John Manning Appointed Interim Provost

Harvard Law School dean moves to central administration

John Manning and John Goldberg

John Manning, interim provost-designate, and John Goldberg, interim dean-designate | PHotograph of john manning by jessica scranton; photograph of joe goldberg by martha stewart

Alan M. Garber, Harvard’s interim president since January 2, today announced that John F. Manning, dean of Harvard Law School (HLS) since 2017, will serve as interim provost beginning March 14. Carter professor of general jurisprudence John C.P. Goldberg will serve as interim HLS dean.

According to the University announcement, Manning will oversee University-wide academic priorities and activities, including an initiative concerning institutional neutrality on public issues (first reported by the Harvard Crimson), and continued focus on academic freedom and civil discourse (discussed by Garber in a recent interview). The provost’s office also oversees a wide array of Harvard operating units, so appointing an interim provost is recognition of two realities: it is simply infeasible for Garber, as president, to take on an enormous array of pressing Harvard issues while continuing to fulfill the provost’s many duties; and it is likely that his interim service as president will last for an extended period while the governing boards prepare for a challenging search for a regular appointee.

In the announcement, Garber said, “An outstanding dean and eminent scholar of public law, John is also a valued colleague and a trusted adviser to me and to other leaders around the University.” He called Manning “an ideal individual” to lead the work on institutional neutrality and to figure out “how best to nurture an atmosphere of open inquiry, respectful dialogue, and academic freedom essential to academic excellence.”

Manning ’82, J.D. ’85, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve and said, “Harvard enabled me, as a first-gen student, to live a life that neither my parents nor theirs could have dreamed of. It feels so important at this critical time for those who love this institution to be there to help.”

A scholar of public law, Manning taught courses on administrative law, federal courts, legislation and regulation, separation of powers, and statutory interpretation. He served on the University Task Force on Inclusion and Belonging, from which some institutional diversity and inclusion programs evolved. He has also been engaged in University online learning initiatives (read about the online Zero-L program here). Early in his career, within the U.S. Department of Justice, he was an attorney-adviser in the Office of Legal Counsel (1986-1988) and an assistant to the solicitor general (1991-1994); between those stints, he was in private practice. After service as the Sovern professor of law at Columbia, he joined the HLS faculty in 2004.

At the time of his appointment as dean, it was observed that he would certainly be considered more conservative than either his immediate predecessor, Martha Minow, or her predecessor, Elena Kagan (now a Supreme Court justice): Manning clerked for both Judge Robert H. Bork at the U S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, and for Justice Antonin Scalia, LL.B. ’60, at the Supreme Court. His remarks at the HLS ceremony marking the donation of Scalia’s papers to the school’s library, titled “Without the Pretense of Legislative Intent,” focused on Justice Scalia’s textualism and skepticism toward legislative intent as a tool in federal statutory interpretation.

The HLS community can be unruly and outspoken, but by all reports, Manning has managed to win the respect of faculty members and students across the political spectrum. According to today’s announcement, as dean, he “has worked to foster a culture of free, open, and respectful discourse within the school during a time of polarization within higher education and the wider society. In partnership with HLS colleagues, Manning developed initiatives at HLS to foster open discourse, such as the module on ‘difficult conversations’ for all 1L students, adoption of a graduation requirement in negotiation/leadership, introduction of the Chatham House Rule for classroom discussions, and establishment of the HLS Rappaport Forum and other conversations that model civil discourse among people with different points of view.”

Manning joined other law school deans in condemning the January 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol; their statement called “The effort to disrupt the certification of a free and fair election…a betrayal of the core values that undergird our Constitution,” and urged professional reflection on actions that “betrayed the values” of lawyering. His University service includes membership on the committee that helped identify the new Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean—an important relationship for any provost. Within HLS, he was able to expand financial aid substantially for students with the greatest need.

“John Manning is a person of deep integrity, wisdom, and experience who has served Harvard with distinction as well as distinguishing himself at the highest levels of the legal profession,” said Harvard Corporation senior fellow Penny Pritzker in the announcement. “In John, President Garber has chosen an interim provost who will work tirelessly with passion and purpose to support and advance Harvard’s teaching and research mission and its foundational commitment to excellence and our commitment to learn and grow from these challenging times.”

John Goldberg, who will serve as interim HLS dean effective March 14, is a scholar of tort law, private law, and legal theory. A member of the faculty since 2008, he served as deputy dean from 2017 to 2022.

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