Indeed, it's Summers

by Mark Bubriski | 3/10/01 6:00am

Former Dartmouth Provost Lee Bollinger made it to the final rounds, but a search committee has recommended former U.S. Treasury Secretary Lawrence H. Summers to become Harvard University's next president, according to The Harvard Crimson yesterday -- however, university officials today refuse to confirm the report.

The Associated Press reported that unnamed Harvard officials would not confirm The Crimson's report that Summers had been recommended, and a comment from the chair of the presidential search committee seemed to cast further doubt.

"Kids can get it wrong sometimes," Robert G. Stone, Jr., said in today's Boston Globe late edition, but declined additional comment.

The Crimson, according to what an editor told the AP, reported that Summers had been chosen based on the statements of several unidentified sources.

The Crimson printed the story yesterday on its website, but noted that members of the Board of Overseers -- who must give consent for the final choice to be official -- have not yet approved the search committee's decision, although they likely will in a session later this month.

A formal announcement is expected by Monday, formally ending the nine-month long search for a successor to current Harvard President Neil L. Rudenstine, who will step down in June, according to The Crimson.

Last month, the search committee narrowed the field of possible candidates to four: current Harvard Provost Harvey V. Fineberg, Princeton professor and former Dean of the Faculty Amy Gutmann, Bollinger and Summers,

Summers, a 1975 graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a doctorate from Harvard, was appointed treasury secretary in July 1999, after six years in lower posts in President Clinton's administration.

Since January, Summers, 46, has served as an economic studies fellow at the Brookings Institution, a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank where other former government officials such as fellow Clinton Cabinet member Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala and Dartmouth alumnus Congressman Bill Frenzel '50 also work.

Summers is known as one of the country's premier economic scholars. In 1979, he joined the faculty at MIT, leaving in 1982 to work on domestic economic policy under President Reagan. And in 1983, at the age of 28, he became the youngest tenured professor in Harvard history. He served as a professor of economics at the university for ten years before returning to Washington to work under Clinton.

However, the Summers choice, if true, comes as somewhat of a surprise. Many in the media had speculated that Bollinger, who served as Dartmouth's provost for two and a half years before taking up the Univ. of Michigan presidency in February 1996, was the probable choice.

The Globe reported Thursday that "in recent days Bollinger has emerged as a consensus candidate on the [presidential search] committee," while the Detroit Free Press claimed,"Chances appear greater than ever" that Bollinger would be the new president.

Also, the Michigan Daily student newspaper reported Friday morning that Michigan Provost Nancy E. Cantor had been switched from "Provost" to "Office of the President" in the university's online directory, and Cantor's vice provost had been switched to "Provost."

The Daily speculated that the changes signaled the appointment of an interim president as Bollinger would be leaving for Cambridge. However, a Michigan spokesperson denied any such reshuffling had occurred and said the speculation was "foolish." By Friday afternoon, the paper had backed away from their article.

The hype surrounding Bollinger may have been spurred by a Feb. 20 report by The Crimson that the search committee had met with Bollinger for a third interview. Two days later, the Globe quoted an unnamed Harvard official as saying, "Bollinger is now the safe choice...If anyone on the committee is uncertain, and you have Summers and Bollinger, you would choose Bollinger."

Bollinger is known for his progressive and sometimes controversial views. At the Univ. of Michigan law school where he served as faculty and later dean, he became know as a vocal advocate of diversity and minority issues. As dean, he banned the FBI and the CIA from recruiting at the law school.

The decision, which made national headlines, was prompted by court findings that said the FBI systematically discriminated against Latino students in its promotion policy and that the CIA discriminated on the basis on sexual orientation.

In 1987, Bollinger testified against Reagan's Supreme Court Chief Justice nomination. A widely recognized First Amendment scholar, Bollinger contended that Judge Robert Bork was wrong in saying that only political speeches -- not novels, poetry or scientific papers -- were protected by the Constitutional right to freedom of speech.

More recently, Bollinger's testimony in two class-action lawsuits filed against the university's affirmative action policy received widespread coverage in recent months. Opponents called the policy reverse descrimination, but Bollinger held that the policy is necessary to secure diversity at the university.

Last week, a federal judge rejected arguments made by black and Latino students that the university's use of race in admissions policy is essential reparation for past discrimination. The judge found that there was a evidence that the university had treated minority students poorly in the past, but ruled that discrimination had not been involved in admissions decisions. A lawyer for the black and Latino students said he would appeal the decision.