The Red Line
Last spring, as a member of the Undergraduate Capital Campaign Task Force, I had the dubious privilege of being one of the first to hear Harvard’s newest fundraising pitch. I was struck by the Capital Campaign’s emphasis on the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences at the expense of the humanities or social sciences—and by its strange ideas on how to push forward “Teaching and Learning” initiatives. A year later, I am concerned that Harvard has its priorities wrong—our university continues to seek millions of dollars for “twenty-first century classrooms” while ignoring true obstacles to excellent undergraduate education.
In the past year, our university officially launched the creatively-named “Harvard Campaign,” which seeks to raise $6.5 billion across the university. Harvard has made public its intention to raise $2.5 billion for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, including $450 million earmarked directly for the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences; according to my most recent email from Dean Pfister, we’re more than halfway to that goal. The Harvard Campaign as a whole has identified several “aspirations” to which it encourages alumni to donate. These include “Meaning, Values, and Creativity,” “Integrated Knowledge,” and “Teaching and Learning.”
Brasil Timber Limited, Empresas Verdes Argentina, and Scolopax—these sound like the names of corporations you might learn about in a course on “Globalization and Agriculture.” In fact, they’re all timber plantations that Harvard University fully owns.
It’s the first day of class after spring break. First-years are still giddy about their housing assignments; sophomores and juniors have started scoping out desirable suites for this spring’s room lottery. House pride at Harvard is real and strong. But what are the limitations of the House system—and what would happen if more students were to move off-campus?
In July 1971, Harvard psychology professor Richard J. Herrnstein penned an article for Atlantic Monthly titled “I.Q.” in which he endorsed the theories of UC Berkeley psychologist Arthur Jensen, who had claimed that intelligence is almost entirely hereditary and varies by race. Herrnstein further argued that because intelligence was hereditary, social programs intended to establish a more egalitarian society were futile—he wrote that “social standing [is] based to some extent on inherited differences among people.”