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[Opinion] Harvard’s Woman President

Posted October. 16, 2007 07:37,   


Harvard University in the United States has a 371-year history and is insurmountable as the top college in the world. Its yearly budget of $3 billion (approximately 2.76 trillion won) and funds of $29 billion (approximately 26.68 trillion won) is 5.9 and 88.9 times greater than the amount respectively for Seoul National University, with its yearly budget of 470 billion won and funds of 300 billion won. This fiercely proud school recently elected its first female president. Drew Gilpin Faust’s first words were, “I’m not the woman president of Harvard. I’m the president of Harvard.”

With Faust’s appointment, half of the eight Ivy League schools have woman presidents. Princeton, Pennsylvania, and Brown University were the first to name woman presidents. Nearly 23 percent of other American universities have woman presidents. Some say that a flexible woman CEO is more qualified in colleges with so many individual talents. All the female presidents in ivy leagues, including Harvard, are from different alma maters. They avoid “in-breeding” to strengthen competitiveness.

Brown University’s black president Ruth Simmons showed her competence by garnering $1 billion (approximately 920 billion won) in funds after her appointment. Faust emerged as a candidate when she oversaw the merger of Radcliffe Institute and Harvard University. Ivy leagues put hundreds of candidates’ names on the table and go through much careful consideration. And still, women presidents prevail, showing that gender is not a factor in the election process.

In Korea, only women’s universities choose woman presidents. Even with female students comprising 40 percent of the student body, only 16 percent of professors are women. The biggest difference between Korean and American universities is that Korean universities are closed institutions and don’t put much stock in competitiveness. Faust emphasized the role of colleges before competitiveness, meaning “balance.” There is criticism that Harvard chooses students only based on their schoolwork evaluation. If Korean universities want to see an increase in presidents with different alma maters and woman presidents, they’re going to have to come up with a different election method.

Editorialist Hong Chan-sik chansik@donga.com