JFK, Now And Forever
THE ------- SCHOOL
NOMENCLATURE, it seems, can be something of a problem for the people who train America's leaders at the Kennedy School of Government.
Three years ago, after extended protest, the University agreed not to name the school's new library after Charles W. Engelhard, a South African financier whose heirs had donated generously to the school. The school kept the Engelhard money, but the library went un-named.
Now it appears that an informal campaign may be underfoot among administrators to rename the University's public policy school the "Harvard School of Government." Offerings in the school's course catalogue now bear the initials "HSG", and last week a professor who recently left the school to join the Reagan Administration was quoted as saying that an unidentified school official urged him to refer to the school without the Kennedy name.
In an era marked by political conservatism, administrators seem to fear that Kennedy's name--with its liberal connotations--might dissuade potential donors from giving. Given the school's tremendous success at raising more than $8 million for its new wing in just the last year or so, that logic seems less than crystalline.
But there are more compelling reasons than fund-raising efficacy for the school to maintain the Kennedy name. Tarnished as John F. Kennedy '40 may have been by revisionist historians, his name retains a certain magic for most of those who consider themselves progressive. Kennedy's association with some of the very values that until recently the K-School had conspicuously ignored--like the quest for social equality on the part of women and minorities--should serve as an ever present reminder to K-School administrators of just how far they must go before their institution can proudly uphold the Kennedy legacy of social justice.
Ironically, the apparent effort to phase out the association with Kennedy comes just when the school has taken two far-sighted steps of which Kennedy would have been proud. Aware of community dissatisfaction with the proposed site of the school's new wing, administrators sat down with local leaders and are now near an agreement that would change the expansion site to suit community needs. And two weeks ago, the school hired a part-time recruiter for women and minorities, an effort likely to improve the school's less-than-inspiring affirmative action record.
Actions like those tend to speak louder than words, and the K-School should continue its efforts to increase its responsiveness to real human needs, not potential donors' fancies. But as a first step, it should loudly reaffirm its commitment to maintaining the identification with Kennedy, in name and spirit.