"In this day of non-heroes, who are America's most highly regarded men? Who, for example, is qualified to succeed Nathan Pusey when Pusey retires next June after 17 years in office?"
PARADE Magazine poses the question of the hour, and if you answered "no one" and "who isn't?", this fall's stepped-up tempo in the great presidential sweepstakes is not likely to send chills down your spine. If you immediately thought of the one man you most admire in the United States, you are apt to be somewhat ignorant of the way Harvard works. For the task of choosing a new president is a giant game-a game which is played with deadly seriousness by many-but nevertheless a game, with an elaborate system of rules (sometimes called the candidate's qualifications) that determine who is eligible for the post.
Choosing Harvard's president is also a game which should not be taken lightly. In the last 100 years, the average term of a Harvard president has been 25 years compared to the 4-year national average for college presidents. The chance to choose a new one comes only three times as often as Haley's comet and this year's, selection process promises to be one of the most interesting shows in town.
The preliminaries are now over. During the spring and summer, the Harvard Corporation, which is serving as a search committee for the new president, has sent out 203,000 letters seeking advice from students, Faculty and alumni. From the 3000 written replies and personal interviews with over 100 key Faculty members, it has compiled three "fluid lists" of possible successors for Pusey.
The first list includes names of public figures; the second has names of professors and administrators from colleges other than Harvard; and the third includes those Harvard Faculty members who have been recommended-an astonishing 110 people. (Could you name 110 Faculty members you would like to be President?)
Through consultation with Faculty members and elected student representatives, the Corporation is now paring down the lists to a realistic six or seven names. Although the original date for announcing the next president was. January 1, 1971, there is strong indication that the finalists will be determined as early as mid-November and the Overseers will meet jointly with the Corporation around December 1 to approve and announce their selection.
CERTAIN basic decisions concerning the type of man the Corporation is looking for have already been made. High on the list of qualifications sought in any candidate is acceptability to both students and Faculty. Whether this is a meaningful bow to student power or simply the pragmatic realization that no president will be successful here if he does not have the confidence of these groups, it necessitates allowing at least a selected group of students to pass judgment on the next president before he is chosen.
Given a low priority for the first time in 330 years is the stipulation that the next president be a Harvard graduate. Twenty-four of the last 24 presidents have been. But few Corporation members have expressed any concern over whether the 25th is or is not.
Whoever is chosen, the Corporation has already decided not to split the duties of the presidency into two positions before the top man is chosen. The next president will be strongly urged to create a "provost" or "chancellor" job and pick a man to fill it as soon as possible, but the chancellor and president will not be announced together.
Beyond that, the Corporation has thrown out only one other clue. In a statement released Monday, they announced that, at present, they are looking for a man "with a primary academic commitment," i.e., no politicians, businessmen, television personalities, or persons who would like to use Harvard's presidency as a spring-board to bigger and better things.
On that basis, the game of president-watching can commence in earnest. The names of likely candidates have been popping up almost weekly in the Eastern press. To sift through such rumors, there is a farrly simple guide for determining how serious such candidates are: If the name appears in Parade Magazine, it has most likely been taken from the Boston Globe; if it appears in the Globe , it was probably leaked by a conservative Boston alumnus who wants to bolster the chances of that man; if it appears in the Record-American, you can figure that the street sales of the Record are down and they need to boost circulation; if it appears under a Washington, D.C. dateline, the information comes from three reporters who decided to get the man out of Washington; if the news appears in the New York Times, the man is likely to be one of the seven candidates; finally, if the name appears any time before November 1st, it's an outright guess.
ONE NEED only take a look at those candidates being prominently mentioned to get a head start on the fall sweepstakes. Among them, there are definitely seven leading contenders who will not be president of Harvard.
You might say that S. I. Hayakawa has as good a chance of being president as any non-white, non-Anglo-Saxon, non-Protestant person in the country. But he doesn't even have that.
Over the summer, an infamous "poll" of alumni mail reportedly showed S. I. Hayakawa and John W. Gardner, former Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, running neck and neck in the hearts and minds of the alums. The poll, however, was nothing more than a cursory sampling of names being sent in, and even in that sampling, conservatives and Time magazine (which reprinted the poll) will be dismayed to learn that Hayakawa is not high among the people seriously being considered.
Putting aside all philosophic, rational, and moral arguments explaining why S. I. Hayakawa will never be president of Harvard, there is still one overriding practical reason: at 64, he is only two years away from the mandatory retirement age of 66, and would be able to serve only one year after taking over in June.