Freakonomics

Harvard’s President Announces Plans to Step Down Next Year

After 11 years of service, Dr. Drew Gilpin Faust, the President of Harvard University, has announced her decision to leave the position on June 30th, 2018. Faust is widely known for being the first woman to serve as Harvard’s president, as well as the university’s 28th president overall.

According to The Boston Globe, there was no direct indication that Faust had been under any pressure from the university’s board to resign, or was planning in advance to step down, although she was involved in a controversy last year over the decision to ban all-male “final clubs” at Harvard.

During her tenure, Faust oversaw an $8 billion capital campaign, a college campus expansion into Allston, and a reformed financial aid program.

She announced her decision in a message to the entire Harvard community. The message read as so:

“It has been a privilege beyond words to work with all of you to lead Harvard, in the words of her alma mater, ‘through change and through storm.’ We have shared ample portions of both over the last decade and have confronted them together in ways that have made the university stronger — more integrated both intellectually and administratively, more effectively governed, more open and diverse, more in the world and across the world, more innovative and experimental,” she wrote.

“The dedication of students, faculty, and staff to the ideal and excellence of Harvard and to the importance of its pursuit of Veritas has made all this possible. I know this commitment will carry Harvard forward, from strength to strength, in the years to come. I am deeply grateful to every member of this community for the honor of being your president and for the support and, indeed, joy you have given me.”

According to The New York Times, Harvard’s trustees are expected to form an extensive committee to search for a new president for the university within the next upcoming weeks. Dr. Faust had a compensation package of $1.2 million in the 2014-15 academic year, according to Harvard’s most recent publicly available tax returns.

William F. Lee heads the Harvard Corporation, one of the university’s two governing boards, and will be the major force in the search process for a replacement for Dr. Gilpin. He told The Harvard Crimson that the school is in “a position of strength because the institution has made great progress under her leadership.”

Lee also claimed that the role would have great momentum as a result of her leadership. “There’s a clear vision of where we want to go,” he said in a statement.

Harvard has not yet commented on its criteria for Faust’s successor. But, The Boston Globe addressed that given the school’s history, the new president will likely be an insider (a current Harvard dean or provost), the former leader of another top university, or a “prominent Harvard alum.”

On the list of successful Harvard alumni as possibilities to fill this position are figures such as Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts, veteran diplomat Henry Kissinger, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, New York Times op-ed columnist Nicholas D. Kristof, and television host Conan O’Brien.

Even the 42nd United States President, Barack Obama, will be considered for the open position. Barack Obama graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991, and continued to teach constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School for 12 years. The Boston Globe noted Obama’s alumnus status and his time as the first black editor of the Harvard Law Review.

“It’s not leader of the free world — but heading one of the world’s premier universities could hold lots of appeal,” the Globe reported.

According to The Harvard Crimson, in previous searches for the new president, the committee has “considered hundreds of names in the initial months—763 in 1991, 400 in 2001, and 750 in 2006—before whittling it down to a short list in the months before a final decision.”

Steven C. Hyman, a biology professor at the university, said he hopes the corporation will seek the input of representatives from across the entire school.

“I would assume that as in the past, the corporation will supplement their own numbers with faculty and deans representing the university’s diversity—of course gender and ethnic diversity, but also representatives of different schools, so that everyone at the University has an opportunity to give voice to the process,” said Hyman.

Jessica Filippone

Jessica Filippone

Jess is a senior at Emerson College, studying journalism with a primary focus in news management. She is also an anchor and on air personality for 88.9 WERS FM Boston. When she isn't writing or doing her radio thing, you can find her on the beach with a New York Times Best Seller.