Replacing the Dean

PRESIDENT BOK is slated to unveil his new dean of the Faculty later this month; there is no reason to believe--given Bok's method of choosing and the trend towards Mass Hall domination of University Hall--that the new man will be much of an improvement over the old model.

Manipulation has been the consistent theme of Bok's major administrative decisions. Last Spring, he responded to student demands for Harvard's divestiture of Gulf stock with the threat of injunction against the Mass Hall occupiers and the promise of a romantic-sounding fact-finding safari to Angola. The results of that mission have borne out the demonstrators' immediate skepticism regarding its significance.

To distance himself from open involvement in any similar embarrassing crisis, Bok created a joint student-faculty-alumni committee with only advisory powers on the narrowest scope of investment-related issues. He then opposed direct elections for choosing undergraduates to serve on even so powerless a committee.

The choice of the dean seems to follow this familiar pattern. Bok has personally interviewed 50 Faculty members and administrators and spoken to 100 others by phone to solicit opinions on the nomination. No one knows for sure to whom he has spoken, although he is consulting less than one-fifth of the Faculty. He has conferred with no undergraduate or graduate students, not even those elected to student-faculty committees or to the Commission on Graduate Education. He certainly hasn't approached students on the 13 House committees.

As nominal superior to the deans of both the Colleges and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and as chief Faculty legislator, the dean exerts a critical influence in the academic and non-academic lives of students. Harvard's near-refusal last Spring to allow SDS to meet on campus, the design of legislation opposing CRR reform, the chaotic situation facing the Afro-American Studies Department, and the current impasse between graduate students and the Administration are all, in large measure, the responsibility of the former dean.

The arithmetic of Bok's selection process thus offers good cause for worry. Those whose recommendations Bok weighs heavily are likely--by sheer force of numbers--to be mostly unresponsive and bureaucratic-minded conservative senior Faculty whose resistance to student participation in decision-making has always been strongest. Those who thrive on the exercise of their own petty power are more concerned with pushing pliable conservative candidates on the Faculty than with prospects at all responsive to student views. Their own passion for manipulation--of fellow Faculty as well as of students--is apparent from the Faculty Council's treatment of the recent CRR reform proposals.

The recommendations of this elite, coupled with Bok's own reverence for efficient administrators who obey orders, seem to ensure that the new dean will approximate a parody of John T. Dunlop--conservative, inflexible, and haughtily remote from student opinion.

The choice of a dean is the President's prerogative, but Bok can only undercut student and Faculty respect for the new dean by secretly soliciting suggestions from a few in the University. If not even consulted on the selection of the dean, students are unlikely to welcome the final choice eagerly. The Faculty, if it remembers the turmoil of 1968 and 1969, should also recognize the danger of a dean lacking the support of all factions of the Faculty, a dean who is more the President's henchman than their effective representative.

In an Administration where conformity and arrogance appear enshrined, it is not likely that fair and responsive candidates will be seriously considered for the post of dean. Unless Bok earnestly and openly consults liberal Faculty, junior Faculty, and students before making his selection, we are likely to see a dean as stale as his predecessor, and several degrees more bland and petty.