Harvard President Faces No-Confidence Vote

Embattled Harvard President Lawrence Summers (search) braced for another contentious faculty meeting Tuesday, with debate planned on two motions — one a vote of no-confidence, the other a milder rebuke for his management style and comments about women in science.

The motions were to be considered by Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, one of 10 faculties that comprise the university. Neither item would carry any official weight — Summers reports to Harvard Corporation (search), the university's governing body, which has expressed support for him.

Still, a no-confidence vote (search) — considered by some faculty less likely to prevail than the second motion — would be a setback as Summers attempts to rebuild his standing within the university. His comments at an academic conference in January, where he argued that intrinsic differences between the genders partly explain why fewer women compete for top jobs in science, set off a firestorm of criticism.

The controversy became an opening for broader complaints to surface about Summers' leadership style, which became the focus of debate at last month's arts and sciences faculty meeting. The debate was continued until Tuesday's meeting, which was moved to a larger venue to accommodate the expected crowd. The meeting is closed to the public, though the Harvard Crimson student newspaper is allowed to send a representative.

While the first motion states simply that the faculty lacks confidence in Summers' leadership, the second says only that it regrets the president's January comments and the "adverse consequences of those statements for individuals and for Harvard."

The motion, put forward by professor of government and sociology Theda Skocpol, also states the faculty "regrets aspects of the president's managerial approach" but appreciates his "stated intent to address these issues, and seeks to meet the challenges facing Harvard in ways that are collegial and consistent with long-standing faculty responsibilities in institutional governance."