William Kirby: Forced out as Harvard Dean by Summers





Forced to resign his post, Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby said on Friday night that he will step down on June 30 at the end of four turbulent years in which he quickly lost favor with many Faculty members and, ultimately, his boss.

The dean was fired by University President Lawrence H. Summers, according to four people close to the central administration. Kirby’s announcement, between semesters at the College, leaves the Faculty of Arts and Sciences in limbo as the school contends with a growing budget deficit and a curricular review beset by criticism and delays.

The firing also underscores the ongoing tension between Summers and members of the Faculty, who approved an unprecedented no-confidence motion in the president last spring.

“The events of the past year have posed serious challenges,” Kirby wrote in a letter to the Faculty. “Yet we have continued to focus on the essential business before us. As we look to the future, it will be important for the President and the Dean to work closely together, in collaboration with the Faculty, toward our common objectives.”

Summers planned to fire Kirby last year, but the plan was put on hold amid the Faculty uproar over the president’s own leadership, according to two individuals who discussed Kirby’s status this month with a member of the Harvard Corporation, the University’s top governing board. The sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because the University’s employment decisions are considered private.

In a letter to the Harvard community on Friday night, Summers praised Kirby for guiding the Faculty “through what has been a not-uncomplicated time in the life of the University.”

The president wrote that Kirby, a scholar of Chinese history and culture, will become director of Harvard’s Fairbank Center for East Asian Research this summer. The search for Kirby’s replacement as dean will begin immediately, Summers wrote.



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