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RUDENSTINE

A Study in Contrasts

By Gady A. Epstein

When President Neil L. Rudenstine stepped into office last July, the contrast with his predecessor, Derek C., Bok, seemed black and white.

By the end of Bok's 20-year term, many considered the former president, instead, immediately began to foster the image of a down-to-earth populist.

He talks to everybody, and even schedules office hours for students.

To make up for missing a tea with first-year students, he hosted a barbecue, When people write him letters, he writes back.

Even if some of his actions this year were largely symbolic, Rudenstine succeeded in setting a tone of openness and accessibility.

And instead of defending the status quo like Bok often did, Rudenstine spoke of dramatically changing the University's administrative structure to bring it closer together.

Rudenstine argues that the old Harvard principle of "every tub on its own bottom," by which each school raises its own funds and operates independently, must evolve into a more interconnected one," Every tub on each other's bottom," as Rudenstine once put it.

To this end, the new president has launched a University-wide academic planning process, which will lead into a multi-billion dollar fund drive that is scheduled to start in 1993.

Handling Tensions

The difference in the two presidents' styles is most evident in their crisis management techniques.

From condemning anti-Asian slurs to issuing strong statements in support of embattled Law School Dean Robert C. Clark, Rudenstine made his viewpoints heard on a wide range of issues on which Bok might have kept a lower profile.

And in recent months, Rudenstine got personally involved when racial tensions heated up on campus. He began meeting regularly with representatives of minority student groups to try to devise ways of addressing those tensions.

"Clearly on an issue like this, I...shouldn't sit back and do nothing," Rudenstine says.

In a comparable situation a dozen years ago, Bok's approach was limited to the traditional institutional response: name a faculty committee.

Rudenstine does not rule out creating another committee, but he says he concluded from his talks with students that race relations must be addressed on a more continual basis.

Thus he hopes to set up regular meetings of students, faculty and administrators to conduct an ongoing dialogue on race relations.

It is important to "think out ways of living together," says Rudenstine, who has a long-term vision of establishing Permanent structures that will help people livetogether on campus.

"Next year, we might be better prepared to worktogether and manage our lives together," he adds.

Rudenstine is aware that his administration'sability to improve race relations is to someextent limited by social forces.

"I don't think anybody is pretending that thisis an issue you solve. I mean, this is the worldwe live in," he says.

However, "the fact that it's Harvard means thatwe have a very good shot at mediating it in agood, human way," he notes.

"We have to think of this as a jointly managedhuman process...that will be continuing," he says.

Rudenstine says he is prepared to step into anysituation and intervene when he feels such actionis warranted.

"I think that it's very important for me toknow what's going on. It's very important for me,trying to do the job I have to do, to make surethat the institution is addressing what seem to meto be serious questions," he says.

If a situation seems particularly urgent, hesays, he will likely "dive in" and work directlywith whatever deans or other members of theHarvard community are involved.

"I don't think you can leave the deans tostruggle with these issues completely on theirown," he says. "They should feel some support;they should feel the direct involvement of thepresident. And the students and the faculty shouldfeel that, too."

To implement the changes that he has targeted,however, the new president will first have toovercome Harvard's notorious institutionalinertia, which often appears to rub off, at leastpartially, on its leaders.

For instance, Bok's tenure as presidentinitially promised to be quite different from thatof his predecessor, Nathan M. Pusey '28.

Students sharply criticized Pusey for callingin police to eject protesters from University Hallin 1969. Bok, in contrast, seemed willing todiscuss issues freely, often sitting down to talkwith student activists.

The young Bok came in as the Agent of Change,promising--as Rudenstine is doing now--structuresand superstructures that would bring theUniversity closer together.

But the years took their toll on Bok. Someformer colleagues say that his experience with theinstitution changed his goals and ideals.

Bok ended his tenure at Harvard far lesswilling to hold open discussions with angrystudents, these observers say. And in some senses,he left the University even more decentralizedthan he found it.

Many of his plans were thwarted by structuralblockades, his colleagues say. Rudenstine mustbypass these same blockades if he is to followthrough on his first-year rhetoric.

First, as at any college, there is constantstudent body turnover. Student anger overpolitical issues continually renews itself in acycle at could challenge the patience of anyadministrator.

Second, some of Harvard's deans are quitesatisfied with the "every tub on its own bottom"system, which allows them a great deal of freedomto set their own goals and agendas.

The success of some schools' fundraisingefforts is a strong incentive for the deans ofthose schools to keep their distance from thecentral administration.

Moving Ahead

Some circumstances do work in the newpresident's favor. In fact, he seems to have madeprogress in several areas.

Rudenstine has already made several key deanappointments--at the Kennedy School of Goverment,the Graduate School of Design and the GraduateSchool of Education. These appointments willlikely help him in convincing schools to cooperatewith his plans.

He has also appointed the University's firstprovost since 1953. In this post, Wells Professorof Political Economy Jerry R. Green may be able tohelp Rudenstine make cooperation among the schoolslook financially acceptable to the deans,especially those of the already prosperousprofessional schools.

Rudenstine has already started campaigning hardamong alumni. His travel intinerary for the yearreads like a frequent flyer's dream: New York,Washington D.C., Miami, Palm Beach, Sarasota,Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco andLos Angeles.

