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EDUCATION REPORT - Summers Resigns After Five Years as Harvard President

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I'm Barbara Klein with the VOA Special English Education Report.

Harvard University President Lawrence Summers announced last week that he will resign as of June thirtieth. The former Treasury secretary has led the nation's oldest and richest university for five years.

Education experts say one of his main difficulties was a power struggle with professors who control undergraduate education.

Lawrence Summers
Lawrence Summers

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences had been expected to consider a measure this week expressing a lack of support in his leadership. He lost a similar "no confidence" vote a year ago.

That happened after he suggested that biological differences may be a reason for the few women in top science and math jobs. Critics called him sexist.

Mister Summers apologized. But his comments led Harvard to begin working toward increasing the number of women in science.

Soon after he arrived at Harvard, he angered minority groups by criticizing Cornell West, a well-known black studies professor. Mister Summers accused him of grading his students too highly and not carrying out serious research. The dispute led Mister West to leave Harvard for Princeton University.

Mister Summers also criticized grade inflation in other classes.

A recent conflict involved the resignation of Arts and Sciences Dean William Kirby. Some professors believe Mister Summers dismissed him. Mister Kirby has said it was a joint decision.

Opponents say Mister Summers was not able to lead the university effectively. Supports say he made too many enemies as he worked to improve the university by changing it.

Among his efforts, Mister Summers helped make it possible for more students from poor families to attend Harvard. Yet some experts on higher education say his experience at Harvard could affect reform efforts at other schools.

The Harvard student newspaper, the Crimson, recently asked undergraduates how they felt about Mister Summers' leadership. Fifty-seven percent said they supported him. Nineteen percent wanted him to leave.

The university is now searching for a new leader. Former president Derek Bok will serve until one is found.

Mister Summers plans to spend a year away from Harvard and return as an economics professor.

Harvard is in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was established in sixteen thirty-six. Gifts and investments have increased its endowment wealth to more than twenty-five thousand million dollars.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. Read and hear our reports at www.unsv.com. I'm Barbara Klein. 

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