The Politics of Institute Politics

There was nothing immediately controversial when the Institute of Politics began looking for a new director last fall. A committee on the Institute's future had come up with a confidential report to President Bok, recommending some new departures for the Institute--having a full-time director, for one--and Ernest R. May, the old director, wanted to spend more of his time being a professor of History.

The new director would be the third in the Institute's eight-year history, and Don K. Price, dean of the Kennedy School of Government, approached the appointment as a more or less routine administrative matter. He consulted Bok and May and other advisers, but he didn't set up a formal search committee or consult with students.

"I'm not sure just what the distinction is," May said this week in response to a question about what differentiates appointments requiring a search committee from those that one person makes substantially alone. "In part it's that appointments with search committees are presidential appointments. Don will in a couple of years retire as dean of the Kennedy School, for example. Whereas this appointment of a director is clearly an appointment governed by a dean." As for consulting students, in the vast majority of Harvard appointments no one ever broaches the question. When the Corporation was looking for a new president of Harvard in 1970, it announced that it would welcome suggestions from anyone, including students. Bok generally meets with ad hoc student committees before he chooses a new House Master. Until the Faculty restructured the Afro-American Studies Department last year, students had the same representation as professors on its execute committee, which meant they got to vote on tenured departmental appointments. A couple of democratic-minded Houses--most notably Currier--let students choose House tutors. And that is about it.

Most of the time, nobody seems overly upset about this. Even last year's restructuring of the once highly politicized Afro Department provoked virtually no protest. But when The Crimson reported in February that the Institute of Politics had already picked a new director--Jonathan Moore, a former high federal official closely associated with Elliot L. Richardson '41--students at the Institute were up in arms about the failure to talk to them first. Some members of the Student Advisory Committee--in cluding Harold Fitzpatrick, a third-year law student and its chairman--sharply critized the Institute for making a decision substantially influencing its future without consulting the people that future would presumably be designed for. "At the same time that they're giving so much weight to what students say one short-term programs," Fitzpatrick complained, "they make a decision that will affect the whole future of the institute with no student input at all."

As it turned out, when the students protested, the Institute's administration apologized. "Obviously in retrospect and in view of the questions that have been made I wish there had been more student input," Price said this week, "If I were doing it again I would talk more with the students."


"Clearly there was some sense of grievance afterwards," May said. "I don't think it would have made any practical difference, since the dean had decided that the director should be someone from outside the university, but if we had sat down and thought about the politics of it we would probably have found some way to bring in the Student Advisory Committee."

The Daly committee, which recommended, making the Institute's directorship full-time, reportedly also came out for greater student participation in running the Institute. This could help explain, among other things, student's belief that far-reaching changes might be in the works. Bok's reluctance (so far) to make the report public, and Price's and May's regret at not having consulted students on Moore's appointment. "I think you're absolutely right, and I wouldn't make an issue of it," Price replied to a question about the apparent discrepancy between the Daly committee's report and the process used for picking Moore.

In any event, for the moment at least, unanimity seems to prevail at the Institute--unanimity on the desirability of student influence in its decisions. Students are playing a large role in choosing Fellows of the Institute, for instance--something Fitzpatrick said this week they have been trying to do for a long time.

"I think that students can do some things I can't do as dean," Price explained. "Quite obviously the students have had much more influence than I've ever had in determining the subjects of the student study groups--ultimate legal and financial responsibility is one thing and active responsibility is one thing and active responsibility is another--and students are able to approach people to ask about their interest in being Fellows without committing the Institute in a way that I as dean just can't."

Moore's own stand on such matters--or on anything else related to the Institute--is not clear yet. "I think that the students have got to play a very active role in the performance of the Institute," he said last week, but he declined to explain that active role.

Moore held his first talks with people at the Institute since his appointment last week, and some of those who talked with him say he was equally noncommital then. "We have all been favorably impressed with him as a man," Fitzpatrick said. "He's an impressive guy. His strong suit is going to be his ability to talk with a lot of different groups." But Fitzpatrick said that although Moore seemed to have ideas about where the Institute should go, he hadn't revealed or even hinted at those ideas.

However, Fitzpatrick said he though students would probably retain the new roles their protests over Moore's appointment had brought them. I think there are a lot of people who will see what's going on right now and not want to see it discontinued next year," he explained.