All The President's Men

Who's In Charge Here, Anyway?

You're probably learning more about this University by reading this issue of The Crimson than the average Harvard student learns in four years. The fact is that Harvard students come here to pursue their own goals, often regardless of what goes on around and above them. Many are never aware of the forces behind the oldest, most prestigious educational institution in the country.

But contrary to the impression you will receive during the drunken days of Freshman Week and every moment you spend here thereafter, there is another part of Harvard. It's very different, but also vital to what you learn, how much you pay, how you're regarded by the real world and how you're treated in the unlikely event of a clash with the forces that lurk behind serenely closed doors here.

That part is the bureaucratic, well-dressed, English-accented, sometimes amiable, and sometimes condescending Harvard administration. It's no minor affair. Scores of deans, governors, administrators and vice-presidents steer this very wealthy ship into calm but profitable waters. Their journeys take them toward new academic and technological frontiers and breakthroughs, toward new standards of "Harvard etiquette," and onto the drydock for repairs.


Derek C. Bok, president of the University, loves to play down his role at Harvard. That's because he has played down his role at Harvard. Bok, a lawyer by training, has spent a considerable part of his 14 years in the prestigious position creating new administrative positions to handle the everyday functions of Harvard. He has begun to concentrate primarily on the ever-increasing challenges of the outside world. That's why U.S. News and World Report reported that influential Americans rated him the number one man in education in this country and the 20th most important person outside of Washington. But it may also be why only about 75 percent of Harvard students even recognize the globe-trotter.


You will certainly see him during Freshman Week and Commencement. You may notice him bending down to pick up litter while walking through the Yard, and you will doubtlessly read about him in the campus newspapers. But unless you take an interest in Harvard's affairs, Bok will not be a part of your daily life. Most likely he will be in California on a fundraiser, in Washington lobbying against President Reagan's student-aid cuts or in his plush Massachusetts Hall office dealing with back-to-back meetings.

Despite his growing absenteeism, the president certainly has not relinquished control of Harvard at home. Perhaps one of his most characteristic positions, Bok holds that universities have a social responsibility to inculcate ethical standards as well as academic and practical principles in the classroom. If one had to point to Bok's primary impact on American education, it would almost certainly be his belief that Harvard academia should not be isolated from the modern world. While he often claims that Harvard's mission is education and education alone (a position shared with some who think scholarly work should remain separate from modern culture and politics), he also emphasizes that that mission should reflect the ethical considerations and problems associated with contemporary society.

His annual report, devoted to educational issues at Harvard and across the country, receives national play and usually foretells of some major changes on the horizon for the University. Two years ago, he attacked medical education here at Harvard and all over the country for teaching doctors the basics of surgery but ignoring the psychological aspects of patient care. Last year he studied the benefits and setbacks of combining computers and education. Before you leave Harvard, you may witness vast transformations in everything from library catalogues to campus communications.

In addition, Bok clings tightly to his control of granting tenure to professors at Harvard. He rejects about 15 percent of those scholars selected for lifetime positions by Harvard's academic departments, almost always causing outcries. This year, Bok declined to tenure Paul Starr, a Pulitzer-prize-winning sociologist among the finest in his field. Bok had a vision for the department's future with which many professors disagreed. And the president certainly never escapes student protests over the University's $580 million in stock in companies doing business in the segregated state of South Africa.

Bok joins six others at the top in the long-lived, seven-man Harvard Corporation, the University's top governing body. At 335 years, the Corporation is the oldest incorporated, self-perpetuating body in the Western Hemisphere. Technically, it exercises complete control over every aspect of Harvard. Together, the men oversee Harvard's massive $600 million annual budget, a job that has come to occupy most of their time. No small task for just seven men, the Corporation members oversee University investments, conduct fund drives such as the successfully concluded $350 million capital campaign, manage the budget for twelve different faculties, and fight against national programs or policies bound to affect education adversely. You may occasionally see them emanating from the former President's Mansion near Lamont Library, but other than that, they'll be invisible until Commencement celebrations.

Next in line, and perhaps the second most powerful man at Harvard, is Vice President and General Counsel Daniel Steiner '54. His primary responsibilities are overseeing the legal affairs of Harvard, supervising the Harvard Police, managing the University's vast landholdings and dealing with Harvard's more than 10,000 non-union employees. Unofficially, he represents the University in difficult times--a troubleshooter of sorts. Easily Bok's closest advisor and a personal friend, Steiner is privy to a vast array of University knowledge. While he spends most of his time dealing with complicated real estate and development projects, don't be surprised if you see Dan Steiner defending Harvard's position on investments in South Africa after a student rally or fighting legislation linking the draft and student-aid in Washington.

As Harvard's newest and youngest administrator, Vice President for Government and Community Affairs John Shattuck has certainly made his mark in local and national politics. Fresh from Washington, where he served as director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Shattuck has assumed responsibility for Harvard's extensive lobbying efforts in Washington. He has also strived to improve the University's sometimes stormy relations with Cambridge. This year, he fought cuts in student aid proposed by the Reagan Administration and voiced Harvard's concern that the proposed tax reform plan would lessen charitable contributions to the University. In addition, he overseas the Harvard News Office.

Fast-talking Robert H. Scott, vice-president for administration, is the University's systems manager. Scott is in the middle of administering a $250 million renovation program of the Houses and academic buildings. And in the near future, he will implement the vast computerization program now in the planning stages at Harvard. Less desirably, Scott has inhereted Harvard's long-standing, costly and controversial Medical Area Total Energy Project (MATEP).

Helping oversee Harvard's billions is Vice President for Financial Affairs Thomas O'Brien. A big, journal man with a ready wink and a smile, O'Brien is in charge of enforcing the every-tub-on-its-own-bottom rule. All of the University's 50-some departments, faculties, museums, research centers and libraries must prove to O'Brien, who approves each of their budgets, that their every-increasing financial demands are justified.

But much more than a glorified accountant, he is a key decision-maker in such areas as tuition and probably the administrator dealing most with the powerful Corporation. He therefore has input into the use of the and Harvard's day-to-day finances.