Newspapers Agree: Harvard Might Want a Woman. But Does a Woman Want Harvard?


The next Harvard president could be a woman, report the New York Times and the Harvard Crimson, in nearly identical stories today, both of which cite a December Crimson report that one list of contenders included at least five women. Among that list: the female presidents of three other Ivy League universities--all of whom have said they are not interested in the job.

The statements are hard to take seriously, the Times concluded, citing the wisdom of a Harvard professor who studies higher education. "It's not different from Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama," the professor told the Times. "There's a certain coyness."

But has Clinton ever told her board of trustees, as the University of Pennsylvania's Amy Gutmann did in December, that she has--"for the last time...absolutely" no interest? Has Barack Obama ever said he has "no interest" in any job other than his Senate post, and called it "the best job in the world" (Shirley M. Tilghman of Princeton, in September)? Or that he "look[s] forward to welcoming" someone else as president (Ruth J. Simmons, of Brown, in September)?

That said, some of the female candidates have not said no. Keep your eye on Elena Kagan, dean of Harvard Law School--the same position from which current interim president Derek Bok first took Harvard's top job. Kagan just got a popular curricular reform passed, the Crimson reported earlier this year .