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Academy president, board must account for failings

Your June 19 editorial calling for the resignation of Leslie Berlowitz as president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is well justified, as is your faulting the academy’s board for failure to exercise good governance.

Chairman Louis Cabot and the board failed on three occasions. First, they overruled the recommendation of the committee appointed by then-president Daniel Tosteson that Berlowitz not be reappointed as executive secretary after an initial term. Second, as described in reporter Todd Wallack’s earlier report, the board was complicit in the irregular naming of Berlowitz as an elected academy fellow. This was a shocking disregard of established procedures for the election of new fellows. Berlowitz’s appointment as president was even more reprehensible. A few board members found it possible to interpret the bylaws so that the executive secretary could be named president without recourse to the membership.

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As another fellow of the academy wrote to Cabot recently, “In this stroke, the distinguished legacy of John Adams has been transferred to a paid administrator of the academy. Mr. Cabot, I would suggest that you owe the fellows a detailed accounting of why and how this decision was made.”

J. Woodland Hastings


Robert Haselkorn


Hastings is a research professor in the department of molecular and cellular biology at Harvard University, and Haselkorn is a professor in the department of molecular genetics and cell biology at the University of Chicago.

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