KSG, Gov. Dept. Relations Still Chilly

It’s no coincidence that professors in the government department in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and faculty at the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) work in two buildings bearing the same name.

KSG’s Littauer building and the FAS’s Littauer Center are both thriving centers for the study of government at Harvard.

KSG grew out of Harvard’s old Graduate School of Public Administration, which was established through a gift from Lucius N. Littauer, Class of 1878, and was historically housed in the FAS Littauer building, which is adjacent to the current Science Center. When the school moved to JFK Street in 1978, its new building was given the same name in order to reflect the school’s shared history.

For years, the confusion regarding their buildings was the only overlap that existed between KSG and its counterpart in FAS, the Department of Government, despite the similarity in research interests at the two schools.

In the decades after KSG’s establishment, professors recall an icy standoff between FAS government faculty and the politicians and policymakers who historically taught at KSG, with heated personal rivalries all but precluding productive collaboration in teaching and research.

But the extent of the thaw in that relationship over the past decade is unclear.

While some government department faculty cite the three joint Ph.D. programs between KSG and FAS and increased research teamwork as evidence that the rivalry between the institutions is, in the words of Malkin Professor of Public Policy Robert D. Putnam, “ancient history,” the missions of the two schools remain fundamentally different.

While the government department is an academic program that seeks to train scholars, KSG is a professional school aimed at training administrators and policymakers—a philosophy that has not changed, despite KSG Dean Joseph S. Nye’s success in luring prominent career academics in many social sciences to teach at the Kennedy School.

Graduate students in FAS say relations between the government department and KSG have warmed more slowly than most professors indicate.

And the perception that KSG students lack the desire or ability to conduct top-notch scholarship has outlasted the public animosity that existed between KSG and FAS in the 1970s and early 1980s, according to some faculty members and FAS graduate students.

Current graduate students in the government department report that a general disregard for the intellectual capability of KSG masters’ students—the vast majority of the school’s enrollment—remains at FAS and continues to cause friction at the graduate level.

And while stressing that research collaboration between the faculties has increased, some FAS professors acknowledge that KSG faculty’s proclivity to appear in the press wins them few friends in FAS. The Split

KSG as it exists today moved to its JFK Street location under former University President Derek C. Bok in 1978, having previously been housed in the FAS Littauer building next to the Science Center.

In its early years, the new school required substantial amounts of money and resources that some say might otherwise have gone to fund research or new appointments in FAS.

“There was a certain amount of ill will between the Kennedy School and government because Bok had put a lot of money into the Kennedy School,” says Roderick L. MacFarquhar, chair of the government department.

Bok says he had to nurture the young KSG.