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Franklin Ford, Dean of Faculty


By Boisfeuillet JONES Jr.

IN CARING for the University internal affairs the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences exerts as much power as the President. The Dean has numerous and highly efficient instruments of power including financial authority over his Faculty, a voice in all permanent appointments, and control over committees and parliamentary procedure. As formulator of the Faculty budget, the Dean distributes funds among the Faculty's many units and establishes priority lists for financing projects. His freedom from the Faculty in money matters can be a potent device in the shaping of educational policy, admissions procedure, and the making of Faculty appointments.

Through the power by which he names all committees, and by ex officio chairmanship of the Committee on Educational Policy (CEP), the Dean can usually guide debate and legislation. He knows the public views of every Faculty member and obviously would not appoint his critics to form a majority on any committee. Thus all committees of importance on legislation are packed with people who agree in general with the Dean's idea on education. And he can decide whether, and when, to bring an issue before a committee or the Faculty.

The Dean has at his disposal a bureaucracy which can amass all the facts pertinent to proposals. Invariably, then, the Dean is better prepared for debate than are those who oppose his plans. He commands respect by virtue of his detailed knowledge, and closeness to day-to-day affairs.

When one so well-informed and powerful presents a program the tendency towards idle opposition slight. As one professor has put it, "I am predisposed not to kick over the traces." His remark does not mean members of the Faculty will not fight strenously when they delieve something is wrong or will effect their department adversely; it is a matter of minimizing the amount of objection-for objection's sake and of enhancing the general feeling in Faculty meetings that "The Dean wants it, why not let him have it.?"

In some ways, Franklin Ford is very conscious of his power and is wary of its overuse. By nature, he is mot one to force his views upon a reluctant party. When he brings a proposal before the fill Faculty, he prefers to limit his own comments to why discussion of the issue should be raised and of its relevance. He even resents being put on the line by someone's saying, "I would like to hear what the Dean thinks about this proposal." Ford believes any outspokeness distorts votes. "Some people who disagree with a plan will think that I have gone so far out on a limb that they had better vote with me to avoid my embarrassment, while others react to what may look like a Dean's attempt to make the Faculty's decision for it and oppose the matter."

Reform-minded Faculty members and students, who often sense Ford's sympathy with their proposals, find it frustrating that he does not force his opinions upon the committees and the Faculty more strenuously and rapidly. "Dean Ford works with the department bigwigs, instead of making them work with him," one professor has said. Ford's reply is that the Faculty is not managed as easily as the impatient reformers might expect--especially on basic issues such as grading systems of General Education.

Certainly Harvard Faculty members agree that such a large body as the Faculty (about 700 members) cannot operate with out leadership, and that it is necessary for the Dean to hold the power he does. But it is essential that the Faculty and Corporation are willing to be led; the amount of confidence which they place in the Dean's hands depends on how he uses his power. The ability to gauge correctly the Faculty's temperature and to act accordingly to the gauge is what, in addition to his purely managerial skill, determines whether the Dean will have the Faculty confidence or not. Since Dean Ford commands overwhelming respect and support from the Faculty as a whole, it is obvious that his use of power has been effective and reasonable.

IN THE PAST, the limits to the Dean's authority have depended greatly upon the personal relations between the Dean and President, and upon how much attention the President to the College's problems rather than to those of the University or the world. College-oriented presidents like Abbott Lawrence Lowell, particularly if on poor terms with an inherited dean, have tended to restrict the dean's authority. James Bryant Conant, on the other hand, after a decade as president, decided he was not so interested in the College; he virtually gave Dean Paul Buck a free hand in all University matters.

In Conant's successor, Nathan Pusey, Harvard acquired a president who by background was concerned more with undergraduate education than with speaking tours. The appointment of McGeorge Bundy as dean--a candidate apparently urged upon Pusey by the outgoing Buck--made it difficult for the new president to influence College matters. Fund drives and other external enterprises, suited primarily to presidential attention, also kept Pusey form taking a close hand in the College.

Ford, soft-spoken and mild, obviously does not rely on force of personality as did Bundy, who could often win his way in Faculty or University matters by wheeling, teasing, outwitting, and anticipating his opponents. Ford does, however, work easily with Pusey in the President's low-keyed, deliberate style, and the two men have great mutual respect. Ford thinks the President is a "courageous" man and cities a number of examples where Pusey has quietly accepted the brunt of public criticism in order to protect another party.

In any case, the two men are in constant and relaxed communication and act as a unit. With such a relationship, Pusey has allowed Ford to formulate and execute long-range educational policy.

Harvard's system for making permanent Faculty appointments provides for an evaluation of prospective faculty members by an "ad hoc" committee, selected by the Dean an composed of the Dean, the President, the chairman of the recommending Department, a Harvard scholar from a related field, and two or three scholars in that field from another insinuation.

Careful scrutiny of these recommendations is an important way in which the Dean directly affects the calibre of the Faculty. Ford generally remains in the background at the ad hoc committee meetings, but he appoints the committee in the first place and therefore wields considerable influence. He must assure that there is an independent judgment not colored by departmental politics, professional jealously, or ideological differences.

In reviewing appointments, Ford must also bear the responsibility of balancing research with teaching. Faculty men have a predilection, as scholars, for research. Only a man who sympathized with this orientation could lead them. Ford's own books demonstrate a patience for technical and archival research; he has absorbed a mass of seventeenth and eighteenth century documents from Strasbourg. Paris, and Vienna in several dialects. Yet Ford, unlike other Faculty members, will not admit that scholarship is the only real criterion on which permanent appointments are based. He points out that ad hoc committees have rejected several departmental recommendations in the last couple of years specifically because the candidate had no demonstrable teaching ability.

