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John Harvard's Journal

Brevia

March-April 2019

Angela Merkel
Photograph by 360B/Alamy Stock Photo


Angela Merkel
Photograph by 360B/Alamy Stock Photo

Merkel in May

Harvard’s guest speaker following the Commencement exercises on May 30 will be Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany since 2005. President Lawrence S. Bacow called her “one of the most widely admired and broadly influential statespeople of our time. Over her four terms as Germany’s chancellor, her leadership has done much to shape the course not only of her nation, but also of Europe and the larger world. She continues to play a central role in confronting some of the great challenges of our era, and I very much look forward to…a memorable address.” Details appear at harvardmag.com/comm-merkel-18.

Harassment and Assault Reports

The University Title IX Office and Office for Dispute Resolution reported in December that reported incidents of potential sexual and gender-based harassment had increased by 55 percent during the academic year ending last June 30, with formal complaints rising 7 percent. The continuing increases in reports and complaints reflect some combination of underlying conditions; greater training and outreach to the community that raise awareness of norms, standards, and reporting procedures; and news headlines highlighting such abuses nationwide. Detailed findings, including data on disposition of Harvard disclosures and complaints, may be found at harvardmag.com/title9&odr-report-18.…Separately, following reports in The Harvard Crimson and The New York Times that Lee professor of economics and professor of education Roland G. Fryer Jr. was under investigation for alleged sexual harassment, the American Economic Association announced on December 18 that he had resigned from its executive committee, to which he had been elected earlier in the year.

Single-Gender Suit

A group of sororities, fraternities, and undergraduates has filed federal and state suits against Harvard’s policy (adopted by the Corporation in late 2017) that imposes sanctions on members of unrecognized single-gender social organizations, such as final clubs and Greek organizations. The plaintiffs argue that the policy constitutes unlawful sex-based discrimination. A report detailing the claims appears at harvardmag.com/usgso-lawsuit-18.

Congressional (116th) Update

Republican Martha McSally, M.P.P. ’90, the Arizona representative who lost a race for Senator Jeff Flake’s seat in November, has been named to fill the Senate seat formerly held by Senator John McCain. That raises the number of Harvard GOP affiliates in the Senate to nine, and the total Harvard contingent in the House and Senate to 53 (see “Crimson on Capitol Hill: 116th,” January-February, page 67).

More U.K. Scholars

Following the initial announcement of Rhodes Scholars (Brevia, January-February, page 28), four seniors learned that they had been awarded Marshall Scholarships. Lyndon Hanrahan will study at the Royal College of Art, Justin Lee at Oxford, Manny Medrano at the University of St. Andrews, and Vaibhav Mohanty at Oxford. In addition, Michael Liu ’19, Mattea Mrkusic ’17, and Olga Romanova ’19 have been awarded international Rhodes Scholarships. American Repertory Theater master’s graduate Yan Chen also won an international Rhodes.

Doomed to Repeat?

Amplifying his earlier data on students’ shifting interests (see “Hemorrhaging Humanities” November-December 2018, page 31), Benjamin M. Schmidt ’03, now at Northeastern University, says enrollment in history (considered a social science at Harvard, but not elsewhere) has collapsed. His new work on fields of concentration, reported in November by the American Historical Association’s Perspectives on History, shows a sharper drop than for any other discipline since the 2008 recession; in absolute numbers and as a share of degrees being sought, interest in history appears to be at new lows not seen at least since the 1950s. Winning fields from 2011 (the first post-recession year when students could easily establish new concentrations) are exercise science and computer science.

“Best of…”

Two year-end lists of accomplishments cited Harvard-related people and work. The Chronicle of Higher Education’s list of 2018 “influencers” included Edward J. Blum, the organizer of and attorney for Students for Fair Admissions, the plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging the College’s practices (see “Admissions on Trial,” January-February, page 15); Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey ’92, for opposing Trump administration efforts to relax regulation of for-profit colleges; and Terry Karl, the Stanford faculty member who raised anew old charges of sexual misconduct against Harvard faculty member Jorge Domínguez, now retired (see harvardmag.com/dominguez-18). That publication’s separate survey of the most influential books of the past 20 years elicited academics’ nominations of The Better Angels of Our Nature, by Johnstone Family professor of psychology Steven Pinker; Bowling Alone, by Malkin Research Professor of public policy Robert D. Putnam; and The History Manifesto, co-written by Blankfein professor of history David Armitage.

Arts Honorand


Tracy K. Smith
Photograph © Rachel Eliza Griffiths

Tracy K. Smith ’94, poet laureate of the United States, will receive the Harvard Arts Medal at the opening of the University’s Arts First festival on May 2. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 2012, for her collection Life on Mars, Smith most recently published Wade in the Water. The Arts Medal is awarded each year to a “Harvard or Radcliffe graduate or faculty member who has achieved excellence in the arts and has made a contribution through the arts to education or the public good.” Read more about Smith and the medal at harvardmag.com/smith-medal-19.

Making Money on MOOCs?

EdX, the Harvard-MIT online-learning venture, in need of revenue to upgrade and sustain its platform, has announced that auditors’ free access to courses will be limited in duration (typically to six weeks) and that graded assessments will be offered only to enrollees who pay fees. Class Central, which evaluates online courses, found that “edX’s paywall will now be higher than Coursera’s”—a surprising outcome because the latter enterprise is an investor-backed, for-profit venture.…Separately, the Business School reflagged its fee-based HBX offerings as Harvard Business School Online—making the most of its iconic brand, and suggesting that it is now a core part of the educational enterprise.

