July 29, 2005
Sole black on Harvard’s board resigns
BOSTON (Reuters) - The only black member of Harvard
University's seven-person governing board said on Friday he had
resigned because he could no longer support the school's
controversial president, Lawrence Summers.
Conrad Harper, a lawyer at New York firm Simpson Thatcher &
Bartlett and former legal adviser to the State Department under
President Bill Clinton, said he tendered his resignation from
the Harvard Corporation in a letter dated July 14.
Summers was criticized earlier this year for suggesting
that fewer women were in the fields of math and science due to
differences in "intrinsic aptitude." Earlier he triggered an
exodus of professors from the African and African American
Studies Department after criticizing a star professor.
"I found myself unable to continue supporting President
Summers and resigning was the only thing to do under the
circumstances," Harper said in a telephone interview.
Harper would not elaborate on his disagreements with
Summers, who serves an indefinite term as president, and
Harvard did not offer any further details.
"I regret that he has chosen, in reflecting on recent
matters at the University, to bring his service to a close,"
James Houghton, the senior fellow at the corporation, said in a
Harvard's once-vaunted African and African American Studies
Department was shaken after Summers questioned Professor Cornel
West's academic output. West, author of "Race Matters" on race
relations in America, left for Princeton University, and other
well-known black academics soon left the school.
Through it all, the corporation -- of which Summers is a
member along with Robert Rubin, his predecessor as U.S.
Treasury secretary -- has expressed its staunch support for the
The Boston Globe, citing a source close to Harvard's
leadership, said Harper has been unhappy with Summers for
months and was displeased with the president's criticism of
West and his comments about women.
Harper said he explained his decision in the resignation
letter and would not mind it being made public, but left that
decision up to the school.
A Harvard official, citing confidentiality, refused to make
the letter public.