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Harvard dining halls and faculty offices are not the only scenes of speculation about Harvard's hunt for a new president.
The same conversations are going on all across the country.
From Hanover, N.H., to Bloomington, Ind., to Houston, Tex., to nearby Wellesley, the talk occasionally turns to the Harvard president search and what it would mean if the committee asks the local chief executive to take the job.
For in addition to examining the ranks of Harvard's faculties for a new president, the search committee is surveying all of American higher education. And several university presidents are said to be high on the list of contenders.
Faculty and students at schools whose presidents are known to be under consideration take a variety of views of the process.
Sometimes the mood is pugnacious. "He would make a good president [of Harvard], but we will fight you to keep him," quips Myrtle Scott, the president of the University of Indiana's faculty council. Indiana president Thomas Ehrlich '56 is a contender for the Harvard presidency.
For others, the Harvard presidential search is a godsend. "Please take him," says Ben Shim, president of the Dartmouth Review, the ultra-conservative journal which has repeatedly clased with Dartmouth President James O. Freedman '57. He is widely mentioned as a top candidate for the Harvard presidency.
And some take advantage of the search to point out what they say is wrong with the nation's oldest university.
"We don't think Harvard is up to making a woman president," says Marshall I. Goldman, an economics professor at Wellesley (and associate director of Harvard's Russian Research Center). "Our concerns are tempered by that." Wellesley President Nanerl Keohane is also a candidate for the Harvard job.
Deep in the Heart of Texas
Along with Freedman, George E. Rupp of Rice University is most widely mentioned in media reports as the next president of Harvard.
Rupp, who holds degrees from Harvard, Princeton and Yale, left his post as dean of the Harvard Divinity School in 1985 to become president of Rice in Houston.
In his five years at Rice, he has spearheaded a massive fundraising and publicity campaign, boosted the size of the applicant pool, developed graduate schools, reformed the undergraduate curriculum and funded expanded research efforts.
Many in Houston say that Rupp has had his sights set on the Harvard presidency all along and that Rice was merely a means to his greater ends.
"I think a lot of people get the sense that this is the chance of a lifetime for him to [become president of Harvard]," says Jean Farrar, a member of the Rice Honor Council and the Rice Women's Alliance. "There is a sense that this is what he really wants and is what he's really wanted all along."
"He's succeeded in doing a lot of the things at Rice he wanted to do," she says. "There's a feeling that his work is done here and he's ready to move on."
Other students have more specific theories about Rupp's candidacy.
"He's an alumnus, and he's got experience as a president," says Kurt Moeller, an editor of the Rice Thresher, the Rice University daily newspaper. Moeller also cites 48-year old Rupp's relative youth as a plus for the Harvard search committee, which wants a president to serve at least 10 to 20 years.
But Lon J. Wilson, professor of chemistry at Rice, says he is confident that Rupp will stay in Houston, citing his "15-year plan" for developing the university.
Student opinion on Rupp's presidency appears to be lukewarm, with some saying they have not developed enough of a relationship with him to grieve should he depart.
"Students don't feel much of a bond with him," says David Fisher, president of Richardson College, one of the residential colleges at Rice. "Students would probably not be disappointed to see him go. They wouldn't cheer him out the door either."
"He is an able administrator," says Spenser Yu, president of Rice's student government, "but he has a difficult time relating to students...To be honest, a lot of students think that Dr. Rupp is hard to approach."
Many faculty and students say they are pleased with Rupp's success in promoting Rice's reputation nationwide. In particular, they cite his success in making Rice the site of this summer's seven-nation economic summit.
One controversial issue at Rice has been the steady increase in tuition in recent years. Rupp has used the new money to develop graduate programs and bolster research efforts.
In fact, many contend that Rupp has tried to "Harvardize" Rice by building up graduate programs and implementing "foundation courses" in the undergraduate curriculum which closely resemble Harvard's Core Curriculum requirements.
"Some people connect the rise [in tuition] directly with Dr. Rupp," Yu said. "Some students were saying that Rupp is raising tuition to become more like Harvard. They say he wants to attract quality students with the money."
The Mood in Hanover
Students and faculty alike are deeply divided in their opinions of Dartmouth President Freedman.