Financial-Aid Frontiers

The announcement last summer that New York University School of Medicine had raised sufficient funds to go tuition-free elicited criticisms that it was subsidizing upper-income applicants and those who would go on to have lucrative careers. But an early indicator suggests one strategic success: Inside Higher Ed reported that the school’s applications rose 47 percent, and that applicants from members of underrepresented groups—black, Latino, and Native American students—more than doubled…Stanford, which has had a more limited financial-aid policy than some peer institutions, including Harvard, announced in December that it too will exclude home equity from families’ aid calculations. The announcement came amid reports that student-loan debt is nearing $1.5 trillion—more than double the level outstanding at the end of the last decade, when public institutions, pressed by recession-reduced state budgets, began raising tuition sharply.

On Other Campuses

The University of Virginia will create a new School of Data Science, backed by a $120-million gift, the largest in its history, from the foundation of its alumnus Jaffray Woodriff, a hedge-fund manager.…Ronald Perelman, the head of MacAndrews & Forbes for many years, and his daughter Debra Perelman, now CEO of the enterprise and a 1996 Princeton graduate, have given her alma mater $65 million as the naming gift for a seventh residential college—a key element in that university’s plan to expand undergraduate enrollment, focusing on first-generation, lower-income, and other underrepresented cohorts, including veterans and transfer students.…Northeastern University has received a $50-million naming gift for its College of Computer and Information Sciences from alumnus and trustee Amin Khoury.…Having outlined sciences priorities that may require as much as $2 billion in new resources from its capital campaign, Yale began extending graduate-student fellowships to a full 12 months (from nine), and adding to research funds. A separate Yale priority may be evolving a teaching program, the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs, into a small school focusing on global and international policy issues. And following the Elis’ pioneering campus-based system of carbon fees to reduce global-warming emissions, Yale is now piloting a by-building “pay-as-you-throw” charge to encourage recycling.

Peak Professorship


Drew Faust
Photograph by Stephanie Mitchell/HPAC

Having concluded her challenging presidency, Harvard’s twenty-eighth, to general acclaim (“Focus on Faust,” July-August 2018, page 46), Drew Faust returned to the faculty. Just before Christmas, President Lawrence S. Bacow recognized her high rank among scholars, too, as an historian of the Civil War and the American South, appointing Faust to the Porter University Professorship, effective January 1. Her books, he said, “reflect extraordinary insight into past lives and events while illuminating themes of continuing deep relevance to our national conversation.” She succeeds the preeminent poetry critic, Helen Vendler, who became emerita last summer.

The Square Scene

With Harvard Square awash in new purveyors of caffeine and sweets (Blue Bottle, Flour, Pavement Coffeehouse, and Tatte Bakery and Café), an older, indigenous outlet closed just before Christmas: Crema, after a 10-year run. In an irony of commerce, it will be succeeded by a Bluestone Lane—another premium coffee chain. Separately, in the new year, Tealuxe shuttered after more than two decades, as did the adjacent Urban Outfitters, Sweet Bakery (the cupcake purveyor), and other merchants; the buildings at the triangle between Brattle and John F. Kennedy Streets are nearing extensive renovation into a retail mall. The Brattle Square Chipotle also closed, leaving a mere three choices for fast-Mexican food.

Nota Bene

Health honcho. Paul J. Barriera, director of Harvard University Health Services since 2012, will step down at the end of the academic year, June 30. An associate professor of psychiatry and HUHS staff member before his appointment as director, he oversaw a significant expansion of resources devoted to counseling and mental-health services, among other initiatives.

Early admissions. The College announced in mid December that it had admitted 13.4 percent of early-action applicants to the class of 2023 (935 of 6,958 hopefuls), down slightly from 14.5 percent admitted in the prior year (when 964 of 6,630 applicants were admitted). Details on those admitted and their academic interests can be found at harvardmag.com/early-action-18. Yale and Princeton accepted 13.2 and 13.9 percent of early applicants, respectively.

Higher-ed indicators. The Higher-Education Price Index for the year ended June 2018 was 2.8 percent: down from the prior year’s 3.3 percent but—the Commonfund (which compiles it) reported—above the average of 2.4 percent for the preceding five fiscal years. Separately, Moody’s, the credit-rating service, extended its negative financial outlook for higher education for a second year, citing low tuition revenue (after financial aid) and continued inflation in expenses.

Miscellany. Leah Rosovsky ’78, M.B.A. ’84, vice president for strategy and programs since January 2013, stepped down at year-end; she is now a dean’s administrative fellow at Harvard Business School.…Pomona College president emeritus David Oxtoby ’72, president of the Board of Overseers during the 2013-2014 academic year, has been appointed president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.…Poet, memoirist, and editor Meghan O’Rourke, the Radcliffe Institute’s 2014-2015 Putnam Fellow, has been appointed editor of The Yale Review effective July 1—the two-hundredth anniversary of the literary quarterly’s founding.…Ackman professor of public economics Raj Chetty has been named a fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science.…New fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science include Eric J. Chaisson, associate of the Harvard College Observatory; David D. Ginty, Lefler professor of neurobiology; and Dani Rodrik, Ford Foundation professor of international political economy.

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