Soka Uses Harvard Ties to Advantage
Hayden Criticizes California School
California State Senator Tom Hayden (D-L.A.) said during a recent visit to Harvard that a university in the Santa Monica Mountains of his state has been dramatically over-publicizing an affiliation with Harvard to gain a prestigious reputation.
Hayden claims that Soka University in Los Angeles is taking advantage of its Pacific Basin Research Center, a grant program funded by Soka and directed by John D. Montgomery, Ford Foundation professor of international studies emeritus at the Kennedy School of Government, to gain support for a large-scale expansion.
Soka, an offshoot of a Japanese university of the same name, currently enrolls about 200 students in mostly Japanese language instruction courses, but plans to expand its campus to enroll several thousand students in the future, according to university officials.
Hayden claimed that the use of the Harvard name in associated with the grant program by many of Soka's publications and presentations has helped Soka's image. He said he believes this tactic will help Soka win support when its plan for expansion comes before the L.A. County Regional Planning Commission.
Soka officials, however, categorically denied all of Hayden's charges.
"Tom Hayden has made a virtual cottage industry out of attacking Soka," said Jeff Ourvan, a spokesperson for the university. "Soka does not use Harvard's logo, it does not refer to itself as an `affiliate' of Harvard, and in fact rarely publicizes the Pacific Basin Research Center."
Montgomery agreed that Soka has done nothing wrong, saying that he would immediately withdraw from the program if he witnessed "anything inappropriate or distasteful." Montgomery said that Soka is supporting important post-doctoral fellowships.
"I've looked at nearly everything they've written, and none of it is misleading or inappropriate," he said.
Montgomery suggested that Hayden may have political motives for his claims. "He will definitely make a few points with his constituency if people believe what he is saying," Montgomery said.
Many environmentalists and homeowners don't want a large university in the Santa Monica mountains, and Montgomery suggested that Hayden is well aware of this.
"It's a political ploy," he said. "I sure hope the senator doesn't get away with it."
Although his claims are thoroughly derided by both Soka and by Montgomery, Hayden insisted that the prestige associated with Harvard is being misused.
"Soka is buying respectability and using Harvard's logo," Hayden said. "Harvard is being used to develop a big campus in the Santa Monica mountains and we don't want it."
Hayden said the site is vulnerable to fires like those that have recently swept southern California. Environmentalists are hoping the site will be used as a visitor center for the wilderness lands that surround it.