It was big news when Evelynn Hammonds became the first African-American and first female dean of Harvard College five years ago. Now she has made news again—but not in a good way. She announced that she will step down from her post on July 1, following an uproar over the way she handled a student cheating scandal at the school.
Controversy ensued after Hammonds, 60, allowed the emails accounts of Harvard staff members to be searched in order to uncover who leaked a confidential message about a student cheating scandal to The Harvard Crimson, the student paper, reports The Atlanta Black Star. Harvard disclosed last summer that more than 100 students were suspected of cheating on a take-home exam. The accounts of 16 resident deans were searched without notifying them. Resident deans live in student houses, act as student advisers and serve as junior faculty members.
Despite this scandal, in a statement, Hammonds says she wasn’t leaving her post because of this incident. “The email controversy was difficult, but it was not a motivating factor in my decision to step down as dean,” she said.
Hammonds will take a sabbatical before heading to Harvard’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, which is directed by famed Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. At the Institute, Hammonds will study the impact of race and gender in scientific fields, topics that she has investigated for years in her scholarly work, states the newspaper.
“I was never asked to step down,” Hammonds said. “I have been in discussions to return to academia and my research for some time.”