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And Now, Some People You'll Probably Never Meet

Harvard Administrators

By Adam K. Goodheart

At times during your first month here--at a crowded Yard keg party, perhaps, or in the lunch line at the Union--you will feel like you've met so many new friends, there can't possibly be anyone at Harvard whom you don't know.

You will indeed have met many new faces (at least 15 different guys named Dave, for instance).

But there are a few key people here whom you won't meet during that heady first month. And, unless you're unlucky and do something really, really bad (and we mean bad). you'll never have to meet them for the rest of your college career, either.

After all, these are folks with more important things to do than elbowing their way toward a nice warm keg of Bud. They're the ones who run the University, the stewards of its $5 billion endowment and 354-year history.

So while you'll probably never know them personally, you should know who they are and what they do. With that in mind, here's a guide to some of the faces behind the titles. Consider it a sort of Bulfinch's Mythology of Harvard's demigods.

Don't expect President Derek C. Bok to be a lame duck this year just because he's announced his intention to resign in June. Although Newsweek's conventional-wisdom gurus called him "Harvard's own Gerald Ford," Bok's low public profile can be very deceiving. He's no A. Bartlett Giamatti, which some people may regret, but he's no John Silber either, which makes every-one happy.

In fact, at a time when university presidents have taken to running for high public office and making regular appearances on "Nightline," Bok has managed to consolidate a remarkable amount of power simply by staying in his Mass Hall office and working harder than everyone else. The fact that he's been in the president's office since before you were born (1971, that is) also means that he hand-picked just about every administrator of any significance, including the dean of each of the University's nine faculties.

Bok started out in academia as a legal scholar, and many of his familiars say this experience left a strong mark on his management style. His approach to a task or a problem tends to be thorough, thoughtful, and supported by exhaustive research.

But while many praise him for the seriousness with which he faces the duties of his office, others complain that Bok has little tolerance for anyone he feels is less thorough and thoughtful than he is--in other words, for anyone who disagrees with him.

This "father-knows-best" attitude, critics say, is most evident in Bok's stubborn refusal to grant professorial status to any scholar he feels is unsuitable, even when the candidate is strongly supported by students and colleagues.

Bok has also drawn fire for his refusal to sell the South Africa-related stocks in Harvard's investment portfolio. That's an issue campus activists have been marching, petitioning, and sitting-in about almost since the beginning of his presidency.

But Bok's iron will was hardened in the fires of Vietnam-era protests, and pressure from activists invariably makes him even more determined to stay his course. So if you want to win him over to your side, don't march on his office--send him a well-argued letter with lots of footnotes.

Or, you could take your case to a higher court. For believe it or not, there is a body that, technically, has even more power than Harvard's president. The seven-member Harvard Corporation, of which Bok is an ex-officio member, is invested by its colonial charters with ultimate control over just about every aspect of running the University.

That's a responsibility its members take very seriously, particularly the task of overseeing the allotment of millions of dollars in each year's operating budget. They take it so seriously, in fact, that the Corporation, also known as the President and Fellows, is best known by students for the cloak of secrecy that enshrouds it. The Corporation publishes no minutes of its biweekly meetings, it shreds all its trash, and several of its members, all of whom have lifetime appointments, never speak to the press.

However, you should expect to read about the Corporation quite a bit in the press this year. That's because its members are responsible for selecting Harvard's next president.

Particularly important in this process will be Charles P. Slichter '46, a professor at the University of Illinois who is the Corporation's senior member. The senior Fellow traditionally chairs Harvard's presidential search committee and has often acted as a king-maker of sorts.

Another probable king-maker on the Corporation--and also, some say, a possible king--is Geyser University Professor Henry Rosovsky. Rosovsky is the consummate Harvard insider, having served as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and holding a prestigious University Professorship as well as a seat on the Corporation. He is also the ultimate Harvard loyalist, and is famous for turning down the presidency of Yale in 1977 in order to keep his Harvard deanship.

Although some observers think that at 62, Rosovsky is too old to be considered in the presidential search, others say the Corporation is ready to reward his loyalty with the greatest gift it has to bestow. Rosovsky also proved this year that he had "the vision thing" by publishing a well-received book on the issues facing modern universities.

The other members of the Corporation are, perhaps appropriately enough, corporate types: one is chairman and CEO of the Gillette Co., one a member of numerous corporate boards, one a management consultant and one a Washington, D.C. lawyer. All are white; it was only the year ago that the Corporation--which appoints its own members--named a woman to its ranks for the first time.

If it's diversity you're looking for, you'll have better luck with the Board of Overseers, the larger of Harvard's two top governing boards. The 30 overseers, who are elected by Harvard alumni, include South African Archbishop Desmond M. Tutu, who was elected last year on a pro-divestment ticket despite all the best efforts of the Harvard establishment.

The overseers' diversity comes at a high cost, however. Originally founded in the 17th century as a group of ministers that was supposed to make sure the Corporation toed the Puritan party line, the Board now has little power and meets only five times a year. Things have been more exciting recently, however, as a pro-divestment alumni group, the Harvard-Radcliffe Alumni Against Apartheid, has elected several dissident members to the Board, including Tutu.

