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Harvard and the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library: Chance for Great Achievement Through Cooperation

By Donald E. Graham

Four years from now the John F. Kennedy Memorial Library will sit on the banks of the Charles across the street from Eliot House. Hundreds of thousands, possibly millions of visitors will pour through it during its first year. It will change the map of Cambridge drastically and it may also change the complexion of academic Harvard. For half of the $20 million raised from the public for the memorial will be given to the University on the endowment for the John F. Kennedy institute of Politics.

The Library's effects, either for good or ill, on both the Harvard square area and the University's curriculum will be enormous. The Library and Institute may constitute the most valuable development at Harvard is this century, or they may seem ten years from now to have been the greatest mistake the University over made.


The City of Cambridge will obviously undergo substantial changes because of the Library. The planning of parking, access, and facilities for the floods of visitors has already led the MBTA to consider re-routing its Harvard-Ashmont line. In the meantime, land values in the library area have jumped by more than 100 per cent.

But ultimately, the Library's greatest impact may prove to be on the daily life of Harvard Square. Though this plan have not yet been made public, architect I.M. Pei has said that he is considering placing University buildings, low-rent offices for student organizations, and stores run any local merchants on the site.

Pei decided long ago that in addition to the buildings housing the literary and its components, other structures would have to go up on the 2-acre site. The library complex will include an area set aside as a memorial to President Kennedy, a building containing the archives of his administration, a museum, and a building to house the Institute of Politics. But the five, presently used for a repair yard by the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, is a large one, and Pie decided early that he did not want to have large expanses of grass of parkland. The Library was to being urban memorial, he said. He suggested that "support facilities"--commercial buildings for the use of visitors and members of the University community--be built on the site.

Obviously the planning of these support facilities is crucial not only to a program for the library, but to the sure of the Harvard Square area. In the facilities include only tourist services and no buildings connected such the University, the entire 12- Harvard plot would be isolated from Harvard, no more a part of the University community than the streetcar tracks ready there.

The positive possibilities are suggested by one plan that would build commercial facilities along Eliot Street, bridging the Harvard Square- little Square area and the memorial complex. Such facilities might include ground-floor businesses opening both onto Eliot Street and the memorial area, with upper stories being available for rental to student organizations or businesses. It is, of course, possible that the businesses selected to occupy the commercial buildings under such a plan would attract no students whatever, and that the area would remain tourists' property. But suppose that Eliot Street, as accessible to the Houses as the present Harvard Square area, were lined with attracted restaurants and sidewalk cafes, off-beat clothing stores, book stores, art supply stores, and offices for student organizations presently cramped in tiny quarters in a University building on Dunster Street. Even groups like the Advocate who presently own their own quarters but have difficulty in keeping them up, might be interested in low-rent offices on the Library site.

If the area were somehow filled with the right mixture of buildings -- and even the selection of the individual businesses would be a problem -- the commercial center of Harvard life might shift in that direction, and student activity, too, moves there.

In other words, it is as if Harvard had the chance to design a new Harvard Square, or to expand the present one drastically.

If it is decided to try to integrate student life into the memorial complex, Harvard must then decide to what extent it wants to make use of the new space for its own purposes. Should it build classrooms, Faculty offices, a Student Union? What should the Institute building include? Would it, for instance, be valuable to build a lecture hall larger than 1200-seat Sanders Theatre, presently the University's largest?

It is easy to see how the library complex can emerge as an area to all intents and purposes dead to Harvard. Less concretely, one can imagine an area that greatly -- and beneficially -- changes the nature of the Square and of the University. But this last will not happen accidentally; if the University decides to make such use of the land, it must virtually look over Pei's shoulder while he does his planning.


The John F. Kennedy Institute of Politics was originally intended to bring scholars and politicians into closer contact, on the assumption that other office-holders can use academics as profitably as Kennedy did during his political career.

As Richard E. Neustadt, the Institute's director, has planned it, a regular flow of politicians will visit Cambridge to study, or to write, or simply to meet professors and students. Some of the politicians will be men who have retired from public careers, lost elections, or found themselves between jobs. Others will be young men on the verge of a political career.

They will meet professors who want to use the Institute to further their studies of government, and studies who are interested in politics. The institute's programs for undergraduates tentatively include a debating "union" similar to those at Oxford and Cambridge; a series of seminars on political topics led by institute visitors; summer jobs in political offices campaigns; and formal and informal appearances by the Institute's visiting politicians. Neustadt emphasizes, however, that all these programs are experimental and may changes once the Institute formally gets underway this fall.