There is no reason to belive that Ford is insincere in his insistence that teaching capacity is an important consideration. It was his idea to establish a committee to apply technology to teaching. He has promoted the use of audio-visual aids, including language tapes and visualized computer techniques, both in and outside the classroom. Visual arts courses, expository writing, composition emphasis in some music programs, and experimental General Education courses have all attracted his interest.

Changes of this nature--coupled with the increase in informal instruction through Independent studies, seminars and fourth-course pass-failing programs--might seem to indicate the Ford has radically new ides on College teaching methods. He is basically, however, a traditionalist. He believes in the value of systematic, highly organized instruction and the lecture system. Ford once described his idea of Harvard development as a process of "doing more of some things without doing less of others." This philosophy seeks to take into account a diverse student body, and it also applies to course offerings, fields of concentration, Faculty chairs, and General Education courses.

GENERAL versus specialized education constitutes a deep and long-ranging question for Ford, who as Dean works simultaneously with the problems of both the College and the Graduate School. Working through the Faculty, he has tried to define the relationship between undergraduate and graduate education.

Dean Buck's attempt at such a definition in the 1940's is best seen in the General Education Program and in its attempts to pull Faculty and Curriculum away form specialization and the graduate school to create a non-specialized college education covering the heritage of Western thought. Dean Bundy in the 1950's emphasized the Honors Program and created Sophomore Standing and Freshman Seminars--steps towards specialization.

Ford has continued both traditions. The Gen Eddebates of 1964-65 resulted in the reaffirmation of the principle of General Education to his satisfaction. At the same time the Faculty, also with Ford's support, substituted a more specialized Expository Writing course for the old composition requirement and permitted creation of more advanced courses to satisfy basic Gen Ed requirements. This liberalization of the Gen Ed rules, Ford points out, permits students with better training to take advanced Gen Ed courses, while students with weaker high school training still have more basic lower-level courses.

Through the Committee on General Education, through Harvard's research centers in the Social Sciences and through the Program for Science in Harvard College, Ford has sought to integrate undergraduate teaching with advanced Faculty research. To him, there is no basic irreconciliability between the most advanced research and teaching in the College. "Harvard's 'problem centers' have been valuable in bringing different disciplines together and then leading to undergraduate courses." The number of basic Gen Ed courses has doubled this year. But Ford is quick to add that there is a distinction between an inter-disciplinary approach and an anti-disciplinary one. "A student still needs to have discipline upon which to branch out--it is not a matter of tossing away the catalogue," he says.

STUDENT activists sometimes think Ford is either inconsistent, or simply shrewd and calculating: on the one hand, he is generally receptive to thoughtful student suggestions for educational changes; but at the same time he objects to giving students representation on committees when it would serve no purpose. "If students' ideas are relevant to a committee's studies," Ford says, "I suppose they should be invited to sit with the group and discuss the issues." But he goes no further. The Faculty, not students, hold the delegated authority of the Corporation, Food believes. During the squabbles over election procedure for the Student Faculty Advisory Council last fall Ford remarked that sometimes students care more about parliamentary bickering than about reaching substantive objectives.

In his unhappier moments, Ford sees an ugliness in society and the University which was not there several years ago. The horrors in Vietnam and the violence in this country are not unrelated. Exactly one year ago at Class Day, Ford stated that America should withdraw form Vietnam. Later, in the fall, he thought the physical tactics used in the Dow demonstration here were wrong. This spring he called the violence at Columbia a dissaster that has done irreparable damage to students and faculty. The ugliness has spread to Harvard, Ford thinks. "A spirit of better humor existed in Faculty discussion several years ago," he says. "Then, one person would not question the morality of another who held a different point of view."

This firm belief in the traditional university of tolerance and individual expression does not keep Ford aloof from any students. After the Dow protest, for instance, he devoted four days to hearing the opinions of students, junior faculty, and faculty on the pros and cons of punishing the demonstrators before he formulated his own position. In a typical fashion, he maintained an orderly list of the arguments on each side. In the end, he favored the most lenient possible punishment that would also deter a recurrence.

One problem which plagued Ford after Dow was the widespread attitude that Harvard's Administration was monolithic and, presumable, a supporter of the Establishment. His debate on Vietnam with Professor Oscar Handlin this spring was designed, in part, to demonstrate that no such uniformity exists among University officers on any political question.

LIKE HIS predecessors, Ford remains an adademic in an administrative role, teaching almost his full share of undergraduate and graduate courses each year and supervising a number of dissertations. When he steps down as Dean after two more years--and he does plan to resign his position when Pusey retires at 65--he will probably return to fulltime teaching. "A new president should not have an inherited dean, and anyway, one man should not fill the position for much more than seven or eight years because he gets increasingly bogged down in outside commitments," Ford says.

Ford has reportedly turned down the presidency of prestigious universities in the past, and there is no reason to think he will leave. Harvard for another administrative job. Ford's recent appointment to the McLean Chair in Ancient and Modern History deeply moved him. It is Harvard's oldest and most prestigious history chair and was formerly held by Crane Brinton, Ford's Ph.D. advisor in the late 1940's.

When Ford does leave the Dean's office, he will probably have given more long-range direction to Harvard's educational system than any of his more outspoken predeccessors. He has sought to reconcile growing demands for greater specialization and advancement with the need for general education. He has operated within Harvard's traditional system of government to bring change and flexibility to a student body with changing views and varied background.

Ford's courses are noted for his dry delivery. But students who paid attention to his lectures found them thorough, fascinating, and even witty. His Administration, like his course treatment, may be sometimes dry in tone but never in content.

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