On Feb. 22, Provost Steven E. Hyman guarded University President Lawrence H. Summers’ flank on the long walk from Mass. Hall to Lowell Lecture Hall, the site of the second Faculty meeting in a week to discuss Summers’ leadership of the University.
Just past the hordes of reporters across from the Science Center, a flustered Summers made a wrong turn near the entrance to Lowell Lecture Hall.
“Over here, Larry,” Hyman called out, guiding Summers into the building.
That day, Harvard’s second-in-command sat near his boss after a second consecutive meeting in which faculty members lined up to criticize Summers’ leadership. Hyman did not say a word.
But in the lobby after the meeting, Hyman did make one comment that sheds light on the role he has played this past semester—and can perhaps explain Hyman’s public silence on the conduct of the president.
“Bill, we want to walk out as a group,” Hyman said to Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby, although ironically, the three men did not end up leaving together.
Behind the scenes, Hyman has served as an effective deputy, keeping quietly above the fray while holding together the central administration and pushing key initiatives while Summers and Mass. Hall staff shifted into damage control.
“Hyman is out there trying to run the University as Summers has withdrawn to repair the damage and recreate himself,” says Anthropology Department Chair Arthur Kleinman.
From meeting with faculty to science planning to Allston development, Hyman kept the ball rolling, helping prevent the University—and Summers’ presidency—from screeching to a halt.
“I think it would have been a lot easier for [Hyman] to let things fall apart in the University and somebody would have replaced Summers,” says Dr. Greg P. Gasic, assistant professor of radiology at Harvard Medical School and a long-time friend of Hyman’s.
“I think he worked very hard to make sure that didn’t happen because I don’t think he wanted that to happen on his watch. That speaks a lot to his loyalty to the University and to the vision of what needs to be done,” Gasic says.
Hyman has not made any public comments about the University-wide concern over Summers’ leadership and has not spoken at the Faculty meetings, even when they were at their most contentious. But professors say Hyman walked a thin line between the faculty and Summers.
“My support for Larry’s vision for the University has never wavered,” Hyman says.
But although he has been publicly silent on the substance of Summers’ now-infamous remarks, faculty say that it is not too hard to surmise what it may be.