President Drew Faust of Harvard Steps Down


Register Forum

Pictured: Sanders Theatre of Harvard

Juliana Vandermark, Contributing Writer

After more than a decade as the 28th president of Harvard, Drew Gilpin Faust will pass the  torch this June as she leaves the university.

Faust’s eleven years as president following Lawrence Summers—who was known for his disrespect towards minorities and women—have been filled with firsts. Faust is the first female president of Harvard, but when asked about this title, she responded, “I am the president of Harvard, not the woman president of Harvard.” Emily Dahl, a sophomore at Harvard, told the Register Forum, “While Drew Faust was very clear from the beginning of her tenure that she did not want to be cast as a ‘woman president,’  she worked hard to create an inclusive environment. … The contrast between her leadership and Summers’ is obvious.”

A historian by trade, Faust has worked to mend some of the more politically troubling aspects of Harvard’s history. Listening to growing concerns from both faculty and students, she addressed connections between Harvard and slave labor, installing a plaque to recognize four slaves who assisted in the construction of part of the campus.

Arguably one of Faust’s greatest impacts on the university was her enlargement of Harvard’s financial aid programs. This was a major action toward increasing Harvard’s socioeconomic diversity. Dahl explained, “Faust prioritized creating an improved financial aid policy for middle income students. The pioneering program makes it possible for me and many of my friends to attend.”

Faust has worked to promote change in the University as well as the country, often making controversial decisions separating her from previous presidents.

A clear example of this is the work her team did to disband male-only social clubs known for their “party culture” often resulting in sexual assault. There are four all-male “finals clubs” near Harvard, largely made up of wealthier students and rarely minorities. To Faust, these clubs have cultivated the reputation of accepting sexual assault, prompting her to take a stand.

John Wakeley, a Professor of organismic and evolutionary biology at  Harvard, has worked with Faust since 2004 and told the Register Forum, “I have been enormously appreciative of the skill with which President Faust has handled such a complex and important job, doing such things as running the recent Harvard Capital Campaign and speaking regularly with politicians in Washington D.C.”

Faust will leave Harvard in June, passing the job on to the next president, who the administration is searching for.

In her original message published in the Harvard Crimson in June, 2017, regarding her departure, President Faust wrote, “It has been a privilege beyond words to work with all of you to lead Harvard, ‘through change and through storm.’” Later in the message, she explained, “The dedication of students, faculty, and staff to the ideal and excellence of Harvard and to the importance of its pursuit of Veritas has made all this possible. I know this commitment will carry Harvard forward, from strength to strength, in the years to come.”

This piece also appears in our October print edition.