Freedman has been embroiled in a much-publicized conflict with The Review. Accusing the staff of racism, sexism, homophobia and anti-Semitism, Freedman has criticized it for "dangerously affecting, in fact, poisoning the intellectual environment of our campus."
Many say that he is eager to leave Dartmouth to escape the constant headaches caused by the magazine.
In fact, many at Dartmouth evaluate Freedman primarily on the basis of how he has handled The Review.
"Harvard would be crazy to appoint this man president," says Jeffrey Hart, professor of English and a member of the board of directors of The Review. "He is personally unstable. He is a liar...The few faculty members I've spoken to think it's mind-boggling that Harvard is considering him."
Elsewhere in Hanover, the opinions of Freedman are quite different.
"It would be a shame to lose him so soon," says Deb Karazin, former editor-in-chief of The Dartmouth, the College's daily newspaper. Freedman took over at Dartmouth in 1987.
The Dartmouth published a self-parody this fall announcing that Freedman was leaving for the Harvard presidency.
"I like the fact that he stimulates constructive debate about the way we do things and the way we treat people," says George Dunstan, head of a student committee that meets with Freedman. "I think that's positive."
Freedman has embarked on an ambitious program to promote "scholarship" at Dartmouth, hiring new faculty and attempting to strengthen the undergraduate curriculum.
Like Rupp, Freedman has been accused of trying to shape his institution in the image of Harvard.
"Some people on campus think that Freedman is trying to `intellectualize' Dartmouth and trying to make it another Harvard," says Karazin.
"Dartmouth students are not the kind of students he wants," she adds. "He seems to want more intellectual-type students. Dartmouth students are more well-rounded and into their activities."
Wellesley Loves Its President
Wellesley President Keohane is said to be one of the few women under consideration by the Harvard selection committee.
With degrees from Wellesley, Oxford and Yale, she is recognized for her achievements in the improvement of education for women. She received national publicity last year when the first ladies of the United States and the Soviet Union jointly delivered the Wellesley commencement address.
At the college, most faculty and students agree that Keohane enjoys almost uniform popularity.
"As president of Wellesley, she's been fantastic," says Goldman, the Wellesley economist. "She has a wonderful sense of what is important and she conveys that. The only other person with this quality to reach the heart of the issue that I've seen is [Harvard's Acting Dean of the Faculty Henry] Rosovsky."
Keohane's success in enhancing the image of Wellesley draws particular praise.
"She's done a lot for improving the visibility of Wellesley," says Mary R. Lefkowitz, a professor of classics. She also stresses the importance of Keohane's work in advancing women's education.
Keohane has been particularly successful in her capital campaign fundraising drive. "She makes you want to take out your check book and write out a check," says Goldman.
"Harvard should be lucky to raise as much money as she has," says Jonathan B. Imber, professor of sociology at Wellesley.
The only thing about Keohane that elicits negative feelings at Wellesley is the possibility of her leaving for Cambridge.
"The general consensus of students was that they would be very sad to see her go," says Farhana Khera, president of the Wellesley College Government.
"It's sort of mixed feelings," says Beth D. Diamond, another student leader. "I'm excited for her, but I'd hate to see her go."
The Talk of the Hoosier State
Among the top candidates for the Harvard presidency, Ehrlich of Indiana is unique in being the head of a state university.
In general, the mood among Indiana University faculty and students appears to be one of ambivalence. The sheer size of the university, which consists of eight separate campuses, makes Ehrlich a distant figure.
"I don't think people realize how possible it is" that Ehrlich will be selected as the next Harvard president, says Jay J. Judge, who covers the administration beat for the Indiana Daily Student. "I don't think many people take it seriously. The president is pretty removed from campus."
Judge says that many students are unaware of Ehrlich's candidacy. Those who do know about it feel they will be affected only minimally, he says.
"[Students] think of him as a guy out of touch," Judge says. "They see him as removed and they think that's the way he wants it."
However, some faculty members say they are concerned that Ehrlich might leave Indiana. They praise his close cooperation with the faculty.
"We think Mr. Ehrlich is an excellent president," says Professor Myrtle Scott, president of the faculty council. "We'd like to keep him.
"He has a lot of energy," she adds. "He is a very active president. He has a million ideas a minute."
Scott says that she doubted Ehrlich would accept the Harvard presidency--even if selected--because of his dedication to "public educational institutions" like Indiana.
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