The first rule of Harvard politics has six words: Every tub on its own bottom. ("Tub" refers to each of Harvard's nine schools. This system dictates that each school manages its own affairs, giving deans both ultimate power and responsibility.)
A goal of Rudenstine's administration since it began in 1991 has been to weaken the rugged-individual school paradigm. But Rudenstine did so delicately, proposing to transform Harvard's decentralized environment-not to something more centralized-but to a more coordinated, cooperative system, capitalizing on the magical buzzword of the '90s: Synergy.
In the coming year, some of Rudenstine's major objectives-finishing the capital campaign and instituting Project ADAPT-will continue to challenge this delicate approach, encouraging cooperation without undermining autonomy.
Gathering financial and administrative information in Harvard's decentralized environment is like moving bathwater from tub to tub with a spoon. Project ADAPT hopes to invent the pipe.
Project ADAPT will bring new software to offices across the University to manage and coordinate purchasing, pay roll, grant management, benefits, accounts payable and receivable and hiring, systems the University last changed during the Eisenhower administration and that are vastly different from school to school.
"It's a not a project run out of [the ADAPT office], it's a project for the whole University," said Vice President for Finance Elizabeth C. "Beppie" Huidekoper.
There's only one catch: Harvard's nine schools will have to play by the same set of accounting and collection rules, and nobody can take their bat and ball and just go home.
Huidekoper gives a small now-and-then example. Now a department at Harvard can buy a $500,000 computer and report the entire expense, which could, for instance, offset a budget surplus. After the new systems are in place, all of Harvard's tubs will use generally accepted accounting practices. With the computer, the department would then be required to spread its cost out over the years it will be used.
For some, ADAPT threatens to do more than "coordinate" Harvard's schools. It will force them to stand by their numbers, not massage them for convenience.
Sources said Harvard's schools have also been surprised and sometimes upset about the resources they've had to invest in the project. The $50 million budgeted for it pays mainly for the project's central expenses, not local-level implementation.
And the project has experienced setbacks. Most recently, the project director-overwhelmed by the task, sources said-resigned. The project was reorganized this summer, carving a greater role for Huidekoper and Ann H. Margulies, assistant provost for information technology.
"[The previous director] thought it was undoable, and it probably was under the previous structure, but it's set up right now," Huidekoper said.
This year officials will continue to design the new databases, chart of accounts and general ledger that will form the backbone of the project.
"I think we need to focus on ADAPT and not get ourselves spread to thin next year," said Sally H. Zeckhauser, vice president for administration.
On the weekend of October 24th, Harvard will welcome nearly 300 members of the University Resources Committee, some of Harvard's biggest donors, and other important capital campaign leadership to campus.
With two years left in Harvard's five-year campaign, Rudenstine, who will deliver the keynote address, hopes to rally his troops, encouraging them to push through to the campaign's completion in the spring of 1999.
Until then, Rudenstine will continue to focus much of his attention on raising the remaining $525 million needed to meet the Campaign goal.
Fundraising for libraries and faculty chairs-two areas that have lagged-will receive particular focus this year. Though the central administration fund-unrestricted moneys for the President and support for the inter-faculty initiatives-also lags, the administration has decided not to spotlight this area for fear it will detract from the individual schools' efforts, said Thomas M. Reardon, vice president for alumni affairs and development.
Officials herald the campaign has as an example of inter-faculty collaboration that works both for the University and the schools. For instance, preparation for the campaign began in the early '90s academic planning process, when deans reviewed their goals and wish lists with Rudenstine, their fellow deans and other senior University leadership.
As it winds down, the administration hopes to find mechanisms to maintain this esprit de corps. In particular, the President and deans will discuss how to continue academic planning-and the cooperation and accountability it fosters-after the campaign has ended.
Rudenstine will also make more efforts this year to involve the schools in the running of the center and the center in the running of the schools.
Sources said Rudenstine will form a University-wide Physical Planning Committee to review construction proposals across the University with an eye toward mediating community disputes and appropriating land use among Harvard's nine schools as parcels grow ever more scarce.
Officers from the central administration will also begin meeting regularly with the administrative deans from each school, a committee which compliments the regular meetings between the president, provost and deans.
As Rudenstine's vision has come to fruition and the center has become stronger, a give-and-take relationship has developed between the central administration and the schools.
Harvard's deans, the lords of their domains, have gained from the possibilities of shared accounting resources and procedures, and their endowments have soared with the excitement generated by the first ever University-wide fundraising campaign.
But their gains have come at a price, and that price may be the thing they value most: individual freedom and authority.