One of Barack Obama's top economic advisers was the center of controversy at Harvard University earlier this year when the university didn't offer her tenure.
Christina D. Romer, who is now at the University of California at Berkeley, was among the four advisers Obama announced Monday. She will be chairwoman of the Council of Economic Advisers. The group also included former Harvard President Lawrence Summers, who will be chief of the National Economic Council.
Economists, including Harvard professor N. Gregory Mankiw, a former CEA chief under President Bush, have hailed Obamas picking Romer as an excellent choice.
Though the role of the CEA has been diminished since former President Clinton created the National Economic Council in 1993, Romer will be charged with leading a staff of professional economists that provides expert advice to Obama. In addition to Mankiw, past CEA chairs include Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke 75 and economics professor Martin S. Feldstein 61.
Harvard Kennedy School professor Jeffrey A. Frankel said that Romer, a highly-regarded scholar of monetary and tax policy, will bring more skills to the job than just her intellectual firepower. Not all academics make good policy makers, Frankel said. But shes got besides her academic intelligence all the other things you need.
Romer and her husband David H. Romer, both currently economics professors at Berkeley, were expected to move to Harvard last May.
While Romers husband received a tenure offer from Harvard, the university did not extend a similar offer to her a decision that sparked much debate among economists in academic circles nationwide.
Shes had a very impressive career, said Mankiw, a close friend of the Romers. Mankiw was best man at their wedding. As I told The Crimson in May, I was very eager to have her come, and I was looking forward to having her as a colleague.
Mankiws sentiments were echoed by Frankel Romers former colleague and friend at Berkeley who added that not hiring Romer was a big mistake on Harvards part.
Romer will join the ranks of Obamas recently appointed economic advisors: Federal Bank of New York president Timothy F. Geithner will serve as treasury secretary; former University President and former Treasury secretary Lawrence H. Summers will serve as NEC chief; and Congressional Budget Office director Peter R. Orszag will direct the Office of Manamgent and Budget.
All three have close ties to former Treasury secretary Robert E. Rubin, an executive at Citigroup and a member of the universitys highest governing board, the Harvard Corporation.
University spokesman John D. Longbrake declined to comment on the decision, as tenure cases are confidential.
In selecting candidates for tenured positions at Harvard, department members form a committee to discuss the case and make a recommendation, which is then presented to University President Drew G. Faust and University Provost Steven E. Hyman.
The president and provost then appoint an ad-hoc committee of top academics in the field to review the case and advise the president on the final decision. The committee further solicits letters from well-established scholars in the field regarding the tenure candidate.
Frankel said that something in the ad hoc committees deliberations likely tripped up Romer.
Knowing the way the system works, the idea that President Faust would have just said no based solely on the things that are on the record, which are very positive, is inconceivable, Frankel said. It has to be that either some members of the ad-hoc committee or some letters all of which are always totally confidential were for soe reason less positive.