President Drew Faust discusses Allston expansion, the new Harvard calendar, and the College’s finanicial state with undergraduates in Emerson Hall.
University President Drew G. Faust addressed a crowd of inquisitive students at last night’s Undergraduate Council meeting, fielding questions on subjects ranging from the University’s response to the current financial crisis to the Reserve Officer Training Corps’ absence from campus.
“I thought she was really open with the students,” said Andrea R. Flores ’10, who officially assumed the position of UC president at yesterday’s meeting.
In her initial remarks, Faust discussed Harvard’s future, citing her optimism about recently inaugurated president Barack Obama as well as the sobering reality of the global economic downturn.
Faust spoke warmly of the sense of “hope” surrounding Obama, describing it as a “kind of contagion” and stating that his leadership would inspire the University to better career counseling for those wishing to pursue public service.
“A whole array of Harvard alums and faculty are working in Washington right now to use their knowledge garnered at Harvard to make a difference,” Faust said, noting the University’s involvement with the new administration.
Turning her attention to a recent financial crisis that has brought unprecedented losses to Harvard’s endowment, Faust affirmed the University’s commitment to its financial aid program—a pledge that she has made on multiple occasions in the past few months.
When two students raised concerns about possible lay-offs of Harvard employees, Faust—who wrote in a November letter to the University that “changing financial realities will require us to look carefully at compensation costs”—emphasized that 50 percent of Harvard’s budget goes to cover payroll costs.
“We are trying to figure out all the ways we can adjust to our current economic climate,” she said. “Scrutiny of our budget and how we spend money is imperative.”
One freshman representative questioned Faust about future changes in Harvard’s ROTC policy in light of Obama’s stance against the “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy that currently bars openly gay individuals from serving in the armed forces. Harvard currently does not allow its ROTC students to conduct training exercises on campus.
“To get official recognition, a group cannot have any exclusionary rules,” Faust said, indicating that Harvard’s policy would remain. “I look forward to the day when we can change our position on ROTC on campus,” she said.
The implementation of a recent report of the Faust-chartered University-wide Task Force on the Arts was also discussed in light of the current financial crisis. Faust indicated that only certain parts of the report would go forward at present.
Following Faust’s remarks, Flores and Kia J. McLeod ’10, incoming vice president, recited an oath of office as they assumed leadership of the UC. Outgoing president Matthew L. Sundquist ’09 passed along a gavel to Flores, which she used to call the first meeting of her presidency to order.
Although Flores and McLeod now assume official responsibility for the UC, Sundquist and Randall S. Sarafa ’09 will still have a presence on the Council, presenting a soon-to-be released report evaluating the UC’s effectiveness. Sundquist will continue to sit on a committee addressing Ad Board reform.
“I don’t think I’ll ride off into the sunset just yet,” he said.
—Staff writer Brittany M. Llewellyn can be reached at email@example.com. —Staff writer Eric P. Newcomer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.