Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

John Harvard's Journal

Brevia

May-June 2004

Treasurer-elect

James F. Rothenberg '68, M.B.A. '70, has been elected Treasurer and a member of the Harvard Corporation, effective July 1. He succeeds D. Ronald Daniel, M.B.A. '54. Rothenberg is president of Capital Research and Management Company, of Los Angeles, investment adviser to the third-largest American mutual-fund family.

 

Grade Reflation

Jawboning works—somewhat, and for a while. That is the message of Harvard College dean Benedict H. Gross's February report to the Faculty of Arts and Sciences on grading. In academic year 1999-2000, the mean College grade peaked at 3.41 (on the new four-point scale), and then dropped to 3.40 and 3.39 in the succeeding two years. During those same years, A grades accounted for 23.8 percent, 23.4 percent, and 22 percent of all grades, respectively, while A- was awarded 24.8 percent, 25 percent, and 24.4 percent of the time. Thus it seemed that widely publicized talk about grading practices, compression, and so on had taken effect. But in 2002-2003, the trend reversed: the mean grade rose to 3.41, and A and A- shares rebounded to 22.4 percent and 25.4 percent, respectively: 47.8 percent of all course grades recorded. Gross exhorted the faculty to adhere to its grading guidelines.

 

Christo on Campus

The ironworkers of Local 7 peeled back the tarps hung from the steel beams of the Knafel Building, the northern of the pair of structures bracketing Cambridge Street where the Center for Government and International Studies is now rising, and raised high the (final) roof beam in a ceremony on February 17. Sidney R. Knafel '52, M.B.A. '54, was present and signed the beam, which sealed the hole through which a steel spiral staircase had been dropped into the frame. Also present for the occasion were former Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean Jeremy R. Knowles, on whose watch the plans for the complex were conceived in the twentieth century, and current dean William C. Kirby, who can celebrate the dedication next spring, in the twenty-first. The view west along Cambridge Street, stepping up the Graduate School of Design to Memorial Hall's crocketed tower, will serve as a convenient architectual sourcebook of Harvard in those centuries and the nineteenth. The steel skeleton for the the Knafel Building's smaller sibling, the second structure in the complex, located on the south side of Cambridge Street, was completed by mid March.

H-Bombed

With the Coop featuring crimson panties with white hearts for February 14, why not an undergraduate publication on sexuality? Providing much Valentine's-week news fodder and titillation, H Bomb, proposed by Katharina P. Cieplak-Von Baldegg '06 and Camilla A. Hrdy '04—modeled after the Vassar College erotica magazine Squirm—won Committee on College Life approval as a legitimate student enterprise. A Crimson account quoted the editors characterizing the effort as "pornographic," and cited an opinion of the University general counsel's office that students posing nude must be 18 years old and could not be photographed in Harvard buildings. Faculty adviser Marc D. Hauser, professor of psychology (Science B-29, "Evolution of Human Nature," nicknamed "Sex"), weighed in on the plan for a "literary arts magazine about sex and sexual issues at Harvard." The College then decided it would not fund the venture. The editors, with a $2,000 grant from the Undergraduate Council, still hope for publication in time for Commencement.

Downsizing Debuts

The central administration's financial planning task force began implementing cost-cutting measures in mid February, and had laid off 20 support employees and 23 human-resources staffers by late March (see "Barer-Bones Budgets," November-December 2003, page 58). In all, employees were told, as many as 70 positions, out of 1,000, will be eliminated to save $10.2 million and keep the administrative budget level at $141 million. Meanwhile, in Boston, Harvard Medical School's executive dean for administration, Eric P. Buehrens, has notified the Longwood staff of plans to offer an enhanced severance program to long-term employees, reduce the administrative budget, rent out lab space, reduce capital spending by 16 percent ($13 million in the next five years), and rigorously review all proposed hiring. Absent such measures, he forecast deficits ballooning to a cumulative $62 million of red ink in the next half decade, as benefits costs surge, the endowment distribution slows, and the expansion of federal research funding comes to a halt.