He appears to be working hard to win overdonors from across a wide spectrum.

During the last two decades, opportunities forintra-University cooperation seem to havedeveloped in many fields, including economicpolicy, public education and health care.Rudenstine has already begun to capitalize on suchopportunities, creating a University-wideCommittee on the Environment.

A lot will depend, ultimately, on the strengthof Rudenstine's own convictions. He says thatthough he has faced some institutional obstaclesin his early attempts to pull the Universitytogether, he has nonetheless been able to get hismessage across.

"I really think that the institution has beentremendously resilient and open and it has met allof my expectations," he says. "It has given me thelatitude to say what I wanted to say."

As of yet, no one has become disenchanted withRudenstine, as far as he knows.

People's anger about particular situations hasnot turned against him, he says. "Maybe withinfour or five years, it will get personal...Theyhaven't come after me yet."

Ira E. Stoll contributed to the reporting ofthis article.Crimson File PhotoPresident NEIL L. RUDENSTINE addressesKennedy School students at one of the graduateschool's open town meeting forums.

"Next year, we might be better prepared to worktogether and manage our lives together," he adds.

Rudenstine is aware that his administration'sability to improve race relations is to someextent limited by social forces.

"I don't think anybody is pretending that thisis an issue you solve. I mean, this is the worldwe live in," he says.

However, "the fact that it's Harvard means thatwe have a very good shot at mediating it in agood, human way," he notes.

"We have to think of this as a jointly managedhuman process...that will be continuing," he says.

Rudenstine says he is prepared to step into anysituation and intervene when he feels such actionis warranted.

"I think that it's very important for me toknow what's going on. It's very important for me,trying to do the job I have to do, to make surethat the institution is addressing what seem to meto be serious questions," he says.

If a situation seems particularly urgent, hesays, he will likely "dive in" and work directlywith whatever deans or other members of theHarvard community are involved.

"I don't think you can leave the deans tostruggle with these issues completely on theirown," he says. "They should feel some support;they should feel the direct involvement of thepresident. And the students and the faculty shouldfeel that, too."

To implement the changes that he has targeted,however, the new president will first have toovercome Harvard's notorious institutionalinertia, which often appears to rub off, at leastpartially, on its leaders.

For instance, Bok's tenure as presidentinitially promised to be quite different from thatof his predecessor, Nathan M. Pusey '28.

Students sharply criticized Pusey for callingin police to eject protesters from University Hallin 1969. Bok, in contrast, seemed willing todiscuss issues freely, often sitting down to talkwith student activists.

The young Bok came in as the Agent of Change,promising--as Rudenstine is doing now--structuresand superstructures that would bring theUniversity closer together.

But the years took their toll on Bok. Someformer colleagues say that his experience with theinstitution changed his goals and ideals.

Bok ended his tenure at Harvard far lesswilling to hold open discussions with angrystudents, these observers say. And in some senses,he left the University even more decentralizedthan he found it.

Many of his plans were thwarted by structuralblockades, his colleagues say. Rudenstine mustbypass these same blockades if he is to followthrough on his first-year rhetoric.

First, as at any college, there is constantstudent body turnover. Student anger overpolitical issues continually renews itself in acycle at could challenge the patience of anyadministrator.

Second, some of Harvard's deans are quitesatisfied with the "every tub on its own bottom"system, which allows them a great deal of freedomto set their own goals and agendas.

The success of some schools' fundraisingefforts is a strong incentive for the deans ofthose schools to keep their distance from thecentral administration.

Moving Ahead

Some circumstances do work in the newpresident's favor. In fact, he seems to have madeprogress in several areas.

Rudenstine has already made several key deanappointments--at the Kennedy School of Goverment,the Graduate School of Design and the GraduateSchool of Education. These appointments willlikely help him in convincing schools to cooperatewith his plans.

He has also appointed the University's firstprovost since 1953. In this post, Wells Professorof Political Economy Jerry R. Green may be able tohelp Rudenstine make cooperation among the schoolslook financially acceptable to the deans,especially those of the already prosperousprofessional schools.

Rudenstine has already started campaigning hardamong alumni. His travel intinerary for the yearreads like a frequent flyer's dream: New York,Washington D.C., Miami, Palm Beach, Sarasota,Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, San Francisco andLos Angeles.

He appears to be working hard to win overdonors from across a wide spectrum.

During the last two decades, opportunities forintra-University cooperation seem to havedeveloped in many fields, including economicpolicy, public education and health care.Rudenstine has already begun to capitalize on suchopportunities, creating a University-wideCommittee on the Environment.

A lot will depend, ultimately, on the strengthof Rudenstine's own convictions. He says thatthough he has faced some institutional obstaclesin his early attempts to pull the Universitytogether, he has nonetheless been able to get hismessage across.

"I really think that the institution has beentremendously resilient and open and it has met allof my expectations," he says. "It has given me thelatitude to say what I wanted to say."

As of yet, no one has become disenchanted withRudenstine, as far as he knows.

People's anger about particular situations hasnot turned against him, he says. "Maybe withinfour or five years, it will get personal...Theyhaven't come after me yet."

Ira E. Stoll contributed to the reporting ofthis article.Crimson File PhotoPresident NEIL L. RUDENSTINE addressesKennedy School students at one of the graduateschool's open town meeting forums.

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