In Mass Hall, A Problem Of Image


Ever since President Bok took office in 1971, he has been plagued by faculty members who disliked his style. Some feared, viewing Harvard's young new president in 1971, that Bok would impose a corporate superstructure on Harvard's elite educational environment, strangling it in red tape; some now feel that's happened.

Others have charged that Bok seems to spend more time on administrative housekeeping than on educational pursuits; still others have felt those academic innovations Bok has proposed are too bold for tradition-bound Harvard to handle.

But if the administration may have recognized the problems, it gave no outward indication of it. Bok has traditionally held that his difficulties are consequences of the University's size, which forces many to rely on second- and third-hand information to find out what he is doing.

He has also stressed the declining economy, which Bok says has meant for him, as for other university administrators across the nation, that increased administrative consciousness is a fact of life. And while he has indicated that the grumblings annoyed him, the problems themselves never seemed to have gained much credence around Mass Hall.

It became clear this week, however, that the concern has reached farther than surface appearances had indicated. In a lengthy memorandum, written in late September and published by The Crimson on Monday, two of Bok's top advisers detailed Bok's problems with the faculties and the public, and told what they felt could be done about it.


The suggestions from Charles U. Daly, vice president for government and community affairs, and Robin Schmidt, assistant vice president for public affairs, were along more superficial than substantive lines: among them were an effort by Bok to make more public statements on scholarly matters; to make "conscious use of [Dean] Henry Rosovsky and others of the faculty" when presenting controversial ideas; and to consult "faculty opinion leaders" before releasing important statements.

Schmidt, in his portion of the two-part memorandum, also theorized that in the eyes of some faculty members Bok's Stanford (rather than Harvard) background is a deficit, and advised him to soften the blow by channeling more of his messages to the University community through alumni in the administration.

Daly; more subdued, wrote of a need for Harvard to improve its public image, which he said would require from Bok "more willingness to participate and ... from us more guidance and help."

Bok, for his part, said he "disagreed with the tone" of Schmidt's memo, and "took exception to many of the ideas it contained." But he said it was part of a process designed to keep him aware of what the University community is thinking.

Faculty members agreed or disagreed with memoranda, depending on their own point of view. And while Dean Rosovsky would not comment on the idea of his being "used," he did say: "I don't think these fairly portray Mr. Bok and his administration."

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