Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

John Harvard's Journal

Brevia

May-June 2008

Green Goals

A new task force, appointed by President Drew Faust on February 27, will examine Harvard’s greenhouse-gas emissions and recommend University goals for reducing them; it is to report by the end of the academic year. Brooks professor of international science public policy and human development William C. Clark is chair; Thomas Vautin, associate vice president for facilities and environmental services, is vice chair. Details about the task force mission and its membership are available at www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2008/02.28/99-sustainability.html.

Threatened Treasures

Restaurant Photo

Photograph by Rose Lincoln/Harvard News Office

Many rare drawings, posters, and archived documents from the Harvard Theatre Collection as well as Houghton Library holdings were damaged when a large drainpipe ruptured in Pusey Library during heavy rain on the night of March 8, sending more than 500 gallons of water into the stacks. Thomas Horrocks, associate librarian for collections at Houghton, surveyed preservation efforts (above); the destruction would have been worse had the Harvard College Library not arranged for security staff to conduct extra checks of the stacks following weekend flood-watch warnings from the National Weather Service.

Endowments Profiled

Harvard reports that just 17 percent of its $34.9-billion endowment is truly unrestricted by donors. For Stanford and Princeton (which posted their reports on line; Harvard did not), the comparable proportions are nearly 25 percent and “approximately 30 percent.” Those were among the interesting tidbits revealed in February, when more than 100 universities and colleges responded to queries from U.S. Senate Finance Committee members Max Baucus and Charles Grassley concerning the size, growth, management, and use of their endowments. The senators have been exploring whether the institutions’ spending policies and financial aid are, in their view, consistent with recent strong endowment growth and tax-exempt status—perhaps with an eye to legislating mandatory annual payouts of 5 percent or so.

 

Life-Sciences Shortfall

Harvard and six other research institutions have published “A Broken Pipeline?” (www.brokenpipeline.org), a report on the consequences for science of five years of flat funding for the National Institutes of Health, the principal source of grants for biomedical research. On March 11, President Drew Faust, the Johns Hopkins medical-school dean, and an Ohio State biologist, testified about the problem before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions. Young researchers, Faust said, “see a future defined by new limits—not in ideas, energy, intelligence, or enthusiasm—but in opportunity.” If not corrected, “[O]ur position as the primary destination for the best and brightest researchers from around the world may be challenged.” One example of that challenge emerged a week earlier as Berkeley, Stanford, and the University of Texas each signed multimillion-dollar agreements with King Abdullah University of Science and Technology—opening in Saudi Arabia in 2009—to help it recruit faculty members and collaborate on research; one attraction is the new institution’s $10-billion endowment, which promises ample research funds. In the United States, the Howard Hughes Medical Institute pledged $300 million to underwrite the early research of 70 promising young biomedical faculty members nationwide.

 

Disease Digitized

Restaurant Photo

Image courtesy of Imaging Services, Harvard College Library

Understanding of disease evolved dramatically with the advent of modern germ theory in the final third of the nineteenth century. Before then, individual susceptibilities—not disease-causing agents—were thought to drive many illnesses. A new University Library Open Collections offering, “Contagion: Historical Views of Diseases and Epidemics,” now examines in rich detail (500,000 pages of books, serials, manuscripts, and images) medicinal beliefs about miasmas, malign bad smells, and other issues (sin, for instance), while exploring cholera, smallpox, influenza, yellow fever, and more. Shown here: Fighting pneumonic plague in Manchuria. Access the collection at http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/contagion. Other on-line archives cover working women and immigration to the United States; a collection of materials on Islam will appear in late 2008.

 

Nota Bene

Price check. Harvard College tuition, room, board, and fees for 2008-2009 will rise to $47,215, an increase of 3.5 percent (compared to last year’s 4.5 percent increase). Need-based scholarship aid will grow substantially—by 21.4 percent—to $125 million. Princeton raised its term bill 3.9 percent, while Yale committed to an increase of 2.2 percent (in line with core consumer price inflation).

Renovations recommended. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) has begun planning a major renovation of the 12 undergraduate residential houses, a process that may take as long as 15 years. The condition of four Houses—Dunster, Leverett, Lowell, and Mather—has been assessed; the remaining eight will be evaluated during the next several months. FAS dean Michael D. Smith is appointing a House Program Planning Committee of faculty and staff members and students “to examine the mission and purpose of House life and to develop an architectural space plan for the House system.”

