Long-time consumer advocate Ralph Nader has turned his attention to Harvard's power structure, announcing yesterday the formation of Harvard Watch, a non-profit organization to monitor the administration of the University.
"Universities are too valuable to become adjuncts to the Fortune 500," said Nader, who said he is funding the Harvard Watch project to encourage the free "flow of information" and "heathy discussion" of governing policy within the Harvard community.
The Center for the Study of Responsive Law, a Nader group, will finance the project's efforts to examine the University's administrative structure, said Robert Weissman '88-'89, who has taken this year off to head the Watch.
Weissman, who will be told by Nader what to research, said he is presently the only person at Harvard to be involved in the group.
In interviews yesterday Nader and Weissman said that Harvard Watch plans to publicize a wide range of issues relating to the process of decision-making at Harvard.
The project will be "looking at the governing structure of the University, looking at the proposed student faculty commission on discipline, looking at agreements Harvard has reached with corporations, and also looking at individual professors' relations to the private sector," said social studies concentrator Weissman.
President Derek C. Bok and Vice President for Government and Public affairs John Shattuck were out of town yesterday and unavailable for comment. Associate Dean for Finance Candace R. Corvey and Director of the News Office Peter Costa did not return repeated calls. Vice President and General Counsel Daniel Steiner '54 declined comment about Harvard Watch.
Method of Governance
Nader was critical not only of University policy but also of what he called Harvard's "authoritarian" method of governance.
"Here is the alleged fountainhead of enlightenment, and it runs its shop in an authoritarian way, and not without a bit of arrogance towards the rest of the Harvard community," he said.
Said Weissman, "When [Eaton Professor of the Science of Government Samuel P.] Huntington introduced [Philippine President Corazon C.] Aquino a few weeks ago he refered to the Corporation as 'our politburo.' We think this is a very accurate assessment."
"[The Corporation] is seven white men who meet in secret, don't publish their notes, are purposefully anonymous, yet who own all of Harvard's property and make final decisions which affect the whole Harvardcommunity without any community input," saidWeissman.
Weissman is currently researching the powerstructures of other American and foreignuniversities in an attempt to show that there areadministrations where students play a role in thedecion-making process, he said.
"Students should have more that a nominalrepresentation on [Harvard's] governing body, andfaculty should also," Nader said.
By publicizing the methods and decisions of theUniversity, Weissman and Nader said they hope tofoster discussion at Harvard and ultimatelypromote change within the University.
"By myself I can exert at best only minimalpressure, but I want to get the students and thecommunity at large involved in considering theseissues. That can have an influence," Weissmansaid.
Wait and Watch
Administrators know that students are very busyand are only here for a few years, Nader said."The administration knows how to wait students outand can do it," Nader said, adding "Harvard Watchwill wait them out."
Plans for Watch activities include "issuingreports, writing and publishing articles, holdingcommunity meetings on issues facing theUniversity" and pursuing an "activist role [inwhich] I will try to democratize the University towhatever extent I am able," Weissman said.
"What is at issue is students' right to know,"said Nader, outlining several issues that HarvardWatch will examine in the coming months.
"Harvard has to put on public record itsprofessors' moonlighting actions," said Nader,emphasizing corporate sponsorship of Harvardprofessors as a major threat to academic freedom.
"There are three independent sources ofinformation in our society: government, industry,and universities," said Nader. "If the latter twoget together we will lose that independence."
Nader acknowledged universities' dependence onprivate donations for a research funds but saidthat "We don't need strings attached."
Athough Bok has expressed concern recentlyabout the growing relationship between Harvard andcorporate America, Nader was critical of thepresident's conduct in other areas.
"Bok is not accessible enough to alumni withcomplaints" nor to students, said Nader. Thepresident is primarily "accessible to affluentalumni," he said.
Nader also said Harvard Watch will monitor theUniversity's diciplinary process. The steeringcommittee of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences iscurrently discussing a proposal to establish astudent-faculty disciplinary body that wouldreview cases stemming from political protest.
"The disciplinary system is controledcompletely by the faculty with students playingonly an advisory role," said Weissman.
"Political infractions and other dicipliaryinfractions are now treated differently, theeffect of which is to stifle political activism,"he said.
"The people who populate theUniversity--students, faculty, workers and, ofcourse, the administration--all have a right tohelp determine the policies of the University," hesaid.
"We don't expect the Corporation to bedisbanded in the next year but that is thedirection that we need to be moving in," Weissmansaid