Faust Will Abstain from Presidential Search

Faust at 2021 Convocation
University President Drew G. Faust speaks at the Class of 2021's Freshman Convocation.
As members of Harvard’s highest governing boards scour the globe for her replacement, outgoing University President Drew G. Faust said she will largely stay out of the process.

“I think it’s very important that I not be involved in the search process because this is to be another administration, another regime,” she said. “I’ve had my wonderful experience and it’s now in the hands of the Fellows and the search committee.”

The search committee, composed of all 12 members of the Corporation and three members of the Board of Overseers, has spent the last few months soliciting input from Harvard affiliates about the qualities they would like to see in the next president. The group also appointed faculty, staff, and student advisory committees to provide guidance.

While Faust said she is “happy to answer” questions about what the job requires, she emphasized in an interview in September that she is “not part of the search.”

But past presidents have not always taken quite so passive an approach. Former University President Derek C. Bok who led Harvard from 1971 to 1991 and again in 2006 in an interim capacity, said prior search committees have consulted him in every search since he left office—including two while he was the acting president. Bok provided input in the search for his successor, Neil L. Rudenstine, in his role as an ex-officio member of the Corporation.

“I was actually a member of the Corporation since the search was conducted during my last year of office, so I was pretty much aware of everything that the Corporation was doing to carry out the search,” Bok said in a recent interview.

He also weighed in on the most recent search, which culminated in Faust’s selection. At the time, Bok was serving as interim president after Lawrence H. Summers resigned the post amid controversy.

“I was interviewed and I think then I was asked about candidates, and I was also asked about what the University needed, or whether I had any ideas about the kind of person who ought to be appointed,” Bok said of the 2006-2007 search.

Bok said he has spoken to one Corporation member about the current search.

“In this early stage, the conversation was very general, not about specific individuals—I wouldn’t be much help with that anyway, since I’ve pretty much kept out of Harvard affairs for quite some time,” he said. “But [the Corporation member] talked to me about what kind of person the University ought to be looking for, what the University needs at this particular time.”

Bok declined to comment about the substance of his responses. Rudenstine did not respond to requests for comment.

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