Keeping to Himself
Bok and Appointments
President Bok says there is nothing more important in his job than carefully choosing the people to fill Harvard's faculty and administrative ranks. Making appointments is an essential part of any university president's job, but Bok retains greater independent control over the appointments process than most of his colleagues.
Bok takes the responsibility seriously that he has cut back on his other committments to devote himself to filling the unusual number of high level vacancies at the University over the last year.
The appointment last week of Professor of Health Policy and Public Management Harvey V. Fineberg '67 as the new dean of the School of Public Health was the fourth major appointment Bok has announced since the first of the year, all of which he has made in his characteristic independent style. And Bok is still yet to select two more high level administrators, a University treasurer and a Fogg Museum director.
All Universities use search committees to fill major vacancies, but for major appointments Bok relies on them less for actual recommendations than for advice and consultation presidents. Sometimes he doesn't even-form search committees at all.
The best recent example of how Bok handles especially significant appointments was the highly personal way he chose Chairman of the Economics Department A Michael Spence to replace Henry Rosovsky as Dean of the Faculty.
At most universities of Harvard's size or larger a well-chosen search committee, usually containing administrators, faculty and perhaps even students, would sift through potential candidates. While the president may chair the committee, as he does at Yale and Brown, at some places the panel has significant power.
This approach is usually necessary at very large schools were presidents are less involved in academics, but some small schools say it is useful because it frees the president for his other duties and keeps him unprejudiced.
Dartmouth is is the process of selecting a new dean of the faculty but President David McLaughlin, "doesn't get involved in the process at all, he just interviews the finalists," says his assistant Ruth Labomard. She says that the system keeps the president from having to consider unsuitable candidates and allows him to consider the finalists fairly.
At Dartmouth and many other schools the composition of a search committee is stipulated in the University's bylaws. At the University of Texas a specified number of faculty members, students and administrators from different areas of the school make up the committee which has most of the power in choosing a new dean.
"Usually in the case of a dean search the presidents have usually been rather aloof. The President usually enters the process rather late," says vice-president for administration Robert Mattson. "The procedures and process we have in place to reflect the size of the university," he adds.
But at Harvard, Bok assumed all the responsibilities of the search himself and formed no committee. Over the course of the fall Bok personally sorted through the dozens of recommendations, solicited advice from faculty members, students, and a wide range of people inside and outside Harvard, and made the decision on his own. As the one ultimately responsible for the appointment, he says that the time consuming process is vital to the health of the University.
One other school where the President would shoulder the burden of appointing a new dean of the faculty alone is Princeton. Anthony J. Maruca, Princeton's vice-president for administration says that since a president must work so closely with a dean it is important that he go the route alone and not be encumbered by a large committee.
"In the very senior positions where the chemistry of the people is so important, the president must choose the person he is most comfortable with," he says. "The thought of having a 10-15 member committee just wouldn't work. I'm sure you've heard the story of how the knee was designed by committee while the rest of the body was designed by God."
The reason Bok formed no search committee for the dean search was that all the major candidates were from within Harvard, and he says he knows them well. But he has played an unusually powerful role in the three other major appointments made this spring.
Those appointments were Fineberg. American Civil Liberties Union official John H.F. Shattuck as the new vice president for government and community affairs, and associate dean for under- graduate education Sidney Verbs '53 as University Librarian.
The most difficult of the three appointments was Fineberg, who was apparently Bok's fourth choice. According to Medical School and SPH professors, at least three candidates turned down the job. Last fall Bok empaneled a committee to generate a short list of possible deans and it appears at least some of those who turned down the job were on the list.
It was thought that Bok was looking for someone outside the University to run SPH--all three offered the job were not insiders--but when the search ran into difficulty. Bok took a more active role. He did not officially reform the committee but faculty and administrators say he actively sought their advice and counsel much the way he did before appointing Spence