Though its programs are not yet definite, the Institute has already exercised some influence on Harvard that may lead to enormous changes.

It is probably not a coincidence that in the year before the Institute's creation two former Kennedy administration officials -- Adam Yarmolinsky and Daniel Patrick Moynihan--have joined Neustadt, a former White House staffer, on the Harvard Faculty. Both are expected to serve as senior associates of the Institute. And their arrival suggests that other men leaving the government may decide to come to Harvard, where the Institute is certain to keep politics in the atmosphere.

An effect more difficult to define will be the Institute's impact on its specific target, relations between politicians and scholars. Events in the two years since plans for the Institute were first announced have made it clear that these plans came at an especially fortuitous time. For since that time the scholars and politicians whom the Institute seeks to bring together have been threatening to fly apart entirely. The university community has been heard in public debate, and it has made it clear that it is dissatisfied with the performance of the government. Washington, in turn, has evinced little enthusiasm for the academics' appearance as public figures. At a teach-in at Harvard last summer a speaker, Professor Staughton Lynd of Yale, suggested that the President was insane and was vigorously applauded. Meanwhile, in a capital once overrun with professors, academic credentials seem now to be treated more as a disease than as a qualification for public employment.

Nor does there appear to be much chance that, whatever others may hope, college students and professors will leave the world of active politics and return to their ivory towers. "In much of Washington, I should judge, this university involvement is regarded, perhaps rather hopefully, as a passing phase," John Kenneth Galbraith told a commencement audience at the University of Michigan last month. Galbraith himself took a different viewpoint: "Universities and colleges will be an increasingly powerful force in our public life. The question is not one of neutrality, but how they will participate."

Galbraith pointed to the increasing size of universities -- by 1970, 6,700,000 students will be taught by 480,000 teachers -- and said he thought it impossible for so large a group to exercise no power. He suggested that universities will continue to be principally concerned with foreign policy, and that the effect of this will be "altogether healthy."

At almost the same time Galbraith spoke, Walter Lippman '10 was making some of the same points in a speech in California. Modern man, he said, has been emancipated from traditional authority and is now looking for some reservoir of wisdom and truth from which he can draw. Lippman suggested that the universities will ultimately take on this role, even in areas of public policy.

Thus, from quite different points of view, both men suggested that the political role of universities will be greatly enlarged. But an expansion of the present role of scholars in politics might not have altogether happy consequences for the American political system. Much of the energy professors and students have poured into politics in the last few years has been carefully kept out of the system. Many of them think it is a bad system and almost all agree that the traditional methods of working within it--fighting at the polls and lobbying with legislators and policy-makers -- are to unproductive and too difficult.

Galbraith argued in the same speech that not all academics have learned how to serve the political ideas they have adopted:

To the goals that he advocates, the good scholar or the good pupil gives the closest attention. He rises in holy anger if you tell him, however tactfully, that he doesn't know what he is about. And usually, in fact, he does. He has given his objectives a lot of thought. But then he signs a petition, grabs a sign, or joins a delegation without giving a moment's consideration as to whether this is an effective way of advancing his goals.

"To identify one's self dramatically with an idea is not to serve it," Galbraith argued. And how should scholars promote their ideas? Many would argue that the system is unhealthy and must be circumvented. Perhaps it will be one goal of the Kennedy Institute to provide means for those scholars who want their ideas to be heard in the government. The urgency of the present student protests suggests that if academics continue to experience frustration at the hands of the government they may become a disruptive political influence -- one that feels it has no place in the society, one that works apart from other groups, one that works apart from other groups, one that works through methods of disturbance. Perhaps a lesson of the past few years is that social groups will turn to these means if they feel they have no other way of making their opinions felt. The Kennedy Institute may find itself able to suggest ways of working through the normal political process to scholars and students. And this is just one of a number of possibilities a visionary might see for the Institute. Certainly it will aid academics in the study of politics. Perhaps it will offer some service to elective politicians, a group not now well served by society.

Roles Not Defined

Neither the role of the Institute nor that of the Library as a whole has yet been well defined. To explore the limits of both will take more than careful work by a few men; it will take the active co-operation and support of the University. That means, among other things, money. And when this issue is raised, a University president must evaluate the need of a program and compare it with other needs that press upon him university has so many needs that may tend to slight all of them to some extent. But some programs are more important than others are and they serve a disproportionate share of the university's resources. The Kennedy Library may well be the chief last mark of President's Pusey's years in Harvard. It is a program that may revolutionize much of the University as fully as the House system revolutionized the college. If its potential fulfilled, it will be a program work of all the support Harvard can get it

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