When she was a
graduate student at Harvard University, Ruth Simmons said
at least one male professor shunned her, presumably because
she was black, or a woman, or both.
More than three
decades later, Simmons returned to that same campus,
though much had changed. She was now Brown University's
first female president and she represented part of a
landmark change going on at the top of the Ivy League
the most elite universities in the United States.
When Drew Gilpin
Faust, the dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced
Study, takes over at Harvard on July 1, half of the
venerable league's eight schools will be led by women.
Simmons said the
four, including University of Pennsylvania President Amy
Gutmann and Princeton President Shirley Tilghman, have
carved a path that will grow among the Ivies and
"When it starts
to become the issue of being the last Ivy League
school to have a woman president who wants to do that?"
Simmons said at a forum in Cambridge,
MA, sponsored by Harvard's Radcliffe Institute
for Advanced Study. "This is a league and this is a league
based on competition."
Also on the panel
was Judith Rodin, who became the first woman to lead an
Ivy League institution when she became president of Penn in
1994. She is currently president of the Rockefeller
have made gains at the top, women still are not
proportionately represented in the ranks of tenured faculty
at the world's major research universities, the
panelists said. Reforms in parental leave and
merit-based hiring are needed for women professors to
catch up, Tilghman said.
"It is much too
early to declare either victory or defeat," Tilghman
said. "In a way, the Ivy League is anomalous among research
universities in the world."
Gutmann noted the
biggest gap in education is between the rich who can
afford the ballooning cost of tuition, and the poor who are
left outside campus walls. Simmons also pointed to the
dearth of openly gay, black and Hispanic college
each acknowledged their relentless ambition, but at the
same time said they wound up at the head of four of the
world's leading universities almost by accident.
What was not an
accident, they said, was that Tilghman, Gutmann and
Simmons were all young Princeton administrators groomed by
former president Harold Shapiro.
"He would deny
credit," Gutmann said. "But, he should get credit."
Faust noted that
the same group of women gathered at Harvard two years
ago, but under more tense circumstances.
At that time,
Faust urged the women presidents to begin a campus dialogue
to help beat back a storm of controversy produced by her
predecessor, former Harvard President Lawrence
suggested that genetic gender differences could explain why
few women rise to top science jobs. Summers' clashes with
faculty including over women in science led to his
biology professor and researcher, addressed the subject
again Wednesday, saying she needed determination to
advance in science, but also blinders to the obstacles
"There may be
signals out there that tell me I can't do this, but I'm
not going to recognize them," she said. "Adrenaline is a
So are "chocolate
and Diet Coke," Gutmann joked. (Jesse Harlan Alderman,
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