Almost from the moment Bok announced Rosovsky's resignation, faculty insiders and observers have assumed that Sidney Verba '53 would be high-perhaps even first--on a list of possible successors to the throne.
As one particularly well-connected Harvard official says of the quiet government professor and associate dean for undergraduate education: "Henry [Rosovsky] has been grooming him. I assume that if he wanted it, he would be one of the leading candidates."
But that's a big "if."
It's rumored that Verba has said he will turn down the post if it is offered, says one professor, and Verba himself says he is "itching" to get back to teaching and research full time when his current stint as associate dean runs out at the end of the year.
A professor here since 1972, Verba is one of the foremost authorities on American politics and voter participation--not to mention comparative political analysis. In the last decade, he has authored a half-dozen books, including two American Political Science Association prize-winners.
But his expressed desire to leave administration hasn't stopped the rampant speculation about the chances of promotion for this professor, who in just two years has gone from being a relatively little know--albeit highly respected--campus personality to one of the most visible members of the Faculty.
This rise in profile can be attributed almost entirely to Verba's tenure since 1981 as academic dean, during which he has led, among other things, an exhaustive review of the mechanics of the undergraduate curriculum--focusing particularly on the Faculty's rules concerning independent work, academic honors, and study abroad.
But the 51-year-old Verba has also gotten notice for being a general University Hall troubleshooter, able to make his influence bear on issues no by blustering but by hard work and quiet persuasiveness.
It was Verba, for instance, who in 1982 helped to avoid a stalemate between students and faculty on the proposal for a new undergraduate student government by stepped in to negotiate the proposal through choppy Faculty waters.
More recently, Verba carried the ball for the Faculty on the difficult issue of sexual harassment, most noticeably by overseeing the widely publicized survey on the subject whose results were released this fall.
In general, one administrator sums up, Verba is seen as a moderate and a unifier--much in Rosovsky's mold--who is liked and respected throughout the Faculty. He is described as a man who is not above sticking it out in the trenches, of dealing with issues at their lowest, nuts-and-bolts level.
His only potential drawback, adds the official, lies in there being "some question of whether he has the nerve for hard decisions--can he say 'no.' Will his hand be shaking when he has to cut something that has to be cut?"