The embattled dean of Harvard College, Evelynn Hammonds, announced on Tuesday that she will step down this summer, following months of controversy over her decision to authorize secret searches of faculty email.
Hammonds, who will remain a professor at the prestigious university, had given conflicting accounts about her decision to scan the subject lines of email accounts belonging to 16 deans, in search of correspondence relating to a major cheating scandal among Harvard students. She apologized to the faculty last month.
The e-mail search was apparently aimed at tracking correspondence between faculty and reporters for the school newspaper, the Harvard Crimson, who were investigating allegations that dozens of students cheated on a take-home final exam in a government class last spring.
As many as 60 students were suspended earlier this year after an investigation into the cheating. Another 60 or so received disciplinary probation but were allowed to remain at the Ivy League school.
Hammonds, who was the first African-American and the first woman to be appointed dean of Harvard College, did not refer to the cheating scandal or the email search in a brief statement issued Tuesday as she announced she would step down on July 1. She had served as dean for five years.
"Being dean of Harvard College has been an immensely rewarding experience for me, but I miss engaging deeply with my scholarship and teaching," Hammonds said. A physicist and engineer by training, Hammonds said she will take a sabbatical, then return to Harvard to head up a new program looking at the role of race and gender in science and medicine.