Harvard announced today that the Dean of Harvard College — Evelynn M. Hammonds, the first woman and first African American to hold the position — will step down this summer, following close on the heels of a recent scandal over private email searches in which she was involved.
Hammonds’ decision to leave her 5-year position as dean comes months after she came under fire for her handling of a search of faculty emails this year. After over 100 Harvard students were caught in a cheating scandal last summer, certain confidential elements of the investigation were leaked to The Harvard Crimson — and the controversy only pushed the university further into the national spotlight. Searching for the source of these leaks, Hammonds led searches through the email accounts of more than a dozen junior faculty members, but the faculty members were only informed of the search months after it was conducted.
Hammonds told The New York Times that she “was never asked to step down.” She added that though the “email controversy was difficult,” it was not a motivating factor in her decision to step down — rather, she said she had been in discussions to return to academia and research for a while.
According to a statement posted online, Hammonds will return to teaching and researching in the departments of the History of Science and African and African American Studies at Harvard, as well as focusing on leading a new program at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute. She will first take a sabbatical before returning to teaching and scholarship.
Hammonds will officially step down on July 1.