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Summers Suggests Members of Harvard Corporation Should Resign After House Committee Report

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Updated May 18, 2024, at 11:17 a.m.

Former Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers suggested members of the Harvard Corporation should resign in a Thursday post on X following the release of a report from the House Committee on Education and the Workforce about the University’s response to campus antisemitism.

Summers wrote that the report — which detailed an internal battle between former Harvard President Claudine Gay and her antisemitism advisory group — revealed the failures of the Corporation, the University’s highest governing body, which holds the “ultimate responsibility for maintaining order, setting broad values and choosing leaders at Harvard.”

“The only positive way forward is for the Corporation to regain the credibility it has lost both inside and outside the University,” he wrote. “I suspect this will require substantial change in both the membership and the procedures.”

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Harvard spokesperson Jason A. Newton wrote in a Thursday statement following the committee’s report that the University’s “community and campus are different today because of the actions we have taken, and continue to take, to combat hate and to promote and nurture civil dialogue and respectful engagement.”

Newton declined to comment on Summers’ specific statements.

Summers also noted Harvard’s upcoming presidential search, writing that the current Corporation is ill-equipped to undertake the process.

“Neither internal nor external constituencies should or I expect will find it legitimate for the people with fiduciary responsibility for the events of the last year to choose the next President of Harvard,” he added.

Five months after Gay’s resignation, the Corporation still has not announced a presidential search committee, instead choosing to convene a subcommittee to reevaluate the search process. The move comes as the Fellows face widespread criticism for their secretive operations and role in Harvard’s recent leadership crisis.

The Corporation typically holds the majority of seats on Harvard’s presidential search committees — led by the Senior Fellow — alongside a few select members of the Board of Overseers, the University’s second-highest governing body. Current Corporation Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker ’81 chaired the heavily-scrutinized 2022 search that landed on Gay.

The House committee report revealed that Pritzker only met with the antisemitism advisory group once, after five of the group’s eight members threatened to resign.

In a follow-up statement, Summers declined to say if he was specifically calling Pritzker to resign but wrote that he was “calling for a very different committee to do the next search.”

“As a general matter I avoid comment on specific individuals especially since I have no way of knowing who took what position in confidential deliberations,” he added.

Summers has been a vocal Harvard critic since October despite expressing approval for interim President Alan M. Garber ’76. Though Summers has primarily focused his comments at the Corporation in recent months, he has resisted calling for members to resign before Thursday.

The committee’s Thursday report alleged Gay did not consult the antisemitism advisory group before her fateful Dec. 5. testimony, something Corporation member Shirley M. Tilghman addressed at an April 30 faculty town hall meeting. In response to a question from the faculty, Tilghman admitted that the Corporation inadequately prepared Gay for the hearing.

Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences are also overwhelmingly dissatisfied with both the actions of the Corporation and its structure. A majority of respondents to The Crimson’s 2024 faculty survey said they lacked confidence in the group, and plurality said they did not trust the Fellows to select the next Harvard president.

Correction: May 19, 2024

A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Penny Pritzker admitted that the Harvard Corporation inadequately prepared former President Claudine Gay ahead of her congressional testimony. In fact, Shirley Tilghman said the Corporation did not properly prepare Gay ahead of the hearing.

—Staff writer Emma H. Haidar can be reached at emma.haidar@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @HaidarEmma.

—Staff writer Cam E. Kettles can be reached at cam.kettles@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @cam_kettles or on Threads @camkettles.

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