He was the “man for the moment.”
Last year, we wrote that we were “optimistic” about the presidential search committee’s selection of Lawrence S. Bacow as Harvard’s 29th president. Now, Bacow has been on the job for almost two months. While two months gives us limited data points, we must reflect on whether this optimism was well-placed.
Given that Bacow assumed his presidential duties on July 1, it is too soon to form a comprehensive opinion on his role and achievements. Nevertheless, we are enthusiastic about Bacow’s presidency so far. He has engaged with the student body energetically. For example, not only did he help first-year students move in, but he also talked to first-generation students participating in the First-Year Retreat and Experience. This pattern of investment in College life mirrors his reputation for actively interacting with undergraduates while president of Tufts University. This type of engagement is demonstrative of a break from Bacow’s predecessors, many of whom failed to engage on a meaningful basis with undergraduates in their tenures. Bacow’s strong interest in learning more about the student body’s diverse experiences and passions sets a promising tone for his presidency.
Bacow has ascended to the presidency at a critical time in Harvard’s history. From the admissions lawsuit against Harvard currently threatening affirmative action to a lagging endowment and large endowment tax on the horizon, Harvard is facing a potentially tumultuous year. Bacow’s lobbying efforts for Harvard this year — including signing a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — should be especially appreciated by the student body and the rest of the administration. We can only hope that he will continue to be as engaged and decisive a community leader as he has thus far been.
Nevertheless, we still see areas for improvements. Most concretely, we encourage Bacow to send an official welcome email to Harvard’s student body, much like Dean Khurana has done at the beginning of each year. This would allow Bacow to introduce himself to the Harvard student body. We would encourage him to use this email to update the student body on pressing issues that are relevant to the University, including the admissions lawsuit. Now is the time for clarity, transparency, and openness — Bacow’s first months suggest he will be a strong community leader, and we hope this translates to his work on such controversial issues.
It is early in Bacow’s tenure, and there are many triumphs and tribulations to come — a presidency cannot and should not be judged on two months of work. Yet we remain optimistic for the future of Harvard under Bacow’s leadership, and are eager to see how he will shape the University in the years ahead.
This staff editorial solely represents the majority view of The Crimson Editorial Board. It is the product of discussions at regular Editorial Board meetings. In order to ensure the impartiality of our journalism, Crimson editors who choose to opine and vote at these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on similar topics.
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