Harvard president atones for 'sexist' comments with $50m equality pledge

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The Independent US

The president of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers, has announced plans to spend $50m (£27m) to increase the number of women and people from minority groups at his faculty. Five months ago he was attacked for suggesting men are more biologically inclined to excel in sciences than women.

The president of Harvard University, Lawrence Summers, has announced plans to spend $50m (£27m) to increase the number of women and people from minority groups at his faculty. Five months ago he was attacked for suggesting men are more biologically inclined to excel in sciences than women.

The spending was recommended bytask forces set up by Mr Summers in the wake of the winter furore. A new senior provost will be appointed at the Ivy League university to monitor and encourage diversity in its teaching ranks.

The proposed changes, Mr Lawrence declared, will "have the power to make Harvard not only more welcoming and diverse, but a stronger and more excellent university overall".

Among those welcoming the initiative was Evelynn Hammonds who headed one of the task forces that made the recommendations. "Until now, Harvard has made only limited progress in realising gender equity and diversity with its faculties," she commented. She expects the new programme to increase the numbers of both women and African Americans teaching at the university.

Mr Summers, a former US Treasury secretary, withstood a barrage of criticism after his remarks in January suggesting that women were not genetically well equipped to handle the sciences. Refusing scattered calls for his resignation, he offered repeated apologies. He also survived a historic, though non-binding, no-confidence vote by an undergraduate faculty earlier this spring.

One of the aims of the new programme will be to nurture women pursuing science courses at Harvard, ensuring they are treated equally with men along the "pipeline" from the undergraduate level to graduate students and post-graduate fellows.

"We want to make clear at the outset that this is a serious effort calling for a serious commitment of resources," said a statement from Mr Summers' office.

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