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Dean of Science Christopher W. Stubbs declined to comment on whether he is interested in succeeding University President-elect Claudine Gay as the next Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean, calling the position a very “demanding” role.
“I’m not going to engage in the palace intrigue dialogue,” Stubbs said in a Monday interview.
“I look forward to us entering a new era of leadership across the FAS and the University and working in partnership with whoever emerges as dean of FAS,” he added.
Describing the FAS Dean position as a “complicated, multifaceted, demanding role,” Stubbs said he hopes Gay’s successor will “help guide this community through the hard times and help Harvard become its best self.”
“There’s a very long list of opportunities, challenges, crises, leadership roles that that individual plays,” he said. “I wouldn’t try to boil it down to a couple of bullet points.”
School of Engineering and Applied Sciences Dean Francis J. Doyle III will also be stepping down from his post at the end of this academic year. In anticipation of his departure, Harvard kicked off the search for his successor in February.
Referencing a recent visit by the SEAS Dean search committee to the Sciences departmental chairs meeting, Stubbs said that “people like me tend to step away from those meetings so that the faculty can have a full-throated discussion with the search committee.”
When asked about foreign interference with research at Harvard, Stubbs said such interference should not be described as “academic espionage.”
“Harvard doesn’t do any classified research,” Stubbs said.
“The word ‘espionage’ implies spying. The word ‘spying’ implies stealing secrets. We don’t have a lot of secrets to steal,” he added. “So that phraseology has always struck me as inappropriate.”
Retired Harvard Chemistry Professor Charles M. Lieber was convicted of lying to federal authorities about his ties to a Chinese talent acquisition program in 2021. His conviction marked a high-profile victory for the Department of Justice’s China Initiative, which sought to combat academic espionage. The initiative was shut down in 2022 after years of criticism over its disproportionate impact on individuals of Chinese descent.
Stubbs said “overly simplistic categorizations” should be avoided in discussing Lieber’s legacy.
“Looking back historically, we certainly find countless examples of scientists who made significant intellectual contributions in some subfield of science, but maybe other elements of their either personal life or academic life had aspects that under our current historical lens, we view unfavorably,” he said.
Within his division, Stubbs said he is prioritizing building upon climate, quantum science and engineering, and cognition efforts while also continuing to “reinvigorate” the Sciences division’s core 10 departments.
Referring to ongoing residential building renovations at Harvard, Stubbs said he hopes to similarly renovate science buildings “at the building scale, rather than one faculty hiring at a time and renovating laboratories onesie twosie.”
“We’re looking hard at how we manage space and infrastructure for the scientific enterprise,” he said.
Stubbs added that he plans to configure a more “agile” and inclusive environment within his division.
“How can we sustain Harvard’s excellence, increase our level of inclusion and belonging, and be a magnet for the best people in the world to come here and do their best work?” he asked.
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