City Planners React
To the Editors of The Crimson:
Regrettably, a number of key facts have been neglected in the recent barrage of charges and countercharges about the Department of City and Regional Planning. These facts indicate that Harvard's program ranks as one of the very best in the country.
All signs indicate that our program is thriving. The demand by employers for graduates of the program is vigorous and growing: graduates receive multiple offers; employers who hire our students one year come back again to recruit. Last year, for example, the newly elected mayor of New Orleans offered positions on his staff to ten of our graduating students.
Most of our graduates take jobs in fields that have long been at the heart of the profession: housing, transportation, community development, environment, land use, regional development. Others go into less traditional planning areas such as health planning. And a number of our graduates bring their planning skills to non-traditional jobs as policy and budget analysts and program managers. For example, four members of this year's graduating class have just been named Presidential Management Interns in a national competition to identify able young people for a "fast-track" in the federal civil service. Society clearly benefits from having well-trained professionals with strong analytic skills and sensitivity to urban problems. Our students' career choices thus strengthen the influence of the planning profession rather than dilute it.
Another sign of program health is the demand for places in our student body. While many planning schools have suffered in recent years from declining applications, our own are up by 50 per cent since 1975 and by more than 350 per cent since the early 1970's when major curricular reform began. It appears that satisfied graduates and employers have spread the word that Harvard provides high quality education.
Contrary to what some of our critics contend, the planning program is not an economic-analysis program. Our innovative curriculum is truly multi-disciplinary--representing many different approaches to urban policy problems. While faculty with graduate degrees in economics are the single largest group in the department they represent about one third of the total number. The faculty also includes men and women with training in planning, geography, law, public policy, political science, English, sociology, engineering, public administration, education, business, and social ethics. Regardless of their disciplinary background, moreover, faculty have made meaningful contributions to planning practice and scholarship.
Why then is there any question about recognition of our program by the American Planning Association? It should be noted that the APA review procedure is extremely weak: it involves, no site visit, no detailed examination of curriculum, no discussions with students or employers of graduates. This review appears to have raised two issues: whether our curriculum covers certain topics. On both issues our program definitely satisfies APA criteria. Identifying "planners" by the APA's own definition of professional qualifications, the department unquestionably satisfies the APA criterion in exactly the way many other universities do. Second, although our curriculum contains many innovative elements, it certainly includes the traditional planning topics required by the APA--as even a cursory reading of our catalogue shows.
But these specific points of contention are, in fact, technicalities. The true issue is whether universities can develop innovative curricula without being harrassed by narrow traditional interests within a profession.
The history of planning is marked by a steady expansion of the scope of the profession. At each step, that change has met intense resistance. It was not many years ago that influential voices challenged the legitimacy of social planning. But the health of the profession is seriously endangered when innovators are threatened with excommunication. It is far better to subject our ideas to the test of competition in professional practice. Gary Fauth Associate Professor Arnold M. Howitt Assistant Professor Fred Doolittle Assistant Professor Julie Wilson Assistant Professor Michael Shapiro Assistant Professor David Harrison, Jr. Associate Professor Jose A. Gomez-Ibanez Assistant Professor Helen F. Ladd Assistant Professor Howard S. Bloom Assistant Professor Jeff Manditch Prottas Assistant Professor Gordon Clark Assistant Professor Carol J. Thomas Lecturer Belden Hull Daniels Lecturer John M. Yinger Assistant Professor Avis C. Vidal Assistant Professor Don Pickrell Assistant Professor William C. Apgar, Jr. Assistant Professor William F. Lincoln Lecturer Thomas Saitonstall Lecturer