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Search Needs Student Input



To the Editors of The Crimson:

The Crimson's characterization of confidentiality in Harvard's presidential search process ("Presidential Search Kept Secret," October 19) is as inaccurate as it is unfortunate.

Confidentiality is necessary to protect the reputations of prospective candidates, thereby encouraging applicants and ensuring a wide and open search. But at Harvard, this basic and obvious condition for a good search has been contorted to justify its antithesis, an exclusive search committee. The article overlooks this crucial distinction.

Consider who sits on the current search committee. They are nine full-time business executives, corporate lawyers, management consultants and university administrators.

Establishment leaders by day, many of them serve as directors of large corporations by night. Our recent study of the search committee's moonlighting activities revealed that they directed 23 corporations, earning them a minimum in cash compensation of $550,200 in fiscal year 1989.

Meanwhile, none of them worked with a major environmental or community development organization in a similar directorship capacity.

There are no students, no staff and only one Harvard faculty member on the search committee. Yet even the Harvard faculty's representation deserves skepticism, however, since their "representative" is also a member of the Administration and of the Harvard Corporation, in addition to being director of three major companies.

Is it probable that this narrow committee will select a president who will use his or her office to advocate a national solar energy plan, pollution source reduction, parental leave, or even open and regular office hours for students, as the Princeton president has? And what will the fate be of the decrepit Afro-Am Department in the hands of Harvard's corporate cardinals? Will Harvard's laboratories perform science for the people, or continue into the next century with science for profit?

A better alternative to pining over these questions is a selection process which incorporates representatives of the groups that have a stake in the decision.

At other schools comparable to Harvard, both in terms of size and prestige, students and staff have been included as full voting members of and participants in the search committee since the 1970's reformation era of university governance.

Princeton, Dartmouth, Brown and eight other private colleges and universities recently surveyed boasted of student and in some cases staff representatives on the presidential search committees. Compared to a standard set by other schools around the country, Harvard fails to measure up.

There are several home-grown examples of democratic representation as well. University Health Services regularly incorporates students in the search committees for new physicians and residents. UHS doctors should be able to relate to the student patients they tend to see. The advisory committee for the 1988 Radcliffe presidential search committee included two students as well.

Harvard has long delayed entering the 1970's, and the lack of accountability enjoyed by the University's top governing body is the reason. The selection of the next president is too important a decision to be left to them alone. Jaron Bourke   Director of Harvard Watch

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