Rumor has it that Larry Summers is on his way out the door at Harvard. I’m not close enough to the situation to judge its rights and wrongs.
But it’s worth noticing that the Harvard Corporation has an excellent fall-back candidate in Steve Hyman, the Provost.
I knew Steve as part of Harvard’s university-wide collaboration on drug abuse and drug policy, back when he was a young superstar neuroscientist at the medical school, before he wandered down to Washington to run NIMH. Hyman is not only a fine scientist (as I’m told) but also highly personable and an excellent strategic thinker. It speaks well of Summers’s competence and self-confidence that he picked such an able #2. (“First-rate people hire first-rate people; second-rate people hire third-rate people.”) But that choice had the disadvantage, from Summers’s perspective, of making Summers himself more expendable.
When those appointments were made, I thought they were just about perfect, modulo Summers’s lack of tact. Both had performed spectacularly within the Harvard system, and both were heartily tired of the Harvard bullsh*t. If the Corporation is clever enough to move Hyman into Summers’s slot, he will be in an excellent position to talk some sense into the faculty barons. If they can’t get along with a gentleman like Hyman, there won’t be any doubt whose fault it is.
Update Well, score me for one lousy guess. Summers is stepping down, but Hyman is not stepping in. The Corporation is recalling Derek Bok to serve until a permanent replacement is chosen. Hyman still looks to me like the obvious choice, but maybe it’s not so obvious from up close.