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Bok Talks About the Presidency

By David N. Hollander

Derek Bok leaned back in his dean's chair this morning, waiting for the call from University Hall, talking about his new job.

Before the call came at 12:30 p.m., he spoke again and again of the importance of achieving contact with students.

"My own feeling is that it is really terribly important that you be as open as you can be about what you're doing, be very careful about what you promise and that you break your back to fulfill and commitments that you do make-and in that way very slowly build up trust in at least a substantial number of students and faculty," he said.

Bok seems to know that won't be easy, and he has no illusions that he will remain in office until retirement.

"The strains and difficulties of the job, the pace and rate of change all suggest very strongly that one should look forward to more limited periods" than recent Presidents have served, he said.

No one has raised the question of a limited term with him, Bok said, but he mentioned ten to 14 years as a reasonable term in office. "I don't say that has any magic for me," he added.

Not unexpectedly, Bok intends to delegate authority more than the present chief in Massachusetts Hall.

Bok spoke of "beginning to trim the job to manageable dimensions" but said that he has not decided whether this should be done through the appointment of one or more provosts or through the creation of other "relatively high-ranking posts."

"Trying to influence the agenda" is Bok's conception of his role in helping modernize the University, and he said he thinks the "internal" part is the most important part of his job.

"There is an obvious need to make contact with the alumni," Bok said, but in response to another question he added, "I don't think a President can do the job I think is needed if he spends a great deal of personal time raising money."

The University reportedly wanted a "Kingman Brewster type" for President. It got not only a friend of Brewster but a man who intends to speak out on public issues.

"I certainly think a President ought to be able to speak out as an individual on any issue he thinks is important," Bok said.

But apparently Presidential pronouncements will be few, at least for a while.

"It's difficult to inform oneself adequately on the wide range of public issues," Bok said. "One isn't going to be listened to for very long, if at all, unless he speaks with authority, from factual knowledge."

And Bok admitted that he is not quite sure what his new post consists of. "Since every tub sits on its own bottom now, the conception of a dean as to what the President's job consists of is very fragmented," he said.

Relaxing in the lull before the storm, Bok said the period of speculation about his candidacy "hasn't been too bad, partly because people around the Law School, my colleagues, really have been exceedingly good-not poking fun or asking questions.

"I'm really happy in the work I'm doing now. If I really wanted to get out, I suppose I'd be on tenterhooks."

Bok said his interviews with Corporation members have taken place only within the past month. They have not raised the point that he is not a Harvard College graduate, he said.

"Actually there wasn't much conversation with me at all. I understand there were exhaustive conversations with other people" about his candidacy, he added.

Fans who expect to watch the new President move into his official house on Quincy Street will be disappointed. Asked if he would live there, Bok said, "Quite clearly not if I can help it."

Bok intends to move from his present home in Belmont to somewhere in Cambridge, but he hopes to keep his current home as "a summer place."

"After you've painted the inside of a house three times, you get quite attached to it," Bok said. He recently painted his kitchen a bright yellow.

Bok's wife, Sissela, the daughter of Gunnar Myrdal, arrived in his office just before 10:30 this morning to await with him the expected call from the assembled Governing Boards.

Bok described his wife as "a member of the Ph.D. glut you've heard about." But she hopes to find a teaching post soon.

"I think it's very exciting," she said of Bok's new job.

"If anything, she had less difficulty making up her mind than I did," Bok said.

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