PERHAPS from the very beginning of the whole overblown selection process, Derek Curtis Bok, dean of the Law School, seemed the obvious choice for Harvard's Presidency. In many ways he is also an ideal choice.
While no one, including Bok himself, can say with any certainty exactly what it is a Harvard President does, preliminary indications are that Nathan M. Pusey's successor will, at the very least, ease some of the more severe tensions which have contributed to the disintegration of University life in recent years.
Bok is a credible and forceful liberal. He played an important part in the fight against the nomination of G. Harrold Carswell to the Supreme Court, traveled to Washington to protest the Cambodian invasion last spring, and reportedly joined several deans in asking President Pusey to reconsider his decision to call in the police during the University Hall occupation of spring 1969.
While good liberal credentials do not necessarily mean that Bok will enact some of the more radical changes which must be made at Harvard, it can be said with certainty that Bok's liberalism is not of the freeze-dried knee-jerk variety. As Law School dean, he has consistently impressed his students with his accessibility and desire to listen and discuss.
The problems facing the 25th President of Harvard are immense. In addition to the difficulties of merger, curriculum reform, responsibility to the community, the sustenance of numerous experimental programs and the widespread alienation of students from their school, there is always the likely possibility that national political events will once again split the University apart. In his news conference yesterday, Bok made it clear that he had no illusions about the ambiguity of his job or the immense problems he will have to face.
Bok also said yesterday that he realizes that most students do not know who he is. He will soon find out that many do not even care. In addition, he will have to overcome the mammoth negative Pusey legacy. While it is doubtful that any successor could have as little rapport with or understanding of this University's students as the current President, students are likely to look cynically upon any grandstanding actions that the new President may take to ingratiate himself with them.
Derek Bok's upcoming task is hardly an enviable one, and this community owes it to the President designate as well as to themselves to hold off premature judgments and wish him the very best of luck.