Diversity Advocates Disappointed After Harvard Names Another White Male as President

Harvard students walk through the campus
Harvard students walk through the campus / Getty Images
February 13, 2018

Harvard University's selection of Lawrence Bacow as its new president has been met with disappointment and frustration from those who hoped to see a person of color in the post for the first time.

With the former MIT chancellor tapped to replace Drew Faust in summer 2018, it has been pointed out on social media that Harvard will now have had more presidents named "Larry" than it has had women or people of color combined.

Harvard's first "President Larry" was early 20th-century legal scholar Abbott Lawrence Lowell, followed up by Lawrence Summers from 2001 to 2006.

"I really can't stop laughing at the fact that this isn't even Harvard's first president who's a white male economist named Larry. lolsob." tweeted doctoral student Nadira Farah Foley.

Sara Goldrick-Rab, a self-described scholar-activist at Temple University, slammed Harvard for having "once again … doubled down on white male privilege."

Chanda Prescod-Weinstein, a theoretical physicist at the University of Washington-Seattle, dismissed Bacow's status as an immigrant and child of a Holocaust survivor, given his light skin.

"Y'all can spin it as a another immigration story but Harvard was founded by and for white immigrants and it's been pretty clearly established that white Jews can enter the corridors of power — including former Harvard presidents Larry Summers and Neil Rudenstine [Summer's predecessor]," she wrote on Twitter.

Harvard students had advocated for a person of color to be selected throughout the seven-month search, and since Sunday's announcement have spoken of a potential clash between the increasingly majority-minority student body and a non-representative university leader.

They described Bacow as signifying regression at a time when other elite universities have lately tapped women and people of color for top leadership positions.

"Harvard's next president does not look like me. He does not look like the majority of the freshman class or classes to come. He does not understand, first-hand, what it means to be reduced to your gender or the color of your skin," wrote student Ruben Reyes Jr. in a Crimson op-ed.

Reyes warned that "Bacow's responsibility now lies in dissuading that fear. He has to make a concerted effort to meet with students and faculty of color and hear their complaints."