Constitutionally, State Has A Soft Spot for Harvard
As the success of Harvard's current fundraising campaign proves, the college's alumni are extremely loyal. This tradition of support was already thriving 200 years ago. So when Massachusetts' founding fathers organized the new state's government in 1780, a Harvard man made sure his alma mater was well treated.
When John Adams, Class of 1755, wrote the state's first constitution, he included a special chapter just to protect "the University at Cambridge."
This chapter, which still officially exists in the constitution "all the powers, authorities, rights, liberties, privileges, immunities, and franchises, which they now have." Adams must have heard about the fundraisers, too, because he used the same thoroughness in protectin" all of the money and land that the University might ever receive.
In return for this financial security. Massachusetts originally claimed a role in Harvard government, including positions on the Board of Overseers for the governor and deputy government.
However, 85 years of lobbying by alumni with pull, especially State Senator Darwin E. Ware, Class of 1852, led to a legislative act which resulted in the "complete severance in 1865 of formal ties to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." according to a recent report of the Board of Overseers.
While the "governing" relationship in the constitution was never officially changed with an amendment, there is no actual relationship now between Harvard and the state. John D Cushing, librarian for the state historical society, said last week. "That part of the constitution doesn't mean a damn thing now," he added.