Like many institutions of higher learning. Harvard might best be described as a marketplace of ideas, engaged in the age-old business of dispensing grains of knowledge and pounds of cynicism in exchange for tons of money. While some officials might cringe at the analogy--or insist, at least, that Harvard be known as the Nieman-Marcus of the academic world--the University-as-store model can be tremendously helpful in understanding who's in charge around here.
As in any large retail establishment, you'll find at Harvard that there are very few people who have final authority over everything. There's always one guy, however, who owns the place. At Harvard, that man is Derek C. Bok, who holds the title of President and who has the job of overseeing all aspects of Harvard's $450 million annual operation, including some nine separate faculties and a host of affiliated hospitals, museums, and other institutions.
It would be less than accurate to say that you'll never meet Derek Bok during your four years here. But you'll probably see him as frequently as you would any owner of a large and busy business. If you really want to, you can see him at the ribbon-cutting Opening Exercises, at some Freshman Week reception at the Fogg, and at a dinner or two in your upperclass House. He'll also be at Commencement, four years down the road, to wish you his best and welcome you into "the company of learned men and women." While he theoretically has command over every detail of your lives, Bok, for the most part, keeps his hands out of the daily affairs of undergraduates, leaving such matters to the folks who manage the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, of which the College is a part.
At the helm of the Faculty is Henry Rosovsky, often considered the second most powerful man at Harvard because he oversees a part of the University about equal to the sum of all the other parts. As the Harvard Mart's general manager. Rosovsky does all the hiring and firing of Faculty and support staff, and also decides what kind of academic products will be available to the College's 6500 undergraduates. Also under his purview are about 2000 students seeking advanced liberal arts degrees through the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
In his policy-making position as dean of the Faculty, Rosovsky exerts enormous influence on the lives of undergraduates here, though he rarely walks through Harvard's hallways to see what his customers think. If you take Social Analysis 10--and you probably will--you'll get an opportunity to witness Rosovsky's guest lecture on his specialty, the Japanese economy. Otherwise, though, he spends most of his time in his office or on the fundraising trail, having designated a team of deputies to do the actual selling and trading of Faculty policies. Rosovsky's visibility may change considerably after this year, when he plans to step down from the front office and return to full-time scholarship after 11 years as dean.
One man who's not stepping down just yet is John B. Fox Jr. '59, entering his eighth year as Dean of Harvard College. Make no mistake--this guy is no headmaster-type who simply keeps "tabs" on what's happening to his charges. Granted, you won't see him behind the counter at the Union, but you'll certainly smell his powerful brew of logical ideas and hard-line methods for implementing them.
It may only seem that Fox decides things in a monarchical fashion--in actuality, he regularly consults with the numerous officials from the Houses and Yard whom you are most likely to deal with in your daily life as a student. Though some students with things were otherwise. Fox answers only to the Dean of the Faculty. Aside from becoming good huddles with Fox, however, your best bet as a student to influence decisions on the College level is through elected committee positions from the Undergraduate Council, the latest in a string of student governments at Harvard and one which has yet to prove that it can make it through four years here without tripping up.
To help insure that you don't trip up in your knowledge of Harvard's decision making network, the following guide outlines the major paths of power, and probably more than you'll ever need to know in your four years here.
Seek and ye shall find.