A top Harvard administrator who faced criticism from faculty and students for authorizing searches of e-mail accounts regarding a massive cheating scandal last year has resigned her leadership post.

Evelynn Hammonds, dean of Harvard College for the past five years, will return to teaching and research in the History of Science and African and African American Studies departments, leading a new program on the study of race and gender in science and medicine at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research, the university announced today.

Hammonds is the the first African-American and the first woman to serve as dean of Harvard College.

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At a faculty meeting last month, Hammonds said she had authorized the searches of two e-mail accounts belonging to a resident dean last fall, seeking the source of a leak to the media about the cheating case. Hammonds said she conducted the search out of concern that the names of students suspected of cheating would become public.

But the searches raised concern among faculty that the administration was overstepping campus privacy rules. Harvard President Drew Faust said at the faculty meeting that “different choices should have been made” in handling the matter.

In announcing Hammonds was stepping down today, the university did not refer to the e-mail searches. Faust praised her for leading the school through years of “remarkable transformation.”

“She has fully invested herself in improving the experience of our undergraduates both inside and outside the classroom, and in promoting a culture of inclusion and community across the College,” Faust said in a statement. “I’m grateful to her for all she has done to help our undergraduates thrive, and we will be fortunate to continue benefiting from her talents and wisdom.”

Hammonds will leave her post July 1 and return to teaching after a sabbatical.

“Being dean of Harvard College has been an immensely rewarding experience for me, but I miss engaging deeply with my scholarship and teaching,” she said in the statement. “I am looking forward to redesigning my classes in light of new technologies and modes of teaching, and I’m eager to return to my teaching and research on race, genomics and gender in science and medicine.”