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Harvard loves Boston. That was the theme of a series of announcements and events in the last week of September, each intended to educate Harvardians about the University's local presence, to impress upon political and business leaders the importance of that presence, and to emphasize Harvard's expanding interests on the other side of the Charles River, as well as in Cambridge.
The efforts began in evolutionary fashion, with publication of Harvard in the Community. A profusely illustrated, indexed 187-page directory of community-service programs, more thorough than previous compilations, it categorizes volunteer activities and academic programs involving education, health, housing, the arts, legal services, youths and senior citizens, leadership training, and other local needs. These efforts are sorted by locale (Boston or Cambridge) and by Harvard school or department. The directory is linked to an on-line edition that will be updated as new programs arise (www.community.harvard.edu).
The impetus for the publication came from the office of government, community, and public affairs. Vice president Paul Grogan says he perceived "an opacity to this dimension of Harvard--a very serious disconnect between the profusion of public-service activities and the perception of them by the public and among political leaders" in Boston, so he ordered up the new report. Grogan expects it to bring suitable credit to Harvard and the people involved. But he also hopes it will stimulate use of the available services, more cooperation among Harvard entities, and additional programs to meet unfilled needs. To those ends, and to keep the information current, each dean has designated a liaison for public and community service.
A second report, Investing in the Future, a survey of Harvard's economic impact on Greater Boston, broke new ground. The report includes the usual indicators: employment (second largest private employer); payroll and benefits (in the 1997-1998 academic year, $580.6 million to employees resident within the metropolitan area); and local spending ($338 million of local purchases, $93.4 million of capital spending). But it also expands the boundaries of the genre. The study emphasizes the importance of "human and intellectual" capital in driving the local economy's engines of growth: technology, medical research, financial services, and higher education. And it places Harvard at the center of that process.
For example, the report portrays Harvard as an importer of talent to the region: more than one-fifth of those who received degrees between 1989 and 1998 now reside in the metropolitan area. Along with that talent comes capital: research spending at Harvard totaled $374 million in the 1997-1998 academic year, three-quarters of which came from the federal government. (Include tuition and fees, gifts, and investment income from the endowment, and 88 percent of Harvard's revenues, $1.477 billion in the year analyzed, come from sources outside the metropolitan region.) The data include some news: count in research funds attracted by hospitals affiliated with the Medical School, and other entities, and the total more than doubles; the medical school plans a new $300-million, 400,000-square-foot research center.
But it is the research- and education-related effects of Harvard's activities--the implications for business start-ups and leadership, new product ideas, and the like--that the report ranks of greatest long-term economic import, far beyond the immediate effects of such income sources as local contracts or spending on hotels and meals by visitors to Harvard.
In all, says Grogan, the report portrays "an economic colossus"--and one which is newly important in a "rootless" economy. As companies merge and move, he notes, "the great public and private institutions of higher education are likely to remain largely stationary economic assets." In this context, he hopes, "new imagination" ought to be brought to bear on the "conversations that ought to be occurring between the business community, higher education, and government." Much attention focuses on the conflicts between tax-hungry municipalities and property-owning nonprofit institutions, he notes, and "We don't complain about being squeezed a bit" for revenue (see "Fiscal Friends," above). "But far more powerful is leveraging universities' economic impact" on research, business formation, and similar opportunities for local growth.
These practical and humane aspects of Harvard's local role came together in three events led by President Neil L. Rudenstine.
Continuing an intensive effort to sustain federal financing of basic research, Rudenstine traveled to Washington, D.C., on September 22. The Harvard- and MIT-organized Science Coalition, now including 60-odd member universities, has organized much of the campaigning for research funds, but Rudenstine often presents the case personally.
What made this trip notable was that he, Tufts president John DiBiaggio, representatives of other area universities, and Harvard scientists joined with members of the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce to meet with White House officials and members of Congress. They sought support not only for biomedical research, which has fared well in recent budgets, but also for the relatively neglected physical sciences and engineering. Rudenstine also met with William V. Roth Jr., M.B.A. '47, LL.B. '49, of Delaware, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, to discuss Medicare financing of the teaching functions of academic hospitals--enormous employers in Boston. Taken together, the trip suggests the joint economic interests Harvard and its communities have, and the political power of their combined lobbying forces.
On September 28, Rudenstine and Thomas M. Menino, the mayor of Boston, jointly celebrated the sale of the 775-unit Riverway at Mission Park moderate-income housing complex to its tenants' association, Roxbury Tenants of Harvard. Created in the mid 1970s with financing from the University and Citibank, the development has provided federally subsidized housing to some 1,500 residents just south of the Longwood medical campus, an area that had been heavily affected by hospitals' expansion plans in the 1960s and by construction of the Harvard-owned Medical Area Total Energy Plant.
Boston's housing market features scant vacancies and high rents, encouraging the conversion of subsidized apartments to market-rate units. Harvard has sought for several years to disengage from owning and managing the project, while protecting Riverway's tenants, according to Kathy Spiegelman, associate vice president for planning and real estate. Sale to the tenant group, through a mortgage from the Massachusetts Housing Finance Authority, supported by lease income from the parking garage under the project, meets those goals, she said, while ensuring that this large and important "neighbor" to the medical and public-health schools remains as affordable housing.
A Chamber of Commerce luncheon on September 29 that featured Rudenstine as guest speaker pulled the various town-gown strands together. In prefatory remarks, Mayor Menino joked, "Harvard wants to be part of Boston, now that they own all this property." He cited the importance to the region of "academia, business, and my administration all working together," and praised Rudenstine and the University for "a renewed commitment to the city." Beyond the dollars universities and their students spend locally, he said, they represent "brainpower--that's most important."
Rudenstine reprised the reports on community service--a total of one million hours of time is volunteered by students, staff, and faculty members each year, he said--and economic impact. But he also went out of his way to emphasize "the chief ways--not always the most obvious ones--in which Boston and Cambridge make a major difference to the well-being of Harvard and institutions like it." He cited the local community's "strong civic society," its support of nonprofit institutions, and its appeal to the members of Harvard's own community. A factor underlying the 80-percent yield among undergraduates offered admission, for example, is the presence of "a vital and robust urban environment that is inviting, interesting, humane, and responsive." Recalling his own days as a doctoral student, Rudenstine said, "My wife and I made a ritual trip every Saturday morning to Haymarket to buy our week's supply of groceries," where the goods were cheap, and where the surroundings offered both "a chance to get out of the library and a chance for me to try out my totally incoherent Italian."
Regarding the future, Rudenstine hammered hard at the importance of science funding and adequate support for the teaching hospitals, whose prospective failure he called "madness--we're not going to let that happen." He beseeched his audience to collaborate politically on these priorities. He forecast heavy Harvard investments in research facilities--$500 million to $600 million in the next four to six years--which he called "risk capital" invested to pursue new knowledge, medical advances, and the education of future leaders. He also hinted at further efforts to create affordable housing before concluding, "I feel we're at the beginning of what we could achieve if we all work together."The high-rise towers and townhouses of Riverway at Mission Park will remain as affordable housing in Boston.
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