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.