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Whose Worry?


The most disturbing development as last week's Faculty of Arts and Sciences discussion on federal aid to the University was an off-hand comment by one professor as he left the meeting. "I'm glad I am in the social sciences where we don't have to worry about all this federal aid," he remarked half seriously. "We don't get any money from the government." Technically, he is wrong of course: of the government's money, the average social scientist gets $20,000, to the scientist's $40,000 and the humanist's $10,000.

What he was getting at, apparently, is that federal aid is essentially the worry of the scientists around Harvard, who live on the dole. The fact that the leading participants in the Faculty's discussion last week were in the natural or medical sciences is further indication that most professors don't see federal aid as a University-wide concern.

However the object of the game, when playing with federal aid, is to get the government to grant funds for general use, instead of specific research projects, and Harvard is seeking more and more to do so. This means that federal aid will affect all of the University, not just the sciences. It will become everybody's problem.

There are other related reasons for Faculty members in all Departments to be deeply conscious of federal aid's increasing influence on the University. For example, the Faculty is now wondering whether the time has come when appointments without limit of time can be financed by federal aid. This is a significant step and one that several professors in the sciences have objected to, because of the unpredictability of Congressional appropriations, possible thought control by federal influence (intentional or inadvertent), and fear of emphasizing research over teaching. Faculty members outside of the sciences have had little to say about the matter.

Indirect costs incurred in accepting federal contracts and grants have also presented a serious problem to the whole University. Hidden expenses of overhead, office help, and library facilities not covered by federal aid may well drain general University funds. Even the higher-ups in the Administration cannot agree on the extent of this problem. President Pusey and several Faculty members feel some agencies have realized the universities' plight and have granted a more realistic amount for indirect costs. The Administrative vice-President, who is responsible for federal aid to the University, has stated in sharp terms that the government has completely ignored universities on this matter.

Since the University is worried that increased tuition will put a pinch on students of moderate means there will undoubtedly be a move towards more reliance upon the federal government to subsidize undergraduate education. Such aid involves important questions of the balance of graduate to undergraduate education, teaching to research, and the natural sciences to the social sciences and the humanities. The trend is hardly the exclusive concern of the natural scientists.

Further, the inevitable threat of control by the government touches all departments. Administration officials, for instance, have not gained full assurance that no controls will follow the construction of the McKay Laboraotry, financed completely by government funds. Federal agencies have imposed restrictions on government-built projects before (witness the District of Columbia Stadium and Secretary Udall's order that teams playing in it must integrate); and the Faculty must demand a more cautious attitude from the University.

In short, the trend of the times is towards federal aid to all parts of the University; and the problems involved are now known only to the scientists.

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