The word that has gone out from the lords of the Corporation and Business Office is that Harvard is going to have difficulty meeting operating expenses. In face of rising costs, House rents and food charges have been upped and still there is no ceiling in sight. Almost at the exact time that the University and the nation were sweating through the June inflation scare, the Treasurer of the University made public the gifts and endowments which were to give Harvard its annual infusion of new financial strength. But an analysis of these endowments raises the question of whether these gifts, generous as they are, will tide the University over the immediate emergencies of the next few years-whether Harvard had better look the gift horse in the face, lest the pretty toys pile up and the petted child starve.
Of the five and a half millions donated the University, only one million dollars were allotted without limitations as to how the funds were to be used. The overwhelming balance of the funds was donated to Harvard from bequests and grants which attached to the endowments definite instructions that the money was to be used for a specific purpose within a single department, or within two related departments of the University. The greatest individual needs of any University, general salaries for the academic staff, maintenance funds for the physical plant, and new scholarship grants for the undergraduate body, were all relegated far to the background while research and new building were granted great subsidies. Less than one-fifth of the total amount is to be devoted to needs of units as large as the College or Medical School, less than one-fifth will go toward raising the level of salaries, maintenance and scholarships generally, while four-fifths single out favorite departments, or sub-departments for large research or maintenance gifts.
While there can be little argument with subsidized research, it is obvious that further endowment on the 1945-46 pattern will only give credence to the "research-laboratory" label that is tacked to the name Harvard too frequently. At best, this situation is endowments can cause a tremendously lopsided University, with faculty and student talent naturally funnelling off either into other colleges where their specialties are not given orphan-child treatment. At its worst, a hit-and-miss endowment policy can neglect faculty salaries (which, at certain levels, Harvard can scarcely neglect much longer) and other immediate needs until the wealthiest University in the world is forced to forsake its leadership in certain areas for lack of faculty and facilities.
The whole question revolves about whether it is possible to have an "endowment policy". Is it possible to guide donors into bequests and gifts that will coincide more closely with current needs? If it is true that 'Harvard can get money for the things it needs when it needs them," a feeling shared by high-ranking members of the faculty, then the onus drops back into the lap of the administration. If, as is claimed by members of the Business Staff, there is very little control over whatever money that is donated, then all the faculty and poor boys can do is pray-or go to work on the affluent alumni so that future endowments will not be left to whim and fancy. While the Administration is fully aware that this whole business of gifts, wills, etc., is highly delicate and personalized matter, it should be aware that there is a middle ground to be followed.
If operating expenses are pressing, the alumni should be fully informed of the situation, as well as the need for an undergraduate library and research funds. If instructors' salaries are not what they should be perhaps a donor can be sought out who is willing to put his trust in the future of the faculty, as well as that of the library and the science laboratories. pursuing and accepting endowments is a nasty business for any college, but if it is done for certain phases of academic activity, it must be done for all. Certainly those who are so devoted to Harvard that they would invest in its future should be advised to invest where the need is greatest and the investment most useful.