Behind the Scenes, A Sprawling Bureaucracy Runs the Many Parts of the Nation's Oldest University

It is the rare undergraduate who truly cares about the powers that run this colossus of higher education. Stiff-necked bureaucratic types, after all, have little to say about whether you attend a keg party in Winthrop House or spend your Saturday nights doing homework.

Consequently, few students--or faculty members, for that matter--hear much about what goes on in the depths of Massachusetts and University Halls.

The President

After nearly 10 years at the helm of a multi billion-dollar ship, Neil L. Rudenstine will step down at the end of this year as the 26th president of Harvard University.

Mid-sized, skinny and affable to the point of goofiness, Rudenstine is hardly the imposing figure one might expect from a giant in American higher education.

Although he holds office hours about once per month, he rarely steps into College affairs, preferring to allow underlings to handle all crises and many long-term matters, from murder-suicides to protests to public service reform. Even on a campus of roaming ethernet network connections, Rudenstine does not have an e-mail account.

As a result of this hands-off style, Rudenstine sometimes comes across as being too insular and distanced from undergraduates. Several years ago, for example, as the College buzzed about the first-ever, campus-wide elections of the Undergraduate Council's president and vice president, Rudenstine was oblivious to the sea of colorful campaign posters visible from his office window--he had no idea that the elections were happening.

Rudenstine's defenders say that his burdens as president are too daunting for him to meddle in College affairs, and they may have a point.

Rudenstine has worked tirelessly almost from the day he took office to help pad Harvard's coffers. His legacy will be marked by the six-year, $2.6 billion capital campaign over which he presided--the largest fundraising drive in the history of higher education.

In addition to fundraising, the president's other major roles include approving tenure decisions for all nine of Harvard's faculties, overseeing the activities of upper-level bureaucrats and shaping the University's long-term direction and policies.

Rudentsine's decision this May to resign did not come as a huge surprise--many anticipated that he would step down soon after the end of the capital campaign. The 65-year-old former Rhodes Scholar said he felt it was "the right time" to move on.

As a result, the University is currently conducting an exhausting search for Harvard's 27th president. According to some sources, the two leading cadidates to fill Rudenstine's shoes are current Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67 and Dean of Harvard Business School Kim B. Clark '74.

Provost

As second-in-command in Massachusetts Hall, Harvey V. Fineberg '67 is something of a "shadow president," serving as Rudenstine's top adviser and overseeing a potpourri of projects from information technology to the central administration's finances. The provost is also responsible for fostering academic collaboration among Harvard's nine faculties--a task that is easier said than done.

Fineberg, Rudenstine's third provost in eight years, is Rudentsine's taller shadow. Slim and a bit goofy looking, Fineberg is cool and unflappable under pressure.

Like Rudentsine, Fineberg's involvement in undergraduate life is minimal. He rarely speaks out on College matters and is a strict party-liner on other issues of public interest.

Governing Boards

A few people at Harvard are technically more powerful than the president: the six mysterious Fellows of Harvard College.

The president and Fellows make up the Harvard Corporation, which is invested with ultimate control over the University by colonial charter. This board approves appointments and oversees the allotment of millions of dollars in each year's operating budget.

It's a responsibility that the Corporation takes very seriously. So seriously, in fact, that the body is best known for the secrecy permeating all of its activities. The Corporation selects its own members for life-long terms. It publishes no minutes of its meetings and most of its members never speak to the press.

The senior fellow is Robert G. Stone Jr. '45, the chair and CEO of the Kirby Corporation. Legend has it that until recently, Stone had not spoken to an undergraduate since his own days at Harvard. He will chair the committee charged with selecting the next president.

More open, but far less powerful, is the Board of Overseers, the University's secondary governing board. Elected each year by alums to serve six-year terms, the overseers meet to form committees, approve appointments, for committees and discuss issues.

The board tends to attract some of Harvard's more famous graduates. The board's membership over the last few years has included actor John A. Lithgow '67, author Michael Crichton '64, one-time Republican presidential candidate Elizabeth H. Dole and Vice President Al Gore '69.

