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Finances Look Rosier Again


By Seth M. Kupferberg

The 1972 Financial Report to the Board of Overseers of Harvard College, published Tuesday, is a 140-page document stuffed with tables, statistics, and occasional paragraphs of financial jargon.

Even with an accompanying analytic supplement, the first of its kind, the report is difficult for the layman to plow through, much less understand. But it suggests a number of developments important not only to the University's financial outlook, but also to life at Harvard in general.

Perhaps most important, Harvard's economic prospects are much less bleak than they seemed as recently as last year, when the University's deficit almost doubled, reaching $1.4 million by the end of fiscal year 1971.

At that time, George F. Bennett '33, treasurer of Harvard College, predicted that," this year ahead may be our most difficult year financially." A number of well-publicized investigations of the subject-most notably a 1968 study by William G. Bowen, now president of Princeton-had also concluded that private universities faced inevitably increasing deficits unless the government provided massive aid.

Yet despite these pessimistic pronouncements, this year's report shows a surplus for fiscal year 1972.

The surplus is for Harvard as a whole. Since the early nineteenth century, the University has operated on the principle that over time each of its faculties and other departments should by and large finance themselves. "Every tub on its own bottom," or ETOB, in financial lingo.

Not all the faculties are presently self-supporting. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences had a $300,000 deficit last year, so it seems unlikely, for example, that the Administration will quickly accept the Graduate Student and Teaching Fellow Union's demands for more scholarship money, whatever the University-wide surplus.

In any case the surplus is small-$177,000 in a $204 million budget, and Bowen and others were citing long-run trends. Hale Champion, financial vice-president, has warned that a dip in government contracts, perhaps to be expected in a non-election years, or other factors could reverse this year's positive changes. And the University still projects a small deficit for fiscal year 1973.

But the fact remains that there was a surplus this year, despite all the dire warnings. The unexpectedly rosy picture is not due to an increase in income, although the endowment did go up $100 million to almost $1.4 billion, an expansion partly due to a general surge in the stock market. The University had projected a 6.25 per cent Increase in income, while income actually went up by only 5.11 per cent, though this figure by only may be deceptively low because it represents income made available to operating departments, not money they could have used but didn't.

What made the surplus possible, according to Champion, was a policy of job attrition-primarily as a result of not hiring replacements for workers who retired. This attrition was largely responsible for holding down the increase in the University's $100 million payroll, by far its largest expense.

Because there was a surplus, pressure to change the University's financial structure will probably ease to some extent. In particular, the surplus may strengthen the ETOB system, which came under some criticism in recent years because it did not permit the University to divert funds from the faculties that raised them to other areas where they were perhaps more needed.

"What can be said for ETOB is that it works and that it would be very hard to change," 1970 memorandum "Harvard and Money" remarked. Although there have been proposals to "tax" some of whatever gifts faculties receive for the benefit of the whole University, it seems safe to say that the more ETOB seems to work, the harder it will be to change.

Other proposals that come out of a climate of scarcity-thoughts of raising tuitions to cover more of the costs of education, for instance-may also find fewer supporters if the trend towards a surplus continues.

Investment