Blogs > Cliopatria > No Confidence ...

Mar 16, 2005 2:07 am

No Confidence ...

In a suprise action, Harvard's faculty of Arts and Sciences passed a vote of no confidence in President Larry Summers yesterday. It is the first time such an action has happened in the history of the University. The resolution was expected to lose, but it passed on a vote of 218-185. A milder resolution of rebuke of Summers'"managerial style" was also adopted by a vote of 253-137. Here's The Crimson's report. Chris Bray makes a good point about what all this means for"academic mono-culture."

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Julie A Hofmann - 3/17/2005

Yeah, well, we had a funny idea that the vote would be useless unless it were definitive, so that the faculty could not be dismissed as whiners.

Jonathan Dresner - 3/17/2005

By my calculations, that puts your actual votes of no confidence somewhere around 50% of the full faculty, which certainly qualifies as definitive. Harvard's 1/4th rate doesn't, indeed, compare well.

But we live in a winner-take-all democracy, so that even an election with 5% turnout that is won by a margin of about 10% can be considered a "victory" (we had a union mail-in vote like that recently).

Julie A Hofmann - 3/16/2005

We recently held a vote of no confidence where I teach. 2/3 of the full-time faculty voted and about 20% of the adjuncts. The resolution passed with about 78% voting no confidence. Harvard's numbers aren't that impressive.

Jonathan Dresner - 3/16/2005

It's worth noting, in addition to Chris Bray's point, that this only represents about 60% of the faculty. The Crimson's reporting added some interesting names to the votes: for what it's worth, historians were prominently mentioned among the opponents of "no confidence", including Dean and Chinese historian Bill Kirby (whose attempts at curricular reform by consensus may suffer along with Summers as a result), Chinese historian Phil Kuhn (a gentleman scholar of the first order), and Stephen Thernstrom (Americanist); Yiddish Lit scholar (you have to be a bit of an historian to do that) Ruth Wisse cited JS Mill.