Harvard Steps up Its Lobbying Efforts to Combat Federal Cuts

For the last six months, Harvard has been the outsider inside the Beltway.

Since the Republican sweep of both houses of Congress November 8, Harvard has seen its relative influence in Washington, D.C. decline.

The University, according to many Washington observers, was associated with the policies of the Democratic Party, a party which many said was decisively repudiated in last year's midterm elections.

And thus Harvard has taken a beating from the right-wing, the media and the political pundits in the nation's capital.

"Harvard is absolutely out-of-touch," said Herb B. Berkowitz, vice president of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think-tank, "They're out-of-touch with ordinary people who get up in the morning at 5 a.m. and work long hours in order to put food on the table. Harvard is an elitist institution."

The University was so ostracized after last years' election, Newsweek magazine even said that in the nation's capital, Harvard is "out," and House Speaker Newt Gingrich's West Georgia College is "in."

And the Republicans were quick to express their displeasure with things associated with Harvard by deciding in the weeks following their dramatic victor to skip the Kennedy school's traditional bi-annual orientation program for new members of Congress.

After spurning the Kennedy School, the Republicans turned their attention to pass a balanced budget in the first 100 days of the new congress, a measure which contains plans to cut drastically federal student financial aid and federal grants for civilian scientific research--money which Harvard and other Massachusetts universities desperately rely on.

In response to the Republican's Contract with America, specifically its proposals to cut federal money to the University, Harvard has in recent months stepped up its lobbying efforts in the nation's capital.

"This is the most critical moment in federal funding of higher education since the Second World War," said Harvard President Neil L. Rudenstine.

But with the current mind-set of many Republicans in Washington, the University's efforts could be in vain and many say that Harvard will have to get used to its declining influence inside the Beltway.

And for the University that means policy advice will probably be coming from places like Berkowitz's Heritage Foundation and that student-related fiscal issues will be at the top of discretionary money cut from the federal budget.

"Academia in the 104th Congress has lost much of its traditional influence and that is to be expected from the Change in the House leadership," said John Keast, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Roger Wicker (R-Miss), the president of the first-term Republican caucus.

Bypassing the Kennedy School

After the majority of the 73 newly-elected Republican representatives decided to attend the Heritage Foundation's orientation for congressional newcomers in Baltimore in December, officials at the Kennedy School canceled last year's session of the biennial orientation program for the first time since 1972.