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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Harvard Elects First Woman President

    With the announcement of Harvard’s first woman president, students and faculty at Stony Brook agree that higher education is on the road to change.

    Drew G. Faust will become the 28th president of the oldest institution of higher education in the United States as of Jul. 1, 2007. With her appointment, women presidents will lead half of the eight Ivy League schools, including the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University and Brown University.

    Other universities look up to Harvard, said Megan Newhouse-Bailey, a Women’s Studies major. She said that with Nancy Pelosi becoming the first woman speaker of the house and now Harvard electing its first woman president, it is a great change. ‘There are more female role models for not only women to look up to, but for everyone to look up to,’ she said.

    In the past, it was easier for women to become presidents of community colleges than research universities, but according to The Association of American Universities, times are changing. Of the 62 top research universities belonging to the association, two of which are in Canada, there are 13 woman presidents. SBU’s President Shirley Strum Kenny became the third woman president in the association when SBU was elected to join in 2001.

    There is a prejudice that still exists against women’s ability to excel in the math and sciences, Kenny said. Former Harvard President, Lawrence Summers, whom Faust will replace, resigned last year after he made controversial comments at an academic conference that gender differences might be the reason why more women don’t rise to the top in math and science. ‘I hope that my own appointment can be one symbol of an opening of opportunities that would have been inconceivable even a generation ago,’ Faust said in her thank you address.

    According to Kenny, research universities were not as willing to accept women into administrative positions years ago. ‘There was a glass ceiling in that level of institution,’ she said. In 1994, she became the first woman and first humanist president of SBU.

    Female leadership differs from male leadership, Kenny said, adding that women tend to be more collaborative and less competitive with each other. ‘I think the world is certainly better off because we have university presidents of both genders,’ she said.

    According to a survey by the American Council on Education, the number of women university presidents has increased from 9.5 percent to 23 percent from 1896 to 2006. Growth has slowed in more recent years, however, as 21.1 percent of university presidents were women in 2001.

    Women account for only a third of all executive, administrative, and managerial positions in all American institutions, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

    As for members of the Association of American Universities, the average percentage of female, full-time faculty is 33 percent-also the percentage for SBU. In addition, the average percentage of female employees of universities belonging to the association, excluding working hospitals, is 50 percent. SBU falls short at 48 percent.

    Since Kenny’s arrival, SBU has seen an increase in events regarding women’s issues. Under her leadership, the Department of’ Women’s Studies was created and more women administrators were hired. There are three women vice presidents in Research, Administration and Facilities and Services, as well as two female deans of departments.

    ‘Leadership does not come in just one flavor,’ Kenny said.

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