Only African American on Harvard’s Governing Board Resigns in Protest

Conrad Harper, the only African-American to ever serve on the Harvard Corporation, the university’s seven-member governing board, resigned on July 28, citing disagreements with Harvard President Lawrence Summers. Harper resigned in protest over a 3 percent increase in Summers’ salary. “In my judgment, your [Summers’] 2004-2005 conduct, implicating, as it does, profound issues of temperament and judgment, merits no increase whatsoever,” wrote Harper in his resignation letter.

Summers has been under fire from women’s groups, women scientists, and Harvard faculty members after a speech he gave in which he suggested that women may have less innate ability for math and science than men. In an unprecedented vote in March, Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences voted to approve a motion expressing a “lack of confidence” in Summers. In his letter to Summers, Harper wrote, “Your statements demeaned those who are underrepresented at the top levels of major research universities.”

After pressure from a collection of faculty members, including two of Harvard’s most prominent black professors, Summers released Harper’s resignation letter to the public. The letter disclosed Harper’s wish in March for Summers to step down following the no-confidence vote by the faculty, writing “I believe that Harvard’s best interests require your resignation.”

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Harper resignation letter 7/14/05; Harvard Crimson 7/29/05; New York Times 7/29/05; Feminist Daily News Wire 1/18/05, 3/16/05

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