President Bok smiled wryly last week when reporters asked how he would respond if Dean Rosovsky were to leave Harvard.
"It's a risk you have to take," he said. "Our deans are good, and it's a high-visibility position."
Bok should know. His first dean of the Faculty, John T. Dunlop, resigned in early 1973 to become director of the Cost of Living Council in the Nixon administration, and he became Secretary of Labor shortly afterwards.
And now Dunlop's replacement, Henry Rosovsky, is on a very short list of candidates for the Yale presidency.
Rosovsky didn't have much to say about his Tuesday trip to Washington for an interview with the Yale Corporation. Neither did the Yale Corporation, which is trying to conduct its search for a replacement for Yale's flashy former president, Kingman Brewster, in complete secrecy.
The corporation also interviewed William K. Muir Jr., a professor of political science at Berkeley, and Robert B. Handshumacker, a professor of pharmacology at Yale, at its Tuesday meeting. It will meet again on December 16, and may interview more candidates then.
Then again, it may not. The corporation may be considering candidates it already knows so well that it doesn't need to interview them, such as Acting Provost of Yale Hannah Grey.
While no one outside the corporation can quite figure out the odds, Rosovsky may have a good shot at the position. He has achieved national prominence for his two-year-old review of Harvard's undergraduate education, and has all the administrative and financial experience Yale could want.
As dean, Rosovsky has managed to force the Faculty's budget back into shape--a talent that Yale, which ran a $6 million deficit last year, could use.
Rosovsky is not a Yale alumnus, and he is Jewish, two factors that might count against him down in New Haven.
But stranger things have happened; Bok didn't go to Harvard, and both Dartmouth and UPenn have Jewish presidents.
All in all, Bok's smile was not a happy one.