Help Wanted: Experienced administrator with strong Harvard ties who can
reverse a projected $100 million deficit and deal with a rather
William C. Kirby hasn’t even begun to pack up his University
Hall corner office, but among professors, the guessing game has already
begun: who will be the next dean of the Faculty?
University President Lawrence H. Summers wrote on Friday night
that he would “promptly” begin a search for Kirby’s successor. Summers
is expected to consider current and former department chairs, deans
within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), and other prominent
Few Faculty members were willing to talk openly about the
upcoming dean search due to the early state of the process, but many
did say that they expect the search to be more challenging than usual
due to the current fractious state of Harvard governance.
In the wake of last year’s Faculty vote of no-confidence in
Summers’ leadership, and on the heels of news that Summers forced Kirby
to resign, it could be difficult for Summers to find a dean whom he and
the Faculty would both support and who would be willing to serve under
An individual close to the Harvard Corporation, the
University’s top governing board, said that Summers asked historian
Drew G. Faust, the current dean of the Radcliffe Institute, whether she
would be interested in succeeding Kirby. But Faust said she was not
interested in the post, according to the source, who asked to remain
anonymous because of the private nature of the discussions.
Faust is currently on a semester-long sabbatical to write a book and could not be reached for comment.
She was considered a leading contender for the position of dean
of the Faculty in 2002, when Kirby was eventually selected. In addition
to Kirby and Faust, then-Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and
Sciences Peter T. Ellison was considered a top candidate at the time.
Ellison has since returned to teaching, and was replaced as dean by Theda Skocpol in June 2005.
Skocpol was a critic of Summers during the women-in-science
controversy last spring. And Faculty members who feel that FAS needs an
independent leader might favor Skocpol as a potential successor to
In a statement released to The Crimson the morning after
Kirby’s resignation, Skocpol said that the Faculty is at a “critical
juncture,” and added that “FAS must assert its strength and further its
core values—furthering superb undergraduate education and a close
relationship between basic research and teaching—while at the same time
engaging closely in an ever more integrated University that is
undergoing major, much needed expansion, especially in the sciences. We
all have our work cut out for us.”
Other current FAS administrators could also be contenders, and
one of them, Dean for the Social Sciences David M. Cutler ’87, an
economist, has strong ties to Summers dating back two decades.
Just one year out of college, Cutler co-wrote a journal
article on supply-side economics with Summers. The duo co-wrote a
half-dozen additional papers over the next three years, according to
Cutler’s personal website.
But while the final decision on the next Faculty dean lies
with the president, Summers promised in the Friday letter to “invite a
broad-based faculty advisory group to work with me on the search, in
line with customary Harvard practice.”
He added, “As the search proceeds, I also intend to consult
more widely with members of the faculty, including the FAS Faculty
Council and the department chairs, and to seek the perspectives and
counsel of students, staff, and alumni.”
Summers announced in his letter that an e-mail address,
email@example.com, would be established to solicit advice and
Kirby wrote in an e-mail last night that he does not know
whether Summers will appoint a long-term leader of the Faculty by July