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Student Group Presented Findings ‘In Person’ To Search Committee

Student Forum for the Presidential Search
Members of the Student Advisory Committee listen to students' comments regarding the Presidential search last semester in Fong Auditorium.

Members of a student committee helping guide Harvard’s search for its 29th president met “in person” with the official search committee last semester to discuss their findings, though the committee has yet to produce a final report.

The main task of the committee, formed in Sept. 2017, is to “provide advice to the presidential search committee” and “assist in ensuring broad outreach to the wider Harvard community,” according to the University. The student committee spent all of last semester gathering student input on the search before presenting the findings of its research to the search committee, which comprises all twelve members of the Harvard Corporation as well as three members of the Board of Overseers.

The search committee has been seeking the successor to University President Drew G. Faust since she announced over the summer she plans to step down in June 2018.

“We had the opportunity to share our findings with the Search Committee last semester and are currently in the process of capturing those findings in a final report, which we also plan to share with the new president,” advisory committee chair Jyoti Jasrasaria ’12 wrote in an emailed statement Wednesday. “We're incredibly grateful for all of the thoughtful engagement from our peers across the University."

Jasrasaria, a Harvard Law School student, previously said the committee plans to produce a report of its recommendations for the search committee—and that the committee hoped to prepare this report by the end of 2017. But in her email, Jyoti wrote the committee is still working on producing a final report.

Jasraria wrote the student advisory committee plans to ultimately “share our findings with the new president” in an effort to “communicate the information that we’ve learned about students’ perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing Harvard today.”

More than 3,500 students weighed in on the search over the last few months, according to Jasrasaria. The student advisory committee—which includes at least one representative from each of Harvard’s 12 degree-granting schools—hosted an open forum for students to offer their opinions, as well as holding focus groups and office hours. It also asked for student responses to a survey about the search.

The student committee’s involvement in the search marks the second time that students have formally weighed in on a Harvard presidential search. The 2006 search committee created the first student advisory group after undergraduates said they were outraged over their lack of involvement in the 2000 search.

News of the student committee’s communication with the searchers comes as the search nears its final phase. In December, The Crimson reported that the committee had whittled down the list of candidates to under 20 finalists.

Harvard affiliates have named a number of potential finalists likely on that list. In October, several prominent donors and professors said there were four likely contenders from within the University: Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria, Government professor Danielle S. Allen, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Michael D. Smith, and University Provost Alan M. Garber ’76.

In an interview in January, Harvard Medical School dean George Q. Daley ’82 said he expected to see three external candidates on the shortlist: geneticist and Broad Institute President Eric S. Lander, physician and University of Michigan President Mark S. Schlissel, and World Bank President and former Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim.

The committee has also begun meeting for long hours at a stretch in secret, a possible sign that searchers are interviewing finalists. On Jan. 13, the committee met privately in the home of searcher Tracy P. Palandjian ’93 and spent almost the whole day in private discussions.

—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at caroline.engelmayer@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.

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