Summers Outlines His Top Priorities For Second Year

As he moves into his second year as Harvard’s 27th president, Lawrence H. Summers has no plans for a sophomore slump.

In an interview yesterday, Summers said this year will result in concrete progress on the priorities he first listed in his installation speech last October.

The process for the first major undergraduate curricular review in a quarter century will be in place “over the course of the next several months.” New financial aid programs aimed at graduate students pursuing careers in public service will be announced this fall.

And Summers said that by this spring the University will have enough information in hand to begin debate on how to develop its land in Allston.

While Summers’ outline contained few surprises, he explained how developments will build on the groundwork laid last year.

Summers said the renewal of the College as the heart of the University will continue to be a central priority.

Last year, Summers prodded the Faculty to deal with honors inflation, the need to encourage study abroad and student complaints about inflexibility of the Core.

The fruits of these piecemeal reforms will begin to be borne out this year, Summers said.

“An increase in the number of students who choose to study abroad,” Summers said, will be the ultimate “litmus test” of the Faculty’s new approach.

Last year’s discussions also provide the basis for a broader consideration of the undergraduate experience, Summers said.

“I think in a way, the priority this year is going to be on a more comprehensive and less issue-by-issue review,” Summers said.

The Faculty, Summers said, “has now formed a consensus behind the call I gave in my installation speech” for such a review.

With the key appointments of William C. Kirby as dean of the Faculty and Benedict H. Gross ’71 as dean of undergraduate education, Summers said the process is ready to begin.

Summers said that after a year spent studying financial aid at Harvard’s graduate and professional schools, the University has settled on initiatives aimed at encouraging public service.

Since the schools that turn out the most public servants draw support from less wealthy alums, they often have weak aid programs, Summers said.

On Allston, a number of committees that have been at work since spring will this winter present initial findings on scenarios for development.

Summers said that debate on which scenario to pursue will begin promptly thereafter.

“It’s a decision we want to make as quickly as possible, but to get it right,” he said.

Attracting more faculty “who will do their most important work at Harvard” and increasing inter-faculty collaboration also remain top priorities on this year’s docket, Summers said.

In addition to policy reforms, Summers will spend much of his time this year helping to raise money for capital campaigns for the law and business schools and in support of biomedical research.

During yesterday’s interview, Summers also expressed his concern for international students unable to enter the United States under more stringent visa controls adopted in the wake of Sept. 11.

Summers said that his office is working with officials around the world on the students’ behalf. And Harvard has “made a commitment...to be as flexible as possible with respect to academic deadlines,” Summers said.

Summers added that the University’s efforts have met with some success.

“There have been a number of cases that have been dislodged and I’m told people are optimistic about several others,” he said.

Staff writer David H. Gellis can be reached at gellis@fas.harvard.edu.

Staff writer Catherine E. Shoichet can be reached at shoichet@fas.harvard.edu.