Some evening this year, you may visit up-perclass dining room and encounter a strange sight three or four students dressed as if for a fancy affair sitting at a side table with a dignified, gray-haired gent in a business suit. The sophisticated will be sophisticated, not too pretentious. Perhaps a candle two will be burning for atmosphere. The student will be smiling eagerly and leaning forward to soak up the wisdom of their guest-Derek C. Bok president of the University Ironically, this might be one of the few times that you or they see Bok all Year.
The president each semester dinner invitations from undergraduates and has even been known to pull personal stunt of over whelming quaintness several years ago interesting some undergraduates gift of a cake on his birthday with home-baked cookies, for example.
But all of this is pure tokenism. Bok generally epitomizes University and College administration which seems to pride itself on maintaining a vast distance from undergraduates. The motivations range from that of a Bok, a genuinely private person whose legal training prompts him to avoid situations for which he is not formally prepared, to that of other bureaucrats who simply don't think they need to talk to students to do their job well
Following is a brief glossary of some of the people who wield power at Harvard. They will to varying degrees shape your life here, but you may never see them other than at Opening Exercises or Commencement or perhaps once over a candlelit dinner in Lowell House.
President Bok took over from Nathan M. Pusey The worst of the student protests but at a point when it was clear that the President needed more assistance than Pusey had when he tailed to respond effectively to campus unrest Bok turned Massachusetts Hall, traditional headquarters for the University, into a highly bureaucratized network of vice presidents and personal advisors. His system has, by and large, succeeded in moving the University back into smooth waters with Admiral Bok relying heavily on his individual captains to maintain the prosperity and academic success Harvard enjoys
You may encounter Derek Bok one night at dinner, but it will probably be your only sighting.
The Mass Hall hierarchy has a side effect of exaggerating Bok's inclination to avoid public confrontation. You have to get past a lot of offices before you get to the president's door. But for all of his determination to avoid excess public exposure. Bok has felt obligated to voice his opinion in recent years on important campus issues, such as race relations through a series of "Open Letters" to the Harvard community and through his periodic terms as titular head of national university lobbying groups.
Among Bok's most time-consuming activities is alumni fund-raising. He is considered one of the most successful Harvard representatives helping out with the ongoing $150 million capital fund drive, and development officials report that the former dean of the Law School actually enjoys stepping out in front of a crowd on the Harvard Club banquet circuit--as long as he has his speech ready beforehand
Daniel Steiner '54 does not hold one of Bok's vice-president ships, but as general counsel to the University, he probably has the most direct influence of any administrator on his close friend and fellow lawyer.
Brought to Harvard to supervise University disciplinary and legal policy after the student demonstrations of the late 1960s, Steiner stayed on to direct everything from labor relations to the Harvard police. He also remains Bok's trouble-shooters-in-chief for any unexpected confrontations or campus disturbances.
Of the four University vice presidents. Thomas O'Brien, chief of financial operations, has emerged as perhaps the most powerful since he replaced Hale Champion now executive dean at the Kennedy School, in 1977. His Influence stems not from an unusually close relationship with Bok, but from his responsibility for the University's approximately 50 separate budgets, each of which operates independently under a system known as "every rub on its own bottom"
O'Berien's job is made some what more pleasant by Harvard's relative stability even in a period of general recession. Years of cautious investment and generous alumni contributions have provided O' Brien and subordinates plenty of capital with which to support University projects. Not surprisingly O'Brien is rarely found without it smile his face.
Vice Presidents Robin Schmidt and Fred L. Glimp '50 handle government and community relations and alumni affairs and development, respectively. They differ in their relationships with Bok, but each presides over a key area of University policy.
Schmidt shares some of Steiner's closeness with the president, but in his own realm, has suffered a series of failure in dealing with Cambridge's feisty community leaders. In sharp contract, the federal lobbying operation Schmidt also heads has grown significantly in recent years, effectively making Harvard's opinions known in Washington and elsewhere. Schmidt's public relations office appears to be in a state of transition at the moment, with several administrators awkwardly dividing up the role of chief spokesman.