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Evelyn Hammonds: Harvard’s 1st African-American Dean Steps Down After Scandal

Evelyn Hammonds, the first African-American and first female dean of Harvard College, has announced that she will step down from her post on July 1, following a storm of condemnation for the way she handled a student cheating scandal at the Cambridge school.

Hammonds, 60, has been the dean of the college for five years. She was at the center of a controversy earlier this year because of her decision to allow the search of staff members’ Harvard email accounts to uncover who leaked a confidential message about a student cheating scandal to The Harvard Crimson, the student paper.

After Harvard disclosed last summer that more than 100 students were suspected of cheating on a take-home exam, many elements of the administrative board investigation, which was supposed to be confidential, were reported by The Crimson.

In March, the story broke that university administrators, looking for the source of the leaks, had searched through the Harvard email accounts of 16 resident deans without notifying them. Resident deans are junior faculty members who live in student houses and act as student advisers. 

In her statement, Hammonds claimed that she wasn’t stepping down because of the controversy.

“The email controversy was difficult, but it was not a motivating factor in my decision to step down as dean,” she said.

Hammonds will move to Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, where she will study the impact of race and gender in scientific fields, topics that she has investigated for years in her scholarly work.

“I was never asked to step down,” Hammonds said. “I have been in discussions to return to academia and my research for some time.”

But before joining the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, which is directed by famed Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., Hammonds will take a sabbatical of unspecified length.


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