Home Social group Harvard President Lawrence Bacow to step down in June 2023 | New

Harvard President Lawrence Bacow to step down in June 2023 | New


UPDATE: June 9, 2022 at 2:25 a.m.

Harvard University President Lawrence S. Bacow will step down in June 2023 after just five years in office, ending a pandemic-hit term during which he oversaw a sweeping transformation of the University’s operations in due to Covid-19 and led the school through political unrest. of the end of the Trump era.

Bacow, who announced his departure Wednesday afternoon, will be one of the shortest Harvard presidents of the modern era, tying Lawrence H. Summers for the shortest term since the Civil War. Prior to his time at Massachusetts Hall, Bacow served on the Harvard Corporation, the university’s highest board, for seven years.

“There’s never a good time to leave a job like this, but now it feels right to me,” Bacow wrote in a four-paragraph email to Harvard affiliates announcing his departure on Wednesday. “Through our collective efforts, we have found our way through the pandemic. We have worked together to sustain Harvard through change and storm, and collectively we have made Harvard better and stronger in countless ways.

The Harvard Corporation and its new principal investigator, Penny S. Pritzker ’81, will lead the search for Bacow’s successor. In an email to Harvard affiliates on Wednesday, Pritzker and outgoing Principal Investigator William F. Lee ’72, who is expected to leave the board in late June, gave few details about the research process, writing only that they’ll reveal more “before long.”

Bacow, 70, was selected as Harvard’s 29th president in 2018 after quitting the committee tasked with finding a candidate for the job himself to consider for the job. In his first four years in office, he steered the school through one of its most tumultuous times – the Covid-19 pandemic – and championed some higher education issues at the National level.

Bacow’s presidency changed dramatically in March 2020 when Harvard emptied its campus at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, making it one of the first schools to send students home. Harvard has taken a largely conservative approach to handling the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, keeping most students off campus and maintaining strict public health protocols.

Bacow himself tested positive for the virus just two weeks after students left campus in March 2020 – the first of two bouts he has had with the disease.

Bacow also steered Harvard through the political headwinds of the Trump administration, which has publicly clashed with the school on several occasions.

In July 2020, shortly after the Covid-19 hit, Harvard sued the federal government over new federal immigration rules that would have barred international students attending colleges and universities offering only online courses from remain in the United States, prompting the Trump administration to finally reverse its guidelines.

Trump himself has taken aim at Harvard several times throughout his presidency. In April 2020, after The Crimson reported that Harvard was to receive nearly $9 million from a federal stimulus package passed by Congress, Trump called on the University to “repay” the money. Under pressure from an array of GOP lawmakers, Harvard ultimately said it would not accept any federal funds.

Bacow also led Harvard when he was at the forefront of the debate over the use of race in college admissions. A 2014 lawsuit challenging Harvard College’s race-conscious admissions policies is set to be taken up by the Supreme Court in the fall, casting doubt on the future of affirmative action in US higher education. During Bacow’s tenure, the school won a lawsuit in federal court in Boston against the anti-affirmative action group Students for Fair Admissions, as well as a subsequent appeal.

Under Bacow, Harvard took a major step in addressing its ties to the institution of slavery, acknowledging in a landmark report released in April that slavery “powerfully shaped Harvard.” When the report was released, the Harvard Corporation committed $100 million to repair the University’s slavery ties.

Bacow’s tenure was not marked by the controversy or tumult characteristic of the Summers era. But in September 2019, Bacow used the 13th Amendment to compare Harvard donors to slaves — a remark he later apologized for.

Bacow has often clashed with campus activists during his presidency — including students and alumni calling on the university to divest itself of its fossil fuel endowment. Bacow has for years expressed opposition to divestment, arguing that the University’s endowment should not be used for political purposes. But in a surprise move, he announced in September 2021 that Harvard would let its remaining investments in the fossil fuel sector expire.

Bacow also oversaw the end of a high-profile controversy that began under his predecessor, Drew G. Faust, who presided over an effort to sanction members of single-sex social groups on campus. In June 2020, Harvard dropped social group sanctions following a Supreme Court ruling on gender discrimination. The College first announced sanctions in 2016, seeking to bar members of final clubs and single-sex Greek organizations from receiving scholarships, athletics captaincies and leadership positions in after-school groups. The controversial sanctions were first applied to the Class of 2021.

Bacow’s tenure was also marked by the continued expansion of the Harvard campus into the Allston neighborhood of Boston, where the school faced intense opposition from residents and local officials.

The search for Bacow’s successor should begin soon. The last presidential search lasted seven months, while the selection of Bacow’s predecessor, Faust, took almost a year.

With Lee, the Society’s senior fellow, and executive vice president Katherine N. Lapp stepping down this summer, Bacow’s announcement coincides with a major senior leadership shakeup at the University.

“Like just about anyone who comes here, I was in awe of the place — its history, its reputation, and its impact on American higher education as a whole,” Bacow wrote Wednesday. “Fifty years later, I’m still in awe but for different reasons.”

“I have never been more proud to be part of this university than I am today,” he wrote.

—Editor Cara J. Chang can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @CaraChang20.

—Editor Isabella B. Cho can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @izbcho.