Harvard University will likely release the name of its next president within the next week and, according to a newspaper report yesterday, chances appear greater than ever that it will be University of Michigan President Lee Bollinger.
The report comes after Bollinger interviewed for several hours with Harvard”s search committee last Sunday in New York City, the third time he has met with the committee.
“Bollinger is now the safe choice,” The Boston Globe quoted a senior Harvard official as saying yesterday.
Sources close to the selection process said the search committee”s response to Bollinger is “almost uniformly positive,” the Globe reported, and that last weekend”s secret interview in Manhattan was “chiefly to cement its members” impressions of him.”
But Harvard Provost Harvey Fineberg and former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers, Bollinger”s chief competition for Harvard”s top post, also have allies on the committee, according to the sources.
Both Fineberg and Summers studied and taught at Harvard, while Bollinger”s only tie to the Ivy League institution is his daughter, a recent Harvard graduate.
But Bollinger”s supporters on the committee apparently are more reliable votes, the Globe reported. Harvard search committees have traditionally reached a consensus when selecting a new president.
That consensus could come as early as next week after retiring Harvard President Neil Rudenstine returns from a farewell tour on the West Coast.
University Regent Larry Deitch (D-Bloomfield Hills) said he could see the appeal of the Harvard position, although he said he was unaware whether or not Bollinger will choose to leave Ann Arbor.
“Harvard is arguably the most prestigious university in the world,” Deitch said. “It potentially offers its president a special opportunity to be a national and international leader in education.”
Deitch added that while he hopes to continue working with Bollinger, he is letting the process take its course.
“If the opportunity does come to him and he thinks it would be personally fulfilling for him to accept it, I would respect that,” Deitch said.
If Bollinger leaves for Harvard, the University of Michigan would undergo a process to find “the best man or woman to lead Michigan,” Deitch said, adding that he has only just begun to think about it, but no formal means have been taken.
University of Michigan Regent Olivia Maynard (D-Goodrich) told The Michigan Daily this week that she hopes Bollinger remains in Ann Arbor.
“We hope Harvard isn”t smart enough to ask him to serve as president,” she said. “I have a great deal of respect for Lee Bollinger, and it would be wonderful for Michigan if he remains at Michigan.”
University of Michigan Law School Dean Jeffrey Lehman said he spoke with Bollinger after the interview in New York last weekend and the Harvard position was never mentioned.
“The truth is, I talked to him Sunday night, and what we talked about was a set of projects,” Lehman said. “There was not a whisper of a hint that he would be leaving.”
Harvard has attempted to keep the selection process confidential for the sake of potential candidates in high-profile positions, said Harvard spokesperson Joe Wrinn.
Still, the presidential search has sparked many to offer speculation on the final choice based on sources close to the process who have spoken anonymously to the press.
Lehman said this was surprising.
“I do think it is unusual for a high-level university search to expose potential candidates to so much public speculation,” Lehman said. “I think usually these processes are more leak-proof than this one seems to have been.”
While Bollinger declines to publicly discuss his involvement in Harvard”s presidential search, he has spoken with members of the Board of Regents.
Regent Dan Horning (R-Grand Haven) said Bollinger told the board about last Sunday”s interview with Harvard before he left.
Deitch said the regents are kept up to date.
“We”ve had communication with him, but it”s not moment to moment, blow by blow,” he said.
Lehman, who chaired the presidential search committee that chose Bollinger as the University”s 12th president, said Bollinger has the qualities of “an excellent academic leader.”
“Those are the qualities that drew us to him four and a half years ago and it”s no surprise to me that they would draw Harvard to them today.”
He added that Bollinger has had a “spectacular” four-year tenure as president.
“The legacy of a president is better measured by achievements than by years,” Lehman said.
Daily Staff Reporter Jen Fish contributed to this report.