Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

John Harvard's Journal

Where Credit is Due

January-February 2003

A significant change in Harvard's fundraising policies came into effect December 1. Henceforth, graduates of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), Harvard Business School (HBS), and Harvard Law School (HLS) can receive class credit for gifts they make to identified priorities elsewhere in the University. The new policy aims to augment alumni support for their individual schools with gifts related to graduates' interest in other Harvard research and teaching.

Qualifying donations include gifts of any size to a new University fund for graduate- and professional-school student financial aid; gifts of $250,000 or more for collaborative academic activities, financial aid, or professorships at the schools of design, divinity, education, government, or public health; gifts of $250,000 or more to the president's and provost's academic innovation fund (used to support interdisciplinary research and teaching); and gifts of any amount for the Radcliffe Institute's priorities. Other categories may be added in the future as the president, provost, and deans proceed with academic and financial planning and confer about suitable University goals.

Explaining the new policy, President Lawrence H. Summers said in an interview, "Something I've been emphasizing since I came here is that a lot of what's most important for the University cuts across schools." He also noted that donors have "broad interests in which Harvard can be engaged"—for example, College alumni who support efforts to improve urban education, or HBS graduates who seek to enhance healthcare in less developed nations. Finally, he cited "the reality that if Harvard is going to make the contribution to public service that it can, the schools that have their primary orientation to public service have to be as strong as they can be," even as their alumni—in education, public health, religious service, and so on—cannot donate as generously as can others in higher-income careers.

The new policy, Summers said, "is an important step in bringing the University together for the common strength of all of its constituent parts." Separately, he has also directed the creation of a University-wide donor database to help match alumni with interests in other schools. Moreover, the priorities established in the new policy build on the planning process directed by the provost, rather than conferring blanket class credit for any gift to another school, regardless of its academic import.

"Ownership" of one's graduates, and their potential financial support, has long been a jealously guarded prerogative of each of Harvard's independent "tubs." But long-term deans Kim B. Clark of HBS and Robert C. Clark of HLS are in the public and pre-announcement stages, respectively, of large capital campaigns for their schools, with the shared class-crediting system in place. Kim Clark has already noted interest among HBS alumni in supporting public education (see "Capitalism Campaign," November-December 2002, page 55). After the policy was announced, HBS associate dean for external relations Donella Rapier confirmed that "a lot of our graduates who are supportive of the school are supportive of public service and especially of education." For instance, she noted, the fortieth-reunion class has designated its class gift next fall for the HBS-Graduate School of Education program for school superintendents.

New FAS dean William C. Kirby also regards the broadened approach to fundraising with equanimity. Citing the opportunities for boundary-crossing research, he said, "My hope is that this would be the occasion to look at various intellectual connections between the College, the graduate school, this faculty, and the faculties of other schools," to forge collaborations, say, between scholars of religion in FAS and those at the divinity school. "We don't want to diminish the wonderful sense of loyalty and incredible support" that College alumni have provided, Kirby said, but rather to "allow them a new flexibility in helping Harvard," while interesting others in the scholarly work of the arts and sciences faculty. Even as he enumerated FAS priorities—adding professorships, augmenting financial aid, rebuilding the libraries—Kirby said the move toward funding University priorities is "an extension of what we do, but it doesn't change the core of what we do."