Some want the Harvard Corporation to remove Garber’s interim tag. Is that possible? | News

While Harvard Interim President Alan M. Garber ’76 is finding early success at the university’s helm, there are growing calls from some faculty and alumni to appoint Garber to the position permanently and relinquish a lengthy presidential search.

The Harvard Corporation — the university’s highest governing body — has not announced a formal search to select Harvard’s 31st president, but the board’s limited public comments on the search suggest 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 “full confidence” of the university’s boards of trustees.

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

“He was on the road and on the phone talking to very angry donors and started lowering the temperature,” Tilghman said, according to a transcript from the town hall provided by an attendee.

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

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

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

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

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

And while presidential appointments require the 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 needed to permanently install Garber.

While Pritzker indicated that the Corporation will wait until the subcommittee completes its investigation before announcing a formal presidential investigation, the lack of urgency is also an indication that the boards believe they already have the right people in the university’s top management to have.

Still, in addition to Garber, there are a number of possible internal and external candidates that boards could consider if they conduct a proper search process, including Interim Provost John F. Manning ’82 and Radcliffe Institute Dean Tomiko Brown Nagin .

It’s also possible that Pritzker will decide the university should conduct a full-fledged investigation, even if the boards plan to appoint Garber.

One reason for this could 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 chosen over a number of other qualified finalists.

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

“Other than that, I’m not ready to say anything yet,” he said.

—Staff Writer Emma H. ​​Haidar can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on X @HaidarEmma.

—Staff Writer Cam E. Kettles can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on X @cam_kettles or on Threads @camkettles.