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Everybody's Business

By Robert E. Smith

Harvard has always prided itself as a leader in educational policy. New departures like tutorials and seminars continue to enliven the College curriculum, and many colleges in the country follow Harvard's example.

But everybody at the University has been willing to follow the crowd in the sadly neglected field of educational administration. "Next to hospitals, American colleges and universities are the worst administered private establishments in the land," said Jacques Barzun after trying to run Columbia's graduate school. Sure, professors at the University seem to get a lot of laughs out of administrative red-tape and the bureaucrats, but they don't seem to notice that Harvard's weird and frustrating administration may be costing the University the support of those it needs most. And this same administration will make the important moves for Harvard in the 1960's.

Not Participation . . .

This is not to say that administrative mix-ups are more important than Harvard's mission of teaching and scholarship. It is hardly sensible to suggest that an Economics professor should worry that Harvard purchased the Loeb Drama Center's ash trays at $60 apiece. Or that the same Drama Center has been little use at a University that three years ago badly needed an auditorium. Nor should an Architecture professor make it his exclusive concern that Quincy House's roof was designed to trap melting ice, or that inaptly placed columns and poor acoustics do not make Quincy's dining hall the theatre it was supposed to be, or that its House library has no room for expansion. Nor should the individual professor take too much time to worry about the administration of Student Employment. Nor should the engineer have lost sleep over the expensive lighting problem at the Leverett Towers or the unnecessary $600,000 repair job on the swampy athletic fields. Nor should anybody lose time from scholarship to find out what goes on in the Dining Hall Department.

. . . But Concern

Participation in the administration by the Faculty will not cure the University's ills, but a concern for the way the place is managed might help, a realization that education here rests to a great extent of Harvard's ability to maintain a sound institution.

The way the University now conducts its affairs demonstrates clearly that the faculty and the governing boards really care little whether Harvard's structure is as sound as its educational policy. It is, of course, not outrageous that Massachusetts' largest corporation has incredible red-tape. But for an academic community to accept Harvard's present state as inevitable is dangerous and foolish; it is like saying that the impersonality of the lecture system is a fact of life that cannot be surmounted. The University must seek to perfect its educational administration just as it seeks to perfect--or improve--its educational policy. (What good is Sophomore Standing if it is not run correctly?)

It is perhaps not fashionable to worry about the public's often silly view of an academic community. But Harvard's public happens to include alumni, foundations, the government, and even prospective applicants. And if Harvard cannot manage itself, how can the public have faith that any educational institution deserves the support it always seeks?

More important, everyone at Harvard has a stake in its administrative set-up--because the decisions that will affect the University the most in this decade are essentially administrative:

How will Harvard keep pace in the academic world if its library cannot Inspire the support of alumni and federal agencies? (And if the library goes where will we be?) How can Harvard reach the right kind of student under admissions machinery that is about to crack? Where will the already sprawling University expand its physical plant without allenating its neighbors, wrecking the neighborhood, or breaking up the University itself? Where will Harvard's money come from if rapidly increasing tuition brings an "economic elite" and if too much reliance on government funds brings "thought control"?

These decisions will be made by the men in Massachusetts Hall and University Hall. And these men will not decide wisely if, as administrators of Harvard University, they continue to be separated by an ever-widening gulf from Harvard's teachers. What communication exists, for instance, between the Administrative vice President and the Masters? What is there in common between the professor who wants to encourage student demonstrations and the dean who is responsible for undergraduate affairs, or the administrator worried about the University's relationship with the city? What coordination is there between the Admissions staff and the Faculty Committee on Admissions, the group that calls the shots? How can the man in charge of physical facilities build what the departmental chairman needs if neither person knows nor cares whether the other exists?

What Price Apathy?

If the Faculty is willing to let the bureaucracy go its way it must take the risks. One day, perhaps it will have to sacrifice research funds, protection of its academic freedom, and the privilege of working with selected students. Dean Bender in his final report hit close to home when he asked whether the faculty, by letting admissions policy drift along aimlessly, will be willing to take a salary cut to provide necessary scholarship money or to sacrifice a faculty son's chance to come to Harvard.

Not only must the faculty come to realize that its well-being depends upon Harvard's ability to administer its affairs well, but those in the administration must come to realize that this is, after all, an educational institution we are running. Administrators can easily forget that Harvard's purpose is scholarship.

There is one man within the University structure who is able to close the gulf between faculty and administration. The President deals more with external matters, not the day-to-day operation. His most important appointed officer, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, is in a position to collect the loose ends on each side of the "gulf." He must be "an extraordinarily able, energetic, and forceful leader, a lively colleague, a brilliant administrative officer, and a fine scholar-teacher," knows and respected by both faculty and administration. This sort of animal just does not exist in quantity around this university or any other. If President Pusey takes a long time to fill the position, he should be not blamed for procrastination, rather sympathized with for the difficulty of his search.

But there are risks here, too. As Acting Dean, Pusey must now become the superman, the one who will teach the University that the way it runs its organization relates to the way it teaches its students and conducts its research. This will not be easy.

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