September, 1954, was not a particularly important juncture in the history of Harvard University. Nor, for that matter, does June, 1958, bear any apparent epic significance for that institution. The only historical period that can be marked by these dates is that of the attendance of the Class of 1958 in Harvard College, and there is little evidence that any great effect can be traced to that circumstance.
But though these dates may be only signposts, they do include many things that did happen at Harvard, and not a few that will seem important when future Samuel Eliot Morisons take up their pens.
Prices of everything in the country have been going up, but the spectacular 56 per cent rise in tuition (it was $800 a year when '58 entered, went to $1,000 for the last two years and will rise to $1,250 next year) was as startling a leap as any. The increases were occasioned by a frantic haste to recoup for faculty salaries the comparative losses they had suffered since before the war, and in each year of '58's residence there was some sort of faculty salary increase, either direct or indirect.
The tuition increases did not pay for all these benefits, of course, and a $45 million gift from the Ford Foundation helped considerably, but it is easier to raise tuition than contributions, and it was made clear that the latest increase was not the last for the near future.
Two Types of Needs
But if tuition increases were the financial matters which touched the students most, it was clear to the Administration that they would not be sufficient to meet the long-range financial needs of the College. These needs were of two types: those caused by present overcrowding--the Houses held three persons for every two they had been built for--and those which would need to be met before the College could expand.
Expansion was a much-discussed subject in '58's sophomore year, with the Administration tacitly adopting the position that the College must take some part of the greatly increased ranks of College applicants of the next years. Some individuals, like Dean Bender, opposed this view, arguing the conflict between quality and quantity, and saying that Harvard's duty was to remain small and excellent.
Though the Administration never put any matter to a faculty vote, the President made it clear that the College would expand by fifteen to twenty per cent in the next twenty years, and said that it had been expanding at this rate for the last eighty without deteriorating. The argument ran that with more applicants, the College could take more without lowering its admissions standards.
Beginning of 'Program'
But when Bender talked of quality, he meant also matters like the Houses, the libraries, sizes of classes, and similar matters that would be injured by reckless growth. These needs were added to those caused by overcrowding (indeed in subsequent publicity a careful attempt was made to confuse them), and the College began to see what it needed in terms of buildings. The President's first public estimate was $40 million, which he announced in April of 1956.
Plans began to shape up over the summer, and by that fall the basic needs for the Program for Harvard College had been outlined. These included not only buildings and new physical facilities, but provisions for endowments of athletics and scholarships, and other requirements.
Announced in November, 1956, and detailed more fully in February, 1957, the Program for Harvard College sought $82.5 million for the College and for some needs in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In the early publicity about the drive, the President insisted that it was intended not just to raise money for Harvard, but to demonstrate the needs of all American higher education. By giving to Harvard, it was practically argued, one supports all American colleges and universities.
To End Next June
The final results of this drive obviously cannot be foretold. The massive gifts ($3-5 million) do not seem to be coming through, and the recession is clearly not helping progress, but contributions seem to be moving along steadily, and next June, when the drive is scheduled for completion, should bring a cheerful result.
Once the Administration believed that it had found the solution to the problem of costs for improvements, it turned to some basic questions of educational policy, to determine what was going to be taught within the new walls.
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