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Some Want the Harvard Corporation to Strip Garber’s Interim Tag. Is That Possible?

Interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber sits in a February interview in Massachusetts Hall. Some Harvard faculty and alumni have called on the Corporation to forgo a presidential search and strip Garber's interim tag.
Interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber sits in a February interview in Massachusetts Hall. Some Harvard faculty and alumni have called on the Corporation to forgo a presidential search and strip Garber's interim tag. By Marina Qu
By Emma H. Haidar and Cam E. Kettles, Crimson Staff Writers

As interim Harvard President Alan M. Garber ’76 enjoys early success at the helm of the University, there are growing calls from some faculty and alumni to appoint Garber to the position permanently and forgo a lengthy presidential search.

The Harvard Corporation — the University’s highest governing body — has not announced a formal search to select Harvard 31st president, but the board’s limited public comments about the search have suggested strong support for Garber.

During the Corporation’s town hall on Tuesday with members of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Senior Fellow Penny S. Pritzker ’81 said Garber has the “complete confidence” of the University’s governing boards.

Shirley M. Tilghman, a Corporation member since 2016, also credited Garber with doing the most to manage Harvard’s ongoing donor revolt over the University’s initial response to the Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“He has been on the road and on the phone speaking to very angry donors and beginning to lower the temperature,” Tilghman said, according to a transcript of the town hall taken by an attendee.

“No one is doing more than Alan Garber to address this issue and he’s doing it very effectively,” Tilghman added.

The praise for Garber from several members of the Corporation, including Pritzker, raised the prospect that the governing boards might just install him in the role permanently.

When one faculty member at Tuesday’s town hall directly asked Pritzker whether the Corporation might just remove Garber’s interim tag, she noted that the board can’t unilaterally make that decision.

“One of the things the Corporation cannot do is appoint the president of Harvard on our own,” Pritzker said. “It’s a process.”

But the Corporation does have the authority to decide the presidential search process. In fact, Pritzker announced on Tuesday that the board had formed a subcommittee to review how Harvard conducts its presidential searches in light of demands for greater transparency.


And while presidential appointments require the rubber stamp approval of the Harvard Board of Overseers — the University’s second-highest governing body, it is unclear that anything other than the Overseers consent is required to install Garber permanently.

While Pritzker indicated that the Corporation will wait until the subcommittee concludes its review before announcing a formal presidential search, the lack of urgency is also an indication that the governing boards believe they already have the right people in the University’s top leadership.

Still, there are a number of likely internal and external candidates beyond Garber that the governing boards might consider if they conduct a proper search process, including interim Provost John F. Manning ’82 and Radcliffe Institute Dean Tomiko Brown Nagin.

It is also possible that Pritzker will decide that the University should conduct a full-fledged search even if the boards intend to appoint Garber.

One reason for doing so might be to silence critics who claimed the boards rushed the previous search. Another reason to conduct a lengthy search could be to give Garber the legitimacy of a president selected over a number of other qualified finalists.

In an April interview with The Crimson, Garber only said that he has committed to remaining interim president beyond June 2024.

“Beyond that, I’m not ready to say,” he said.

—Staff writers Tilly R. Robinson and Neil H. Shah contributed reporting.

—Staff writer Emma H. Haidar can be reached at emma.haidar@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @HaidarEmma.

—Staff writer Cam E. Kettles can be reached at cam.kettles@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @cam_kettles or on Threads @camkettles.

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