Challenges Ahead for Summers in Search for New Dean

Tension between president and Faculty could lessen appeal of deanship

Help Wanted: Experienced administrator with strong Harvard ties who can reverse a projected $100 million deficit and deal with a rather demanding boss.

William C. Kirby hasn’t even begun to pack up his University Hall corner office, but among professors, the guessing game has already begun: who will be the next dean of the Faculty?

University President Lawrence H. Summers wrote on Friday night that he would “promptly” begin a search for Kirby’s successor. Summers is expected to consider current and former department chairs, deans within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), and other prominent professors.

Few Faculty members were willing to talk openly about the upcoming dean search due to the early state of the process, but many did say that they expect the search to be more challenging than usual due to the current fractious state of Harvard governance.

In the wake of last year’s Faculty vote of no-confidence in Summers’ leadership, and on the heels of news that Summers forced Kirby to resign, it could be difficult for Summers to find a dean whom he and the Faculty would both support and who would be willing to serve under the president.

An individual close to the Harvard Corporation, the University’s top governing board, said that Summers asked historian Drew G. Faust, the current dean of the Radcliffe Institute, whether she would be interested in succeeding Kirby. But Faust said she was not interested in the post, according to the source, who asked to remain anonymous because of the private nature of the discussions.

Faust is currently on a semester-long sabbatical to write a book and could not be reached for comment.

She was considered a leading contender for the position of dean of the Faculty in 2002, when Kirby was eventually selected. In addition to Kirby and Faust, then-Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Peter T. Ellison was considered a top candidate at the time.

Ellison has since returned to teaching, and was replaced as dean by Theda Skocpol in June 2005.

Skocpol was a critic of Summers during the women-in-science controversy last spring. And Faculty members who feel that FAS needs an independent leader might favor Skocpol as a potential successor to Kirby.

In a statement released to The Crimson the morning after Kirby’s resignation, Skocpol said that the Faculty is at a “critical juncture,” and added that “FAS must assert its strength and further its core values—furthering superb undergraduate education and a close relationship between basic research and teaching—while at the same time engaging closely in an ever more integrated University that is undergoing major, much needed expansion, especially in the sciences. We all have our work cut out for us.”

Other current FAS administrators could also be contenders, and one of them, Dean for the Social Sciences David M. Cutler ’87, an economist, has strong ties to Summers dating back two decades.

Just one year out of college, Cutler co-wrote a journal article on supply-side economics with Summers. The duo co-wrote a half-dozen additional papers over the next three years, according to Cutler’s personal website.

But while the final decision on the next Faculty dean lies with the president, Summers promised in the Friday letter to “invite a broad-based faculty advisory group to work with me on the search, in line with customary Harvard practice.”

He added, “As the search proceeds, I also intend to consult more widely with members of the faculty, including the FAS Faculty Council and the department chairs, and to seek the perspectives and counsel of students, staff, and alumni.”

Summers announced in his letter that an e-mail address,, would be established to solicit advice and nominations.

Kirby wrote in an e-mail last night that he does not know whether Summers will appoint a long-term leader of the Faculty by July