The Kennedy Institute
The Kennedy Institute's Study Group Will Probe Long-Range Policy Problems
THE INSTITUTE of Politics in the John Fitzgerald Kennedy School of Government is understaffed, overpublicized, and its most immediately visible aspect, the Honorary Associates program, has stirred up a cloud of controversy that has still not settled.
As Richard E. Neustadt, the director of the Institute, puts it, "We got a cockeyed image--some of it was due to the McNamara incident, some of it to the fanfare that greeted the renaming of the Graduate School of Public Administration, and some of it to the article by Henry Fairlie."
Fairlie's article, perhaps the most vehement attack mounted thus far on the Institute, alleged that the Kennedy family had moved in on Harvard to set up an out-of-town recruiting base for Senator Robert F. Kennedy '48. It was immediately rebutted by the dean of the Kennedy School, Don K. Price, who explained that Fairlie had made numerous faulty assumptions, and got his facts wrong in places.
The Institute's Functions
For all of the article's sensationalism, however, it did raise implicitly the serious issue of what the Institute's functions are and whether they deserved a place in the Harvard community. The most commonly voiced criticism of the Institute is that it is too preoccupied with matters of decision-making and policy implementation. Somehow, many critics think, the Institute may have the effect of reducing the concern of many students and Faculty for more scholarly disciplines.
On a less academic level, others feel that the Institute is "too Establishment," and that its leaders are perhaps insensitive to the views of many members of the Harvard community who are disenchanted with the entire governmental process in America.
Dean Price, however, stresses the Institute's financial independence, the range of views represented in its various visitors and affiliates, and sees little conflict between the Institute and academic disciplines. "There is no doubt that the University must protect its basic strength in the purely academic fields above all things, but I don't believe that activity in applied fields will detract from pure scholarship," he says.
In fact, the Institute's top officials feel that the temperament of the Harvard community over the years has created a need for a University body with the facilities and opportunities the Institute will provide. "There is a long-standing tradition of members of all the Faculties in the University having a serious interest in public affairs," Price observes. Besides, he adds, no one will ever be required to participate in any of the Institute's activities.
Ironically, for all the interest and concern the Institute seems to have stimulated, its operations this fall have been of a limited and experimental nature. Neustadt himself has gone to great lengths to emphasize that the Institute will not, for awhile at least, impose a rigid pattern on any of its major programs--the Faculty study groups, the Institute Fellowships, the undergraduate seminars, or the visits of the Honorary Associates.
For example, Neustadt is not yet sure what specific role the Institute Fellows--a group of young men leaving government service for private life with the expectation of returning to service--will play. Presently, many of them conduct non-credit seminars for undergraduates on public policy problems and policies. They also attend House lunch tables, and participate in other informal discussions. But they have not, as Neustadt explains with some regret, been brought into the existing Faculty study groups as fully as he'd like. Adam Yarmolinsky '43, professor and chairman of the Institute's Fellowships Committee, blamed this on the difficulty of internally coordinating activities at the Institute during its first hectic months.
It is difficult to cast the Fellows into any particular category of responsibility. Some of them are hard at work on Ph.D. dissertations, others are writing articles and books. Still others came to Harvard for the specific purpose of reflecting on their government experience, and as John G. Wofford '57, one of the original Fellows and now the Institute's Associate Director, says "to get caught up on reading."
One of the concepts behind the Fellowship program was Neustadt's "in-and-outer"--that is, someone who intermittently crosses the bridge between public and private life. He feels that a year at Harvard, where a young ex-official could exchange ideas with members of the academic community and contribute some insights into practical policy matters, would be valuable.
Even this idea, however, has encountered some criticism within the Institute. Abram J. Chayes 43, a Faculty Associate of the Institute and professor of Law, sees two problems. First, "no one does his most productive work if he's concerned about what he's going to do next, and most of the Fellows may not be sure what they'll be doing after Harvard." Second, Chayes feels that the notion that a person should expect to shuttle back and forth between government and private life "isn't too relevant." "The point of returning to private life," he explains, "is not to wait for some alarm to ring calling you back, but to settle down, adjust, and do some good work without worrying about your future in Washington."
Despite the ambiguity over the concept behind the Fellowships, Neustadt feels that the Fellows can play an important role in the Institute by helping "to stimulate and participate in the intellectual activity of the Faculty members in study groups."
