It is being reported that the Harvard Corporation is considering sacking Lawrence Summers prior to a faculty senate meeting later this month that is expected to result in a second no-confidence vote. The Reuters story, which summarizes stories from other newspapers, is here. One passage in the Wall Street Journal's article (subscription) on the matter caught my eye:
While donations to the university have remained high, the percentage of alumni giving to the university has declined, which some critics see as a sign of discontent with his leadership.
Query for Harvard alumni readers--is the proffered explanation for declining alumni giving rate accurate? It seems to me that there are two alternative explanations for a decline in alumni participation. It could be that the discontent is with Summers, his remarks, and his combative leadership style, the explanation suggested by the WSJ article (I have been told that he has crossed swords with the faculty on a variety of less-reported other issues as well, including such things as curriculum and suport for ROTC). Alternatively, it could be discontent with the response by the faculty to Summers's remarks and efforts to increase accountability among some faculty members, Summers's "kowtowing" response to the criticisms (his apologies and his spending initiative and other promises), and the Corporation's failure to support him.
In the end, of course, both explanations fall under the label of "discontent with his leadership," but it seems to me that they reflect different dynamics and different lessons. The WSJ reference to unnamed "critics" seems to simply assumes the conventional wisdom to be accurate. But I have heard from some of my Harvard alumni friends that their discontent is more with the faculty, Corporation, and Summers's response to the criticisms, rather than Summers's initial comments and confrontations. I don't know that either the WSJ's unnamed "critics" or my friends are particular representative of this slice of Harvard alumni.
So if you are a Harvardian, and especially if you are in the group referenced in the article that has ceased giving to the University for one reason or another in the past year or so, I'd be curious to hear what you are thinking in the Comments.