Wick Sloane ’76 has a semi-regular column at Inside Higher Ed entitled “The Devil’s Workshop.” Cool name. Here he applies for the president’s job at Harvard, recently vacated by Larry Summers. Unfortunately, it is hard to tell where the commentary ends and the parody begins. I must object, however, to this part:

A research question around Cambridge is to clock “On first meeting, how long does it take Harvard graduates to tell you they went to Harvard?” Or, “How long can Harvard graduates go without mentioning they went to Harvard?” Less than three minutes either way is the mean. Why, the next president must ask, do people of such wattage keep leaping for every spotlight, for the rest of their lives?

In my experience, this isn’t at all true. Harvard people, especially BAs, are much more likely to say that they went to school “in Boston” then to get all Crimson on you. Indeed, my usual experience in our egalitarian-wanna-be society is that people are hesitant to even tell you about degrees from places like Harvard, Yale, Princeton and so on unless they already know that you are similarly credentialed. Maybe this is just because I live in Cambridge.

On a related topic, what are the chances that Morty will be offered the Harvard job? Zero. The naive among you might wonder about that. After all, Morty has done a superb job at Williams and was a finalist for the job at Dartmouth several years ago. He is clearly someone with the ambition and talent to lead an Ivy League university. His experiences at USC also make him wise in the ways of large institutions.

But it won’t happen. Although Wick is wrong about the outward bragging of Harvard people, the quiet attitude is still there. Harvard would never have as president someone whose academic pedigree and professional standing wouldn’t earn him tenure at Harvard. And Morty — for all his many, many talents — could almost certainly not have gotten tenured in the economics department at a place like Harvard. Ergo, he can’t be president.

But Harvard’s loss is Williams’ gain. I predict that Morty is the best president that Williams will have in my lifetime. I hope he stays at least a decade more.

Facebooktwitter
Print  •  Email