Tuition trimming. Complementing its loan-forgiveness program, Harvard Law School next fall will begin waiving third-year tuition ($41,500) for students who commit to five years of work in government or nonprofit jobs after graduation. At Harvard Medical School, starting next year, students whose families earn less than $120,000 a year will no longer have to make a parental tuition contribution, saving them an average of $12,500 annually in their four years of study. The policy will affect just over one-third of current medical students.

Name game. The Kennedy School of Government has rebranded itself the Harvard Kennedy School.

Photograph by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard News Office

Allan M. Brandt

Historians honored. Historian of science and Graduate School of Arts and Sciences dean Allan M. Brandt has won the 2008 Bancroft Prize, the top professional honor for books in American history, for The Cigarette Century: The Rise, Fall, and Deadly Persistence of the Product That Defined America. Peter Silver ’92, assistant professor of history at Princeton, also won, for Our Savage Neighbors: How Indian War Transformed Early America.

Excellent engineers. Radcliffe Institute interim dean Barbara J. Grosz, Higgins professor of natural sciences, who investigates natural-language communication between humans and computers, has been elected to the National Academy of Engineering. Also elected were Frans A. Spaepen, Franklin professor of applied physics, for work on amorphous metals and semiconductors, and Zhigang Suo, Puckett professor of mechanics and materials, for work on electronic material systems and composites. All four are School of Engineering and Applied Sciences faculty members.

Photograph by Rose Lincoln/Harvard News Office

Barbara J. Grosz

Photograph courtesy of Frans A. Spaepen

Frans A. Spaepen

Photograph courtesy of Zhigang Suo

Zhigang Suo

 

athletics and administration. Faculty of Arts and Sciences executive dean Nancy Maull, FAS’s chief administrative and financial officer for 15 years, stepped down at the end of February. On an interim basis, Nichols Family director of athletics Robert L. Scalise assumed those responsibilities; he formerly served in a similar capacity at Harvard Business School.

educating women entrepreneurs. Harvard Business School is among 16 institutions working with Goldman Sachs & Company on the latter’s $100-million, five-year philanthropic effort to provide 10,000 women in developing countries with busi-ness and management skills. HBS will focus on training business school deans and senior faculty members in India to provide case-method training. See www.10000women.org for details.

advancing film. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences has approved a new doctoral-degree program in film and visual studies (www.ves.fas.harvard.edu/gradprogram. html), the natural outgrowth of expanded faculty, facilities, courses, and student interest in visual images (see “Cinema Veritas,” November-December 2005, page 34).

Poetic pique. Poking fun at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences for canceling two of its scheduled meetings and grappling with unpredictable attendance (which has prompted an exploration of decreasing the required quorum), the Crimson editorialized on March 10 in villanelle form, beginning: “The Faculty Council mused about its forum,/Attendance at monthly meetings dwindled low./‘We think the problem must be with the quorum!’/‘We must not stoop to pressure or implore ’em,/Who cares if professors never go?’” (For the complete verse, see www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?refR2404.)

Allan M. Brandt

Photograph by Stephanie Mitchell/Harvard News Office

Miscellany. Faculty of Arts and Sciences associate dean for academic affairs Brian W. Casey, Ph.D. ’00—a senior figure in recruiting new professors—has been appointed president of DePauw University, in Greencastle, Indiana, effective July 1.…Harvard Extension School attracted 350 students worldwide for “Positive Psychology,” its largest distance- learning enrollment to date; the course was a smash in real life, too (see “The Science of Happiness,” January-February 2007, page 26).…James M. Poterba ’80, chair of MIT’s economics department, has succeeded Baker professor of economics Martin S. Feldstein as president of the National Bureau of Economic Research.… The on-line social-networking site Facebook has hired Sheryl Sandberg ’91, M.B.A. ’95, who spent six years at Google, as chief operating officer. She reports to company founder Mark Zuckerberg ’06, who dropped out to work on the enterprise.…The Malkin Athletic Center has installed that must-have amenity for modern fitness buffs: satellite video service.