University Considers Fundraising Campaign

Harvard is considering a University-wide capital campaign targeted at a number of President Lawrence H. Summers’ top priorities—including improvements to undergraduate education, programs emphasizing public service, new initiatives studying life sciences and the development of a campus in Allston.

A formal campaign is not yet a certainty and the state of the economy will have a major impact on whether to go forward, but according to Provost Steven E. Hyman, the administration has begun vetting possible campaign strategies and priorities with donors, deans and the University’s governing boards.

These groups have discussed “conceptual models” for a fundraising drive, Hyman says, and have agreed about the need for a centrally coordinated campaign aimed at a hand-picked set of objectives for the University.

And while specific objectives have yet to be decided, Hyman says, donors and University leaders have expressed support for the priorities Summers has developed since his arrival, and have indicated a willingness to work to fund them.

When asked about a campaign, Summers will only say that “the University is neither in, nor planning for a capital campaign.”

Summers has reason to be cautious. Fears abound about the effect of the poor economy on philanthropy, forcing schools at Harvard and other universities to adjust fundraising plans.

Discussions about a campaign also come only three years after the completion of the $2.6 billion University-wide campaign that stretched through most of the 1990s.

At the time of former President Neil L. Rudenstine’s retirement, administrators and faculty said that his extensive fundraising efforts meant that his successor would be able to avoid having to run a campaign early in his tenure.

Yet Summers is at least considering a campaign after little more than a year on the job.

As a result, donor fatigue is an issue, officials say. Perhaps to avoid that problem, the Corporation and donors on the Committee on University Resources (COUR) rejected a sweeping campaign in the mold of the last one in favor of the targeted approach.

Academic Plans

Summers says any fundraising he does would not detract from his ability to be a hands-on academic leader.

“I think I’ve been able to meet quite widely with the University’s alumni community over the last year while also being actively involved with many different issues on campus,” he says.

Unlike Rudenstine’s campaign, which was largely an amalgamation of the individual schools’ priorities, the campaign being considered would directly reflect Summers’ academic vision for the University.

Academic planning is gearing up at Summers’ behest in several areas that will ultimately determine the needs a campaign would address.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) is about to embark on its first curricular review in a quarter of a century. That process, Summers says, will identify new needs and will likely reaffirm the expensive expansion of the Faculty as a goal.