone dies or retires)? Or is there still a bit of good old boys club mentality among those doing the hiring? Probably a combination of these and other factors. Maybe Summers' comments upset people, but they did bring the issue to light, and I don't believe he deserved to be fired because of them.

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