Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

John Harvard's Journal

Brevia

September-October 2014


An Honorand’s Passing

Harvard does not confer honorary degrees in absentia, or post mortem. The degree conferred on Gleason professor of fine arts emeritus and Cabot founding director of the Harvard University Art Museums emeritus Seymour Slive during the May 29 Commencement exercises—a sentimental favorite—proved especially timely: he succumbed to cancer on June 14. Read a fuller account, with a link to his past Harvard Magazine article, “Jacob van Ruisdael,” at harvardmag.com/honorand-14.

 

Sexual-Assault Reforms

Harvard has promulgated new University-wide policies and procedures concerning sexual assault, harassment, and unwelcome conduct, in an effort to comply with new federal requirements. Salient features include adopting the “preponderance of evidence” standard of proof for adjudicating cases, and the creation of a new Office for Sexual and Gender-Based Dispute Resolution, to be staffed with trained investigators, charged with investigating cases, making findings of fact, and determining whether the new policies were violated. Discoveries will be referred to the individual schools (in the case of Harvard College, the Administrative Board) for disciplinary determinations. The policy and procedures were unveiled during the summer, in advance of federal clearance, so they can be implemented in the new academic year. See harvardmag.com/assault-14 for a full report.

 

Affirmative Action Upheld

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled in mid July that the University of Texas at Austin’s consideration of race as one of many factors in its admissions was permissible. The Supreme Court ruled last year in Fisher v. University of Texas that public institutions could consider race in admissions under certain circumstances—a significant decision in the multiyear litigation over affirmative-action procedures—but ordered the appeals court to determine whether UT’s process was sufficiently focused to meet the standards narrowly drawn by the justices. The appeals panel has now determined that they were—but Abigail Fisher said she would pursue her suit, if necessary appealing to the Supreme Court anew. Harvard has supported UT’s procedures; for background, see harvardmag.com/action-14.

 

Re-engineering Higher Education

The American Council on Education’s “Presidential Innovation Lab” (including MIT’s president, Penn’s provost, and Bates president A. Clayton Spencer—formerly Harvard’s vice president for policy) has published a white paper on “reimagining business models for higher education.” While predicting that “a very few institutions with deep fiscal resources and marquee brand names…may be able to continue conducting business with relatively minor adjustments,” the panelists foresaw “a future that is likely to look little like the past” for much of higher education. “In particular,” they said, “colleges and universities need to scrutinize every dimension of how they budget for teaching and learning.” In the same mid-July week, Moody’s Investors Service issued an updated “negative outlook” for U.S. higher education “even as green shoots of stability emerge.” The credit-rating agency foresaw “limited revenue growth…while expense pressures will constrain the ability of many universities to adjust” in the next year or so, with “meager” tuition growth, public appropriations trailing rising expenses, “increasingly fierce” competition for research funding, and other concerns. And the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is supporting 10 Pennsylvania liberal-arts colleges (including Bryn Mawr, Haverford, and Swarthmore) as they use technology to combine low-enrollment courses, share study-abroad sites, reduce procurement costs, and seek other efficiencies. 

 

Elsewhere in Academia

Yale completed the $500-million fundraising required to pursue construction bids for its planned two new undergraduate colleges (as its Houses are known), and expansion of enrollment by 15 percent, to 6,200. If acceptable bids are received, completion is envisioned for 2017.…The Sidney Kimmel Foundation, a perennial supporter of cancer research, has donated $110 million to Thomas Jefferson University, in Philadelphia, which will rename its medical college accordingly.…Alumnus Geoffrey Cumming pledged $100 million (Canadian) to the University of Calgary for medical resarch; the province of Alberta will match the gift.

 

Presidential Pairing

In the bosky setting of the Aspen Ideas Festival, past and present Harvard presidents Lawrence H. Summers and Drew Faust met for a late-June conversation on the future of universities, pedagogical technologies, educational governance, the humanities, and what they taught each other about leadership. The conversation, gently moderated by Overseer, Aspen Institute president and CEO, and frequent Faust interlocutor Walter Isaacson, is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQlMbdOf8f0.