The Vice Presidents

Overseeing the University's non-academic bureaucracy are Harvard's five vice presidents.

The most visible of the five is usually the vice president for government and public affairs--a position currently filled by Paul S. Grogan. Grogan oversees Harvard's lobbying efforts in Washington and Boston and its interaction with the city of Cambridge.

Anne H. Taylor, a longtime litigator for Harvard, serves as the University's vice president and general counsel. Her charges include Harvard's stable of nearly a dozen in-house attorney's as well as the University's police department.

Thomas M. Reardon, vice president for development and alumni affairs is responsible for raising money and keeping graduates happy. Reardon was formerly director of Harvard's office of development.

Elizabeth C. "Beppie" Huidekoper serves as the vice president for finance. In addition to having one of the most recognizable nicknames on campus (second only to that of Dean of Freshman Elizabeth "Ibby" Studley Nathans), Huidekoper helps oversee the millions of dollars that flow into and out of Harvard each year.

The most senior member of the Harvard central administration--and the only vice president who preceded the Rudenstine era--is Vice President for Administration Nancy "Sally" H. Zeckhauser. Zeckhauser is responsible for the bulk of the University's massive bureaucracy, including Harvard Planning and Real Estate, dining services, facilities maintenance and human resources.

The Faculty

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) administration is one bureaucratic layer closer to the undergraduate, but don't expect to spend too many Thursdays sipping tea with the denizens of University Hall's newly refurbished top floors.

FAS is the biggest and wealthiest of Harvard's nine faculties. It includes everything from Harvard College and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences to Widener Library and the Fogg Art Museum.

Jeremy R. Knowles has served as dean of the Faculty since 1991. In that time, Knowles has brought a British flair to his task of dealing with a budget crunch and building the ranks of the Faculty.

Knowles gets involved when there is a crisis in the College, though he often seems uncomfortable about it. The dean can also affect undergraduates by setting academic policy.

Last year, for example, he announced his intent to reduce average class size--hopefully by hiring more Faculty. He has also pushed departments to make sure that their hiring practices are fair to women and minorities.

The College

It takes a while to get down to the level of accessible administrator. And by the time you reach it, you're far away from the so-called powers that be.

Harvard's lesser deans are in charge of making sure your quality of life is acceptable. The College deals with mundane undergraduate concerns such as discipline and housing.

At the top is Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68, entering his sixth year on the job. Lewis, who is also McKay professor of computer science, has proven that he is not afraid to make unpopular decisions--like continuing the tradition of randomization and tightening alcohol policies--but this boldness, coupled with a penchant for sticking his foot in his mouth, have not won the dean many friends among students.

Lewis sits at the heard of the 25-member Administrative Board, which is charged with disciplining undergraduates. You don't want your first encounter with Lewis to take place at an Ad Board hearing.

However, you won't find administrator at Harvard who is as responsive to student e-mails as Lewis. If you send him a note, he typically responds within the day.

Yardlings are led by Dean of Freshmen Elizabeth "Ibby" Studley Nathans. The former Duke University administrator has begun efforts to reform orientation week and first-year advising so that students take better advantage of the resources available.

But watch out: Nathans is a stickler for rules--and for starting her workdays at the crack of dawn. Rule-breaking first-years often find themselves summoned to Nathan's Prescott Street office for 7 a.m. "meetings."

Radcliffe

After a tumultuous year that saw the former women's college formally merge with Harvard and become the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Radcliffe finally has a new dean.

Drew Gilpin Faust, a professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, will take over as the Institute's first dean in January. She replaces Acting Dean Mary Maples Dunn who has provided leadership for the nascent Institute.

Dunn took over last October when former Radcliffe College president Linda S. Wilson stepped down as part of the Radcliffe merger agreement, which was announced in April of 1999 after months of secret negotiations.

The division of the University is now on par with the nine faculties.

Although the Institute will have no say in the affairs of undergraduates, Gilpin has already pledged to be an advocate for women's issues at Harvard--using her position on the deans' roundtable as a way to agitate for change on campus.