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3 Months After Gay Resigned, Harvard FAS Dean Says Presidential Search ‘Has Not Begun Yet’

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra speaks to The Crimson in a February interview. Hoekstra said Harvard's governing boards have not launched the presidential search.
Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra speaks to The Crimson in a February interview. Hoekstra said Harvard's governing boards have not launched the presidential search. By Julian J. Giordano
By Tilly R. Robinson and Neil H. Shah, Crimson Staff Writers

Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Hopi E. Hoekstra said in a Wednesday interview that Harvard’s governing boards have not launched the search for the University’s 31st president — even behind closed doors.

Hoekstra met with the Board of Overseers — the University’s second-highest governing body — during their regularly scheduled meeting last weekend. She said the presidential search was not discussed at the portion of the Overseers’ meeting she attended.

“To my knowledge, the presidential search has not begun yet,” Hoekstra said.

Members of the Harvard Corporation — the highest governing body — and the Overseers were on campus last weekend, but Hoekstra’s comments signaled that Corporation Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker ’81 will continue to take her time before announcing a formal presidential search committee.

The University’s current timeline — with no search committee announced three months into the tenure of interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 — is a stark departure from recent precedent.

In each of the last two presidential searches, a committee was announced within one month of the sitting president’s announcement that they would step down.

The shift in pace may mean that Harvard’s governing boards have approved of Garber’s leadership, which follows former Harvard President Claudine Gay’s tumultuous resignation in January. It also increases the likelihood that the Corporation is prepared to let Garber stay in office through the next academic year.

Two weeks ago, Harvard Medical School Dean George Q. Daley ’82 said in an interview with The Crimson that he wants Garber to become the next permanent president.

Hoekstra declined to echo Daley’s endorsement but said she expects Garber to be a contender for the position.

“He provides a deep knowledge and love of Harvard, a sense of steadiness, and I think we’re in incredibly good hands with President Garber,” Hoekstra said.

The forthcoming presidential search committee is expected to comprise all 12 members of the Corporation and three Overseers. Historically, the University has assembled advisory committees of faculty, students, and staff to offer input on the search.

During the search that resulted in the selection of former Harvard President Lawrence S. Bacow, Hoekstra served on the faculty advisory committee as a representative of the FAS’ Division of Science.

Harvard’s governing boards generally operate in private, with past presidential search processes drawing criticism for their lack of transparency. Corporation members and senior Harvard administrators have defended the opacity of past searches, saying confidentiality is necessary to recruit and vet candidates.

In the Wednesday interview, Hoekstra did not answer whether she believed the presidential search process should be more transparent. Instead, she pointed to her experience on the faculty advisory committee to highlight existing avenues for faculty input.

“Part of our job was also to talk with faculty colleagues to express their views on the presidential search,” Hoekstra said. “From that perspective, there is a lot of faculty input into this process.”

—Staff writer Tilly R. Robinson can be reached at tilly.robinson@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @tillyrobin.

—Staff writer Neil H. Shah can be reached at neil.shah@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @neilhshah15.

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