Controversial political columnist George F. Will will make his conservative mark on campus next year as a visiting lecturer in the government department.
Will has accepted the position and will teach a course about political philosophy with Kenan Professor of Government Harvey C. Mansfield '53 and Professor of Government Michael J. Sandel, faculty members confirmed yesterday.
"He's a very intelligent person," Mansfield said last night. "He has a lot of knowledge that professors don't have and will bring something very special to the classroom."
Will, who earned a Ph.D. in political philosophy at Princeton and has taught at both Michigan State University and the University of Toronto, will join Mansfield and Sandel in teaching a course called "Liberalism and Conservation in American Politics" to be offered next fall.
The course will be a study in political thought, focusing on such thinkers as James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, John C. Calhoun and Woodrow Wilson, Mansfield said.
"As for the conversation perspective Mr. Will brings to the course, I think my friend Professor Mansfield will need all the help he can get," Sandel said in an interview yesterday. "I look forward to taking them on."
"He'll help out Professor Mansfield [who] seems to be fighting a lone battle at this point," said Derek T. Ho '96, managing editor of Perspective, Harvard's liberal monthly.
But Dillon Professor of the Civilization of France Stanley H. Hoffmann expressed doubts about how much Will could contribute to the course.
"If you add Will's name to Mansfield and Sandel it may attract more students," Hoffmann said. "But they are pretty powerful cards themselves and don't desperately need a blood transfusion from other people for two hours a week."
The Program on Constitutional Government, funded by conservative groups and run by Mansfield, issued the invitation to Will.
"I thought he would be very good," Mansfield said. "I had seen him a couple years ago at the Kennedy School Forum event when he gave a talk on term limits that went oververy well."
"He's just about the most thoughtful of thepolitical columnists," Mansfield added. "I think alot of people agree with this, whether they takethe conservative standpoint or not."
The Boston Globe reported yesterday that therehad been controversy within the governmentdepartment over the appointment. Some wereconcerned that the invitation to Will wasideologically motivated while others questionedthe columnist's 25-year hiatus from academia.
But government professors interviewed yesterdaydownplayed the reports.
"I think they overemphasized it," said MarkhamProfessor of Government Douglas Price.
"I think our department is splendid in themature way it discusses these things and reachesagreement," said Professor of Government KennethA. Shepsle.
"It was not a debate about Mr. Will's views,"Hoffmann said. "The basic question discussed aswhether it was wise to appoint someone who wouldspend just two hours a week. The rest is justjournalistic fantasy."
Students--conservative and liberalalike--praised the choice of Will as a visitingprofessor yesterday.
"I think it's welcome news," said G. BrentMcGuire '95, a former council member of thePennisula, Harvard's conservative magazine. "Itwill help to provide some sort of balance in adepartment strewn with liberals and socialists."
"I guess even though I'm a liberal I'm sort ofhappy that it happened," said Ho, who is alsopresident of the College Democrats. "I think he'sa very intelligent person and will add a lot tothe government department, especially because ofthe lack of conservative voices in thedepartment."
"He's very intelligent, albeit controversial,"Ho said. "He'll be one to incite vigorous, butinsightful and fruitful discussion. I think it'llbe a course students shouldn't miss."
Professors interviewed, however, were moredivided in their opinions of the appointment ofthe columnist.
"We should not hold it against him that hisPh.D. in political science is from Princeton,"Sandel said. "His book Statecraft asSoulcraft, based on the Godkin Lectures hedelivered at Harvard, is a small gem."
"He's written a recent book on term limits,"Price said. "I think it's a bad book and a badidea, but he's written on the subject. It's notgoing that far out right field to find someone.It's too bad we don't have additional funding foranother program to provide a little variety."
But Price also said that he sees some value inmembers of the department working with Will.
"Some of us are interested in the area of massmedia and political columnists," Price said. "It'sinteresting to study as a phenomenon in itself."
Shepsle said he is personally looking forwardto working with Will.
"Just as a private personal matter, I've alwaysbeen a fan of George Will's," Shepsle said."Nominally he satisfies the criteria we usuallyrequire. For my personal enthusiasm and for thefact that he has the credentials, I thought itsounded splendid."
Valerie J. MacMillan contributed to thisreport.