Stanford’s No. 2 Denies Mass. Hall Ambitions

Online gamblers are giving Stanford Provost John W. Etchemendy better odds at being named Harvard’s 28th president than any candidate not currently on Harvard’s payroll. But, after publishing an op-ed yesterday calling the reasoning behind Harvard’s decision to eliminate early admission “faulty,” Etchemendy told The Crimson he has no ambitions to leave his post at Stanford.

“It is flattering that my name is mentioned in connection with the Harvard presidency,” Etchemendy wrote in an e-mail, “but I have no intention or desire to leave my current position, which I believe is the best position in higher education.”

Etchemendy also indicated that Stanford’s admissions office will hold to the position he outlined in The New York Times yesterday—leaving intact the school’s policy of letting students admitted early wait until the spring to decide whether they want to attend. Harvard cut its early admission program earlier this month, and Princeton—and more recently—the University of Virginia followed suit.

“Stanford is not, at this time, going to make any change to its early admission program,” Etchemendy wrote in the e-mail. “My greatest fear, however, is that with Harvard and Princeton ending their early programs, the applications to Stanford’s early program will explode, making it unmanageable. That remains to be seen.”

In the op-ed, Etchemendy called the fanfare accompanying Harvard’s and Princeton’s decisions “short on facts and clearheaded analysis.”

“There is nothing about early admission, in itself, that gives an advantage to those who apply early,” Etchemendy wrote, countering Interim President Derek C. Bok’s statement that early admission programs “tend to advantage the advantaged.”

“The pools are different,” Etchemendy added. “The standards are not.”

But the Stanford provost did not propose simply to leave early admission policies as they stand now. Instead, he wrote, colleges should “universally adopt nonbinding early admission programs, and then apply the same or higher standards to the early decisions as they do to the regular round. It’s a solution that’s fair for the students and practical for the colleges.”

But Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education Howard E. Gardner ’65 wrote in an e-mail yesterday that Etchemendy’s argument, while logical, “misses the point.”

“The current terrain is complex and unfair,” Gardner wrote. “It was gutsy for a few universities to take the lead, risk losing some good students, to try to push the overall system in positive (less complex, fairer) directions.”

And, Gardner added, Etchemendy’s “argument—insensitive to the human dimensions of both college applicants and competing colleges—makes him less viable as a candidate for the Harvard presidency.”

But if Etchemendy’s name were still in contention, the op-ed would not necessarily quash his candidacy.

Henry Rosovsky, a former dean of the Faculty who has also served on the Harvard Corporation, wrote in an e-mail that, while he knows “absolutely nothing” about the ongoing presidential search, he does not “believe that publishing an op-ed that is critical of a specific Harvard policy will affect the choice in any significant way.”

Etchemendy, who has served as Stanford’s provost—the University’s chief academic and budgetary officer—since 2000, has been considered a major contender for the Harvard presidency since at least before the summer.

The online gambling website Bodog.com gives Etchemendy four-to-one odds for the job, better than every candidate except two Harvard insiders, Law School Dean Elena Kagan, at three to one, and University Provost Steven E. Hyman, at seven to two.

Asked about the website last month, Etchemendy wrote in an e-mail to the Boston Globe, “Well, that’s a kick.”

“Maybe this is my chance to win some money with insider knowledge,” he added. “Do you think the NCAA would frown on that?”

If he were selected, Etchemendy—who received his doctorate from Stanford after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Nevada, Reno—would be the first state-school graduate to lead the nation’s oldest private university.

—Staff writer Daniel J. T. Schuker can be reached at dschuker@fas.harvard.edu.