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Beyond University Finance

We hope the presidential search committee prioritizes factors beyond financial acumen when making its choice

On Sunday, The Crimson reported that World Bank President Jim Yong Kim has been in contact with Harvard’s presidential search committee and is considering whether to accept the University’s top job, were he offered it. Kim’s prestigious track record demonstrates that he has valuable experience in many areas. In particular, his current work at the World Bank has prepared him well for the financial and political responsibilities of the University president, specifically as the role pertains to fundraising and overseeing Harvard's financials.

In the past few months, The Crimson has additionally connected Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, another likely candidate with demonstrable financial acumen, to Harvard's presidential search. Kim and Nohria's resumes suggest the search committee may be taking closer looks at candidates with significant financial experience. And while this background is important, especially given the current state of the University's finances, we hope that the searchers prioritize other factors and skills.

We have previously opined that we believe Harvard’s next leader should be someone who has internal experience and a resulting understanding of the current problems the University confronts. In particular, given the pressing issues facing the College specifically, we would like to see a University president who has had past interaction with undergraduates, whether as a professor or administrator. Although Kim served as Dartmouth's president from 2009 to 2012, he faced strong criticism from undergraduates in Hanover concerning his inability to adequately address some of the most pressing problems that they faced, including sexual assault, hazing, and student mental health. We hope that Harvard’s next president will prioritize these issues.

Additionally, we believe that the next University president should have experience heading other international initiatives, as Harvard looks to take on an increasingly global role. Furthermore, the next President will likely need an established background in STEM to properly manage Harvard’s impending expansion into Allston and to ensure that the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences flourishes.

Finally, we believe diversity must be an essential consideration for the search committee. Kim’s likely candidacy leaves open the possibility that unlike Harvard's previous 28 presidents, the University's next president could be its first ever non-white one. We believe it is important to consider diversity in candidates as a matter of representation, but we also hope the search committee will select a candidate who will prioritize issues of diversity on campus while in office.

Indeed, Harvard’s ability to commit to diversity is currently under attack from Washington. In coming years, it may become more difficult to offer an education to students regardless of their citizenship status, and financial aid resources may become increasingly strained due to the recently-passed endowment tax. As a result, we further believe candidates’ lobbying abilities and capability to communicate effectively with lawmakers should be considered vital for their fitness for the job.

We commend the search committee on their work thus far and appreciate their efforts to bring a candidate to Harvard who has the necessary experience to help improve the University’s financial situation. We hope, however, that the presidential search committee will also consider other factors—diversity, political acumen, international experience, and knowledge of STEM in particular.

This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.

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