 

Rohit Chopra

Prophet in the Pulpit

Reflecting on Harvard after recently concluding his term as president of the Undergraduate Council, Rohit Chopra '04 used the occasion of his Morning Prayers remarks at Memorial Church on Friday, February 13, to decry the ascent of the Crimson PR professional. In the wake of events such as the living-wage sit-in, grade inflation, or "an upcoming student Commencement speech" (controversy over the use of the word "jihad" in June 2002 graduation exercises), the response has been "to bring in the professionals. Never before has Harvard seen so many communications directors, spokespersons, and other public-relations experts lending a helping hand." Chopra attributed the phenomenon to worrying too much about the outside world's regard and less about "what has really made Harvard great: courage, boldness, truth."

The Old Order Moveth

Above: James F. Brine Inc., its face plastered with sale signs in late February. Below: An advertisement in volume one, number one, of this periodical, November 1998

Brine's Sporting Goods opened its door for business in Harvard Square in 1870 and closed it this spring to move to Belmont. "Most of the old mom-and-pop stores have left the Square," said James Brine III, whose great-great-grandfather founded the firm, which calls itself "America's Oldest Family Run Sporting Goods Store." "It's getting too expensive to be here. The rents are high and foot-traffic is down." "It's a sad day," said John DiGiovanni, president of the Harvard Square Business Association. "But businesses do have a life cycle, like the rest of us, and they had a very successful one in Harvard Square." Life goes on, at the corner of Trapelo Road and Church Street and at www.brinesports.com. Meanwhile, at press time, another venerable Square institution, the Grolier Poetry Book Shop, was reported to be facing imminent closure if a buyer could not be found.

 

Rev. J. Bryan Hehir
Courtesy of the Harvard Divinity School

Nota Bene

Homecoming. The Reverend J. Bryan Hehir, chair of the executive committee of the Divinity School from 1998 to 2001 and then president and chief executive of Catholic Charities USA, has returned to Boston (where he now presides over Catholic Charities in the troubled archdiocese) and to Harvard. In February, he accepted a part-time appointment, beginning in the fall term, as Montgomery professor of the practice of religion and public life at the Kennedy School.

Development directors. Scott A. Abell '72, a past president of the Harvard Alumni Association, has been appointed associate vice president and dean for development—the chief fundraiser—for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and so is withdrawing his candidacy for election to the Board of Overseers. His Harvard College connections extend to children Kelly '02 and Scott '07. The Harvard College Fund, which coordinates annual and reunion giving, is now under the direction of Suzanne J. Battit, M.B.A. '92.

Voice for the humanities. Porter University Professor and noted poetry critic Helen Vendler will deliver the 2004 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, on May 6. The lectureship, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, has previously been conferred on faculty members Gerald Holton (physicist and historian of science, 1981), the late Emily T. Vermeule (classics, 1982), Bernard Bailyn (historian, 1998), and Henry Louis Gates Jr. (African-American studies, 2002).

Endowment outsourcing. Harvard Management Company portfolio manager Jeffrey B. Larson, whose foreign-equity and emerging-markets funds have helped propel superior investment returns, has followed other HMC professionals who have set up their own firms in recent years. His new enterprise, Sowood Capital Management, will run a hedge fund and a commodity fund; HMC will entrust Larson and his team with $500 million and $200 million, respectively, to manage.

 

Pudding pot potentates. The Hasty Pudding woman and man of the year, recognized (and roasted) respectively on February 12 and one week later, are actress Sandra Bullock (Speed, While You Were Sleeping) and actor Robert Downey Jr. (Chaplin, Ally McBeal).

 

Women on top. Even though a more-restrictive process reduced "early action" applications sharply, as planned, a total of 19,750 students sought admission to the College class of 2008, trailing only the record of nearly 20,987 submissions received last year. When acceptance and other letters were mailed and e-mailed on April 1, for the first time in Harvard history, more women (1,016) than men (1,013) were offered admission.

Anna M. Solomon-Schwartz
Courtesy of Anna M. Solomon-Schwartz

 

Miscellany. Harvard Hillel's new president is Anna M. Solomon-Schwartz '06, the first woman elected to the position.... The Harvard Business Review has been nominated for a National Magazine award in the prestigious "general excellence" category; winners will be announced May 5.

Mary Ann Glendon
Harvard Law School Bulletin

...Hand professor of law Mary Ann Glendon has been named president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, making her the Catholic Church's senior female adviser.... Economist Kenneth S. Rogoff, Cabot professor of public policy, who was appointed director of the Center for International De- velopment last fall (see "Harvard Portrait," January-February), has stepped down from the position; no explanation was offered.