- The Washington Times - Monday, May 16, 2005

BOSTON (AP) — Harvard President Lawrence H. Summers committed his university yesterday to spending $50 million over the next decade on a range of programs aimed at improving the climate for female scientists, many of whom were angered by his remarks that questioned female aptitude for top-level math and science.

Mr. Summers said he would implement recommendations made by two committees he appointed in February, at the height of the outcry over his remarks at an academic conference a month earlier. The recommendations range from better advising for students to earmarking money for developing a more diverse faculty.

They also call for graduate students in the sciences to be instructed on gender bias before they are given teaching assignments.

“Universities like Harvard were designed a long time ago, in many respects, by men and for men,” Mr. Summers said. “To fully succeed on these issues, we’re going to have to address issues of culture.”

Mr. Summers said he would begin working immediately on some of the initiatives, including the appointment of a senior administrator on faculty diversity — something he already had endorsed. But he also said details of many of the proposals remained to be worked out.

“I guess the question is, ‘Is there really going to be some meat to this, or is it all window-dressing?’” said Mary Waters, the chairwoman of Harvard’s sociology department and an outspoken critic of Mr. Summers.

At a conference in January at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mr. Summers said that innate differences in ability between the sexes might partly explain why fewer women are in the pipeline for top science jobs.

Mr. Summers apologized repeatedly for his remarks, and appointed the two task forces — one on women at Harvard, and one on women in science more generally.

Among the task forces’ recommendations are funding for departments to hire outstanding scholars even if there is no departmental opening. But Harvard officials denied that the university would pursue “affirmative-action hires” who were not up to standards.

“We’re not going to change or lower any of the standards that exist here at Harvard,” said Evelynn Hammonds, a professor of history of science and of African and African-American studies, chairwoman of the task force on female faculty.

Harvard officials described the recommendations as touching on the pipeline of scientific talent at various points along the way — from undergraduate research to mentoring for graduate students and junior faculty — and said their implementation would benefit the entire university, not just women.

But one outside observer said Harvard remains far from path-breaking on the topic of nurturing female scientists and faculty generally.

“Mostly, I see it as catching up,” said Elizabeth Ivey, former president of the University of Hartford and president of the Association for Women in Science. “Much of what they’re talking about has been done at other institutions for 30 or 40 years.”

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