Too Much of a Good Thing

Harvard supports most of the various current bills giving Federal aid to universities. But there is at least one strong indication that the University is continuing its traditional suspicion towards the threat of outside control--however distant that threat may seem. The $58 million Program for Harvard Medicine represents an important attempt to free one unit of the University from relying too much on Federal funds. Right now, one half the Medical School's annual budget comes from the government; clearly, the Program is a sign that the Administration worries that this is too much of a good thing, especially a Federal good thing. And it is hard to disagree with its concern.

Great amounts of Federal money will still be solicited for laboratories and medical research, but the Program's money will come from business and medical circles. Significantly, most of the $58 million sought from these private sources will be spent on teachers' salaries. If the Program is successful, it will make it much easier for the University to carry out a general policy of refusing Federal grants for direct payment of faculty salaries, a policy which would further reflect Harvard's desire to maintain its autonomy.

When the Cheever report is completed this summer, the University will have a better idea what the impact of Federal money has been on it. Presumably the report will clarify the distinction between "enough" and "too much" Federal aid. It should not be forgotten, though, that Harvard's solutions to the questions Federal money raises are unique and even idiosyncratic. Few other universities can duplicate the Program for Harvard Medicine. For many schools, the need for Federal money extends to teachers' salaries, too. Thus, while Harvard is rightly using its name and prestige to free itself as much as possible from Federal aid, a Program for Harvard Medicine solves none of the general questions bothering less fortunate schools.