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Leave the Search to Experts

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To the Editors of The Crimson:

Observing the discussion on Harvard's presidential search process, it seems remarkably one-sided. In the interests of informed judgment, I propose to present some reasons for not allowing students to sit on the search committee.

First, despite the wealth of talents characteristic of this student body, none of us are experts on university governance. Nor are we qualified to judge the character or ability of the many distinguished scholars and administrators that will be considered for the post. Therefore, it is the height of arrogance to claim for ourselves the same voice and vote as experts who have devoted most of their lives to university governance.

Second, since the president governs the entire university, how would each of the schools in the system be represented other than by having its own representative on the committee? Not only would this increase the size of the committee at the expense of efficiency, it could accord students a majority. Such a scenario would never be accepted by the board, and rightly so.

Third, given the diversity of this student body, it is unlikely that any student or even a few students would adequately represent the views of the whole. Government Department Chair Robert O. Keohane indicated this predicament faces the Faculty too. ("Faculty Resigned to Search Role," October 24, 1990.)

Finally, this student body is a transitory part of the university. The president will be around long after we are gone. So will the administration that chooses him. We have a responsibility to those who follow in our footsteps not to impose on them our values, personified by a president of our choosing. The members of the search committee, representing more permanent parts of the university, has a greater claim to appreciating the long-term interests of Harvard.

In order to inform the search committee of our concerns in the selection process, I propose that the Undergraduate Council hold an open forum on the topic. After this it should publish a report highlighting the views of the student body on the search committee. This informs the committee of student concerns and at the same time allows it to exercise its judgment as it is uniquely qualified to do.

Contrary to Jaron Bourke's assertions ("Search Needs Student Input," October 24, 1990), Harvard does not have to measure up to the standards of any other school in selecting its president. It has a long tradition of distinguished presidents who have guided it to its current position as a world leader in higher education. The search committee has the same stake as every other group in the University in choosing an imaginative, dedicated and competent president to prepare Harvard for the new millenium.

Let us, the student body, put our concerns and ideas on paper, submit them to the committee and then let it do its job. Then we can get on with ours. The selection of the next president is too important a decision to be left to amateurs. Neal J. Reenan '93

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