While the overseers have lots of historic prestige, but no power, there's another group here that has little prestige, but lots of power.

These are Bok's lieutenants, the skillful executive types who were brought in droves in the 1970s and were quickly dubbed "Mass Hall's men in gray" by The Crimson. A few of the men in gray have been replaced by women in navy blue, but symbolically, at least, the moniker still holds.

The paragon of this type, perhaps, is Vice President and General Counsel Daniel Steiner '54. As Harvard's top attorney and all-around troubleshooter, Steiner does much of Bok's dirty work. Whether Bok is assailed by the slings and arrows of student activists, fractious alumni, or unionizing employees, Steiner is often sent out to absorb the worst of the fire.

And when some insolent vassal dares challenge the sovereignty of America's premier university--as did the U.S. Justice Department last summer when it launched an investigation of Harvard's admission and financial aid practices--Steiner and his team of crack lawyers are the ones delegated to put them in their place.

Harvard Yard's main liaison to Capitol Hill, however, is Vice President for Government and Community Affairs John Shattuck. A former executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, Shattuck has sparred with the Reagan and Bush administrations for such just causes as more federal financial aid and freer access to classified information.

Closer to home, Shattuck is the University's representative to the citizens of Cambridge, who don't always take kindly to the ever-expanding academic empire in their midst.

Another stout retainer whose position has become increasingly important is Vice President for Alumni Affairs and Development Fred L. Glimp '50. It's no accident that the administrator who deals with alumni is the same one who's in charge of development (a higher-education code word for fundraising). For, as Harvard graduates soon learn, their financial obligation to their alma mater doesn't end as soon as they've paid off the last penny of interest on that $80,000. They are expected to keep the cash flowing for the rest of their long and (by the grace of God and a Harvard diploma) prosperous lives.

It's Glimp who is responsible for making sure that each son and daughter of Mother Harvard gets enough letters and phone calls from Mom to keep the cash flowing. That task takes on crucial importance as the University gears up to launch its reported $2 billion fund drive soon.

Besides raking in even more cash, an important job for Harvard administrators is managing the $5 billion that the University already has. The official responsible for this is Vice President for Finance Robert Scott. Until two years ago, Scott was vice president for administration, a spot now filled by Sally Zeckhauser, Harvard's first woman vice president.

And if you still think this place doesn't sound enough like Harvard, Inc. instead of Harvard U., you'll be happy to hear that the University has its own Merrill Lynch of sorts: the Harvard Management Co. (HMC). HMC has made the University a major player in the stock market, as well as in high-risk fields such as venture capital and lever-aged buyouts. Its young-turk money managers (think of Charlie Sheen in the movie Wall Street) pull down salaries of more than $1 million a year. This fall, HMC will have a new president, Jack R. Meyer, who is currently treasurer of the Rockefeller Foundation.

While the high finance of Harvard is controlled by flashy characters in tallored suits, the lowlier task of actually running the College is left to homelier figures.

Take Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57, for example. Graced with a last name that sends thrills up the spines of Beacon Hill genealogists, Jewett in his baggy suits and rumpled neckties looks the part of the Ivy League administrator. Jewett is so Harvard, in fact, (you should learn to start using the University's name as an adjective) that some say he hasn't been away from the Yard for more than a week and a half since he enrolled here 37 years ago.

You might not think Jewett the sort who would buck tradition. But lately, he has done just that, spearheading efforts to change Harvard's annual housing lottery to make the system more random. Last year, he raised cries for blood among first-year students by pushing through a system of "nonordered choice" in which rising sophomores are randomly assigned to one of the four upperclass Houses they select on their housing form.

Another way Jewett has endeared himself to undergraduates is by serving as head of the Administrative Board, which disciplines students guilty of "conduct unbecoming a Harvard student."

Joining Jewett on the ever-popular Ad Board is Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III. Epps is easily recognizable by his polka-dot bow ties, seersucker suits, funny accent and umbrella with a carved duck's head on the handle (really). He's also one of Harvard's few Black administrators.

Besides advising incorrigibles that it might be best to take some time off to rethink their reasons for coming to Harvard, Epps's duties include dealing with a wide range of undergraduate concerns, such as overseeing extracurricular privileges and assignment of performance spaces for student groups.

And as first-year students, you'll even have an administrator all your own: Henry C. Moses, the dean responsible solely for dealing with the worries of Yardlings. He's the one your roommate's parents will call to complain that their daughter says she can't live in the same suite with you for eight more months.

And that's not all. Those of you who are women will also get, at no extra charge, an entire bureaucracy all your own. The one drawback is that you'll never really know what it does.

In fact, not even Radcliffe's administrators seem to be sure what their job is since the college completed its "non-merger merger" with Harvard in the 1970s. Although Radcliffe's new president, Linda S. Wilson, has spoken of creating a "shared vision" for the college since she took office last year, few women undergraduates know exactly what that means. And many still say that the name Radcliffe means little more to them than an extra word on their Harvard diplomas.

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