 

Nota Bene

Energy actions. American and George Washington universities have partnered with Duke Energy to buy electricity from a 52-megawatt photovoltaic array to be built in North Carolina; it will supply half the current used by the two campuses, and one-third of the GW hospital’s demand, during the next two decades, reducing greenhouse-gas emissions by 60,000 metric tons yearly. Separately, the University of Dayton, a Catholic institution, announced in June that it would eliminate its public and private investments in companies that produce coal and fossil fuels.

 

Conference center clinched. The Business School, continuing Harvard’s most robust building boom, announced in June that Seth Klarman, M.B.A. ’82, and Beth Klarman have made the naming gift for Klarman Hall, the 140,000-square-foot conference center/auditorium complex it intends to build. It will replace Burden Hall, an auditorium erected in 1971 to a design by architect Philip Johnson ’27, B.Arch. ’43. For a full report, see harvardmag.com/klarman-14

 

Psychiatric research. The Broad Institute, the genomics offshoot of Harvard, MIT, and the Harvard-affiliated hospitals, announced a $650-million commitment from philanthropist Ted Stanley to support research on psychiatric disorders; he previously donated $175 million for the work. Former University provost Steven E. Hyman, professor of stem cell and regenerative biology, directs the program.

 

Arts advance. Speaking at Radcliffe Day, dean Lizabeth Cohen revealed that its campaign had attracted half of a $10-million University gift from Maryellie Kulukundis Johnson ’57 and her husband, Rupert Johnson, to support the arts, and a $2.5-million matching sum. The resources will endow the institute’s faculty director of the arts (currently professor of history of art and architecture Yukio Lippit; see “Works and Woods,” September-October 2008, page 44); and establish a new “arts laboratory” at renovated gallery space in Byerly Hall, where Radcliffe Fellows are based.

 

Scientific fits and starts. Two recent headline discoveries with Harvard roots have come under significant challenge. The January announcement of a simplified method for creating versatile stem cells, based on work by Charles Vacanti, Vandam/Covino professor of anesthesia, and a team of resarchers in Japan, was retracted by Nature in early July, following an investigation that found evidence of scientific misconduct and errors in the Japanese laboratory. And the March announcement by Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics researchers, led by associate professor of astronomy John Kovac, of fundamental discoveries concerning cosmic microwave signatures of gravitational waves from the formation of the universe in the Big Bang, has now been challenged on the grounds that the observers may have been misled by interstellar dust. Scientific scrutiny of the data continues.

 

Internet-era festschrift. For the seventieth birthday of Hobbs professor of cognition and education Howard Gardner, widely known for his work on multiple intelligences and other fields, his former student, Mindy Kornhaber, and his wife, Ellen Winner, chair of psychology at Boston College, invited colleagues to write about his work—yielding 116 essays. Gardner has written a response to each, and the entire corpus is available in twenty-first-century formats: a free PDF, in print from Amazon, or for the Kindle.

 

Miscellany. Ford Foundation professor of democracy and citizenship Archon Fung has been appointed academic dean of the Harvard Kennedy School. Elsewhere at the school, Michael Ignatieff—former director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy, and then a member of parliament in his native Canada—has been appointed to the Murrow chair of press, politics, and public policy; and Maggie Williams—former chief of staff to former first lady Hillary R. Clinton—has been appointed director of the Institute of Politics.…During the awards ceremony on June 8, the American Repertory Theater won Tony Awards for All the Way (best play, and best performance by an actor, Bryan Cranston, in a leading role) and The Glass Menagerie (best lighting design)..…Following a sabbatical, Michèle Lamont will assume the directorship of the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs next July; she is Goldman professor of European studies and professor of sociology and of African and African American studies.…Former New York Times executive editor Jill Abramson ’76, dismissed from that post in May, will teach narrative nonfiction as a visiting lecturer during this academic year; she has previously taught at Princeton and Yale. For more information, see harvardmag.com/abramson-14.…Sheila Thimba, recently vice dean for administration in the school of arts and sciences at Rutgers, has been appointed Harvard College’s dean for administration and finance.