The Study Groups
THE STUDY groups themselves are probably the least visible part of the Institute's program, and probably the most significant. This year they have gotten under way somewhat slowly because there was neither sufficient time nor staff to do the planning necessary for a large-scale effort. Henry Rowen, former assistant director of the Bureau of the Budget, was slated to join the Institute as "director of studies," but instead accepted an unexpected appointment as president of the RAND Corporation.
And the three other Faculty planners (Adam Yarmolinsky '43, professor of Law and chairman of the Fellowship committee; Dean Price; and Ernest R. May, professor of History and chairman of the student activities committee) were occupied primarily with other Institute business. In addition, the Institute lost the permanent services last spring of Carl Kaysen, who left Harvard to become the director of the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, Kaysen had been associate dean of the old G.S.P.A., an aide to President Kennedy, and a key planner of the Institute after it was conceived in late 1963.
Next fall, however, the Faculty study groups will be given higher priority when a director of studies takes office. If Henry Fairlie is correct, and no one in the Institute has openly denied it, Francis Bator, a former professor of Economics at M.I.T. and national security aide to President Johnson, will assume the post.
Bator, if the rumors are correct, will be in charge of administering and coordinating the program, which, in Neustadt's words, "is probably the most important thing we're doing." These groups, ideally, will involve the Fellows, bring visitors to the Institute for short periods of time, and may even furnish the topics for the undergraduate seminars.
The basic aim of the study groups, in Neustadt's and Price's eyes, was to attain one of the goals of the old G.S.P.A. which had been unfulfilled because of insufficient financing. That was to serve as the source of independent public policy research. This aspect of the Institute, Neustadt explains, will fit "the focus of the Kennedy School in that it will serve as a hinge between the academic disciplines and professional schools."
The various study groups, whose members will be drawn from all the Faculties in the University, but generally from professors already affiliated with the Institute as members or associates, will consider "operational questions of public policy that are on the fringe of several academic disciplines."
The overall purpose of the study groups will be, as Neustadt says, "to render educational assistance on problems from nine months to nine years away to public services." Neustadt emphasized, however, that the Institute would not accept any government contract work, and would take on problems in the study groups that interested its members. In other words, the Institute would avoid the position of acting at the government's behest.
This does not mean that the Institute's research functions will be carried out in a vacuum. Neustadt explains that the concerns of the study groups will, in all cases, "have prospective, but definitely not immediate relevance for policy-makers." But, he adds, all their activities will be exempt from any sort of outside pressure, although Neustadt feels that the members of the individual groups may wish to invite government officials to their meetings to discuss particular issues.
At present, there area few pilot studies, one on East-West European relations, another on the impact of bureaucratic politics on policy-making, another on the relation of economic equilibrium theory to government operations, and a recently-initiated one on the impact of altering the Selective Service laws.
Most of them are conducted in informal, periodic dinner meetings. It is hard at this point, Neustadt feels, to predict what shape the groups' results will take. But Dean Price feels that the groups may have a function analagous to the seminars held by the Council on Foreign Relations in that they could stimulate one of their participants to write a scholarly work on a problem raised and discussed by the groups.
It is unlikely that the Institute's independence of the government, and its refusal to give credit course in either the Faculty of Arts and Sciences or the Kennedy School, will dispel many of its critics. For many, the idea of the Institute serving, in Neustadt's words, "as the research arm of the Kennedy School," will be repugnant. It will evoke cries that intellectuals are compromising themselves by maintaining contacts with government officials and concerning themselves with the constraints that operate on policy-makers.
To the Institute, however, this seems to avoid a central issue. A substantial portion of the Harvard community simply desires to confront policy-oriented problems. Many feel that the intellectual challenge of confronting issues in this realm is every bit as stimulating as devoting time to pure scholarship. Besides, there are few, if any, members of the Institute who plan to divorce themselves from pure scholarship--they merely want to vary their activities to achieve the maximum intellectual satisfaction.
The most engaging feature of the Institute, as far as its top officials are concerned, is the opportunity and support it will give--for really the first time--to members of the Harvard community who wish to deal in a fairly formalized way with pressing future problems of policy, while remaining at Harvard.
Neustadt tells a story in this vein. Last summer two members of the Economics Department were investigating the problem that would arise when the cost of living rose in 1967 with relation to the maintenance of the now-defunct guideposts. It wasn't really a long-range problem like ones the Institute wants to confront. But the point of the story, which Neustadt tells with great relish, is "that Washington--a couple of Cabinet officials, a White House aide, and a leading government economist--came to us. Harvard didn't have to go running to them." He adds, with a smile, "That's the way we like it.