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Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

John Harvard's Journal

Brevia

May-June 2013

Oprah Winfrey will be the principal speaker at Commencement

Oprah Winfrey will be the principal speaker at Commencement

Photography courtesy of Harpo, Inc/Cliff Watts

Tables Turned

Oprah Winfrey, who usually plays host on her talk show, will be the guest—and featured talker—in Tercentenary Theatre on May 30, when she appears as the principal speaker at Commencement day’s Afternoon Exercises—the annual meeting of the Harvard Alumni Association. In a statement accompanying the announcement, President Drew Faust, who will also address the throng, noted, “Oprah’s journey from her grandmother’s Mississippi farm to becoming one of the world’s most admired women is one of the great American success stories.”

A Union Contract

After protracted negotiations (the previous agreement expired last June 30) and the involvement of mediators, the 4,600-member Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers (HUCTW) and the University came to terms on a new contract, adopted by a vote on April 2. The contract, extending to September 30, 2015, provides a typical member with three salary increases averaging 3.4 percent each, plus three “option days” over the life of the contract, which members can use as discretionary personal days or can cash out at 75 percent of each day’s pay. Although the contract extends beyond three years, the annual increases are well above the University’s publicized offer of 2.8 percent, 2.5 percent, and 2 percent increases. Unresolved benefits questions will be referred to a Health Care Group for further, continuing negotiations.

Allston Advances

The Boston Redevelopment Authority in mid March approved Harvard’s plan to relocate campus-services facilities within Allston, making way for redevelopment of a site at Western Avenue and North Harvard Street for a housing and retail complex (see http://harvardmag.com/services-13). The campus-services complex—including police training, recycling, and vehicle management—is controversial because its new site, although at the rear of the future home of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (see http://harvardmag.com/seas-13), is near private residences. To secure regulatory approval, Harvard agreed to make the facility temporary, to restrict night deliveries, and to proceed with construction of a nearby park.

Overseers in Chief

Chemist David W. Oxtoby ’72, president of Pomona College, has been elected president of the Board of Overseers, the University’s junior governing board, for the 2013-2014 year. Lynn Chang ’75, violinist and violin professor, will serve as vice chair of the board’s executive committee. They succeed Richard A. Meserve, J.D. ’75, president of the Carnegie Institution for Science, and film producer Lucy Fisher ’71, respectively, who conclude their one-year terms following Commencement.

College Cohort and Costs

Including the 895 applicants accepted by the early-action deadline last December, Harvard College offered admission to a total of 2,029 of 35,023 applicants (up from 34,303 last year) seeking a place in the class of 2017—a rate of 5.8 percent (fractionally below the 5.9 percent admission rate last year). Undergraduates face a bill for tuition, room, board, and fees of $56,407, up 3.5 percent ($1,911) from $54,496 in the year now ending. (The term bill increased 3.8 percent from 2009-2010 to 2010-2011, and a like percentage in the subsequent year, and 3.5 percent from 2011-2012 to the current year.) Undergraduate financial aid is budgeted to increase $10 million (5.8 percent), from $172 million currently. Among peers, Penn announced a 3.9 percent increase in its undergraduate term bill, to $58,812, and a 5 percent increase in the aid budget, to $188 million. Yale will charge $57,500, up 4 percent from the current year, and projects $119 million in financial aid, unchanged from the current level.


New University Professor

Cass R. Sunstein ’75, J.D. ’78, who became Frankfurter professor of law in 2008 before serving as administrator of the White House office of information and regulatory affairs during much of President Obama’s first term, has been appointed Walmsey University Professor—the rank reserved for Harvard’s most distinguished faculty members. He succeeds constitutional-law scholar Frank I. Michelman, who held the chair from 1992 until he took emeritus status last year. Sunstein was a member of the University of Chicago law faculty before he returned to Cambridge. The announcement of his new professorship cited his work in behavioral economics and public policy (he is coauthor of Nudge, with Richard Thaler), constitutional law and democratic theory, jurisprudence, administrative law, and regulation of risk.

Nota Bene

Summer humanities research. SHARP, the new Summer Humanities and Arts Research Program, beginning this year, joins similar programs in the sciences, social sciences, and business-oriented research. Each offers undergraduates an immersion experience in their discipline. SHARP participants receive 10 weeks of lodging and meals, and can apply to work for projects involving philosophy, the Widener Library collections, digital mapping or art, and arts-based literacy.

Photograph by Katherine Taylor/Harvard News Office

Robert Lue

Teaching and learning leader. Robert Lue has been named the initial Menschel Faculty Director of the Derek Bok Center for Teaching and Learning. His selection follows a protracted search for a faculty member to provide academic direction for this venue for teacher training and pedagogical development within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. The busy Lue, director of life-sciences education and professor of the practice of molecular and cellular biology, is also faculty leader of HarvardX (see “HarvardX at One”), the University’s online education venture—a sign of rising interest in applying teaching technologies to classrooms and for student learning.

Executive-education investment. André Esteves, co-founder and CEO of BTG Pactual, the largest investment bank in Latin America, based in Brazil, has made a gift (of undisclosed size) to Harvard Business School to support the renovation of Baker Hall, an executive-education residence. The project is part of an extensive renovation and expansion of HBS’s executive-education facilities, including construction of the new Tata Hall and replacement of Kresge Hall (see http://harvardmag.com/chao-13). Esteves is a member of the school’s Latin America Advisory Board.

Quiz championships stripped. National Academic Quiz Tournaments, LLC, announced in March that a review of its computers revealed that Andrew Watkins ’11 had accessed 2009, 2010, and 2011 pages with quiz questions before tournaments. Although the organization said it had not found evidence that the access was taken advantage of “in game situations,” the access violated “expectations of fair play.” It thus vacated four Harvard national championships from competitions during those years; Watkins was a team member.

Library leader leaves. Mary Lee Kennedy, since 2011 the senior associate provost for the Harvard Library—responsible for steering the University’s libraries toward a consolidated governance structure and shared back-office services—is departing in mid May to become chief library officer of the New York Public Library.

Sustainable investor. Harvard Management Company plans to hire a vice president for sustainable investing, who will research and understand “ESG (environmental, social, and governance) issues related to the Harvard endowment portfolio,” according to the job notice, and serve as the expert on “new issues of interest emerging on our campus and others, including social-impact investing.” Harvard recently agreed to create a social-choice fund (see http://harvardmag.com/fuel-13), and students concerned about climate change have advocated divesting investments in fossil-fuel companies.

Photograph Courtesy of Touchpoints

T. Berry Brazelton

Photograph by Rose Lincoln/Harvard News Office

Richard Losick

Photograph by Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

Eric Lander

Photograph by Kris Snibbe/Harvard News Office

Jeff Lichtman

Miscellany. Clinical professor of pediatrics emeritus T. Berry Brazelton has received the Citizens Medal, the nation’s second-highest civilian honor; read about his work in “Early Learning” (January-February 2012, page 27).…Cabot professor of biology Richard Losick, a leader in improving science teaching (see “The Excitement of Science,” July-August 2006, page 56), has been recognized with the Cox Prize for Excellence in Science Teaching—a delightful surprise for the honorand, who helped spur creation of the award in 2011; he will apply the proceeds, totaling $50,000, to his research.…Among the recipients of the first Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences awards, including $3-million grants, is Eric Lander, professor of systems biology and head of the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, the genomics research center.…As previously announced, the Inn at Harvard is closing for conversion into undergraduate swing space as House renewal ramps up; two Harvard-owned apartment buildings on Prescott Street will also be converted to College use for the same purpose, along with units along Massachusetts Avenue already in use during the Old Quincy reconstruction.…Knowles professor of molecular and cellular biology Jeff Lichtman, a specialist in neuroscience imaging (see “Shedding Light on Life,” May-June 2008, page 40), has been named the first Santiago Ramón y Cajal professor of arts and sciences, a five-year appointment recognizing Faculty of Arts and Sciences members for innovative research. The new chair’s name recognizes a pioneering neuroscientist.…Harvard Art Museums announced that it is on schedule to open the renovated Fogg complex, at 32 Quincy Street, in the fall of 2014. To prepare for reinstallation, the Sackler Museum galleries, which have been used to display part of the collections during construction, will close after this June 1. In the interval, virtual access to the museums’ collections is available at www.harvardartmuseums.org/art.

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