Search Process Draws Criticism

Groups Call for More Openness in Presidential Selection

Two University watchdog groups have joined forces to push for greater student input in the secretive search for a successor to outgoing President Derek C. Bok, organizers said yesterday.

Members of the undergraduate Committee on University Practices (COUP) have teamed up with the Ralph Nader-sponsored group Harvard Watch to monitor the selection process and press administrators to address student concerns, said COUP member Katherine J. Plummer '91.

Harvard Watch Director Jaron Bourke '88 said that his organization is scanning the histories of potential presidential candidates for corporate ties, private club memberships and other revealing details.

In addition, the group is compiling biographies of the six Harvard Corporation members and three Overseers who make up the search committee, Bourke said.

"We're trying to understand the places in society which Harvard's prospective president occupies," Bourke said.

Meanwhile, COUP members said they had focused their attention on drafting a petition, to be circulated next week, calling for a significant advisory role for students.

The group has not yet settled on a precise set of demands, she said.

Plummer said that although she would like to see a student sit on the official search committee, that possibility seems "logistically unlikely." Instead, she suggested that students meet with the Board of Overseers and with the strong contenders for the post.

Harvard Watch and COUP members said they considered the presidential search process at Harvard far more closed to students than those at other comparable universities.

Bourke said a Harvard Watch survey found that recent presidential searches at Princeton, Dartmouth, Middlebury, American University and West Virginia University all had "official and meaningful" roles for students.

Plummer said yesterday that establishing a significant role for students was a crucial step toward addressing their concerns in the coming years.

It's the philosophy behind it," Plummer said. "It's the idea of having students involved in the future of the University."