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Memo to the Heir Apparent

By Andrew K. Mandel

To: Provost Harvey V. Fineberg

From: Andrew K. Mandel

Re: Rudy Replacement


So, you wanna be president, eh? Don't be so shocked that the secret's out. We're a pretty perceptive bunch around here, and we're onto you. Why else would you agree to be Captain Copyright, safeguarding fair Harvard's blessed name from evil infringement perpetrators everywhere? Why let yourself be saddled with that info-tech sinkhole Project ADAPT? Why squeeze into a frilly ballgown alongside Jeremy Knowles, prancing around at a Radcliffe gala? (True story. The Crimson has pictures.) Admit it. You're gunning for the corner office.

All told, who can blame you? The presidential privileges are legion. Sure, Rudenstine got a little winded from all that work. But there's that primo car, complete with chauffeur and "1636" license plate. Classy! And all the ice cream socials and barbecues you can tolerate. And the open invitations to Harvard's Italian "research institute," Villa I Tatti, which just happens to make its own wine. It all looks so easy: Ignore a few undergraduates here, fawn over a few donors there, and call it a day. You figure, "Neil was a provost. I'm a provost." It's in the bag, right?

Not so fast. While goodness knows you've waited around here long enough--as a graduate from the College, the Medical School and the Kennedy School and as a 13-year dean of the School of Public Health--you should tread carefully as you pursue this most prestigious post. After all, the Class of 2000 may look with pride on many achievements, both individual and collective, from the virtuosity of violinist Joe Lin to the progress of the Living Wage Campaign to the electrifying performances of our Freshman Musical, "No Bull." But perhaps our greatest feat has been the ousting of both presidents who ruled the Harvard-Radcliffe we joined a mere four years ago. Yes, Queen Wilson and Rudenstine the (Capital) Campaigner abdicated after the Class of Aughty-Aught showed them who's boss. So you'd be wise to listen up.

You're going to have to give the presidency some integrity. One day a couple of years ago, the Corporation said, "Neil, put down the Renaissance poetry and start collecting us some cash." And he did. Two billion bucks later, he's not sure what else he can do with himself. Meanwhile, imagine how poor Linda felt: She didn't even get a real college. About two Easters ago, I asked President Wilson to speculate on the future of her college. "Presidents don't do things like that," she replied, according to the scratchings of my worn reporter's notebook. What do presidents do, then?

Vision is apparently a well-kept secret around here. Take the reaction to the we've-been-secretly-hoarding-land-in-Allston-for-years thing as a hint. If you're planning the takeover of a Boston suburb or, say, dissolving your historic women's college, at least have the courtesy to let us know.

While you're at it, make it a personal crusade to stamp out the lies on this campus. I never understood the appeal of the ha-ha-funny "1638" on the John Harvard Statue. And what about the three-year-old "Anne Bradstreet" gate outside Canaday? Unveiled as part of a "25 Years of Women in Harvard Yard" celebration in 1997, a nearby plaque quotes its Puritan namesake in the gilded letters of her prose: "I came into this Country, where I found a new World and new manners at which my heart rose." Inspirational--until you realize that the powers-that-be seem to be trying to pull a fast one on us. I came across the quote while studying for oral exams, and learned that Bradstreet was describing not her excitement, but instead her utter dread about her new, strange home. Apparently, Porter University Professor Helen Vendler explained this context quickly to the assembled crowd during the celebratory weekend. Unfortunately for the rest of us, Vendler is too busy to stand in front the gate and offer commentary on a regular basis. Instead, the quote stands alone, conveniently "inspirational." Harvey, this is conduct unbecoming of the veritas.

Maybe it will help if you boost your own visibility on campus. Show that you can be the leader we've been missing. The reason the Undergraduate Council feels compelled to free Mumia is because the University's bully pulpit looks up for grabs. Please, do us all a favor, and seize it back from our button-borrowing buddies in Holworthy. Call for broad national school reform. Save the whales. Do something! And let's put the arts first more than one weekend a year; regularly attend our opening nights. I, for one, was shocked when I didn't see Neil and Angelica at the BJ show.

Most of all, we need a personality. We need someone who will get tough on grade inflation and Pit Kids alike. I worry that you're going to get stuck assigned to Garden Street jaywalking patrol, as the Corporation exchanges one Rudy for another, naming Giuliani president.

But if you do end up snagging that corner office and the big house on Elmwood, think about that L word: legacy. Remember Radcliffe's leader in the Forties and Fifties, Wilbur Jordan? Seventeen years in office, and all he got were some lousy tract houses on Shepard Street named after him. Nathan Pusey got a pile of books stored underground. If Rudy doesn't snag the Memorial Hall Tower, I say grab it. Or how about the Fineberg Forest? Start brainstorming, Harvey. A presidency is a terrible thing to waste.

Andrew K. Mandel '00, a history and literature concentrator in Eliot House, was associate managing editor of The Crimson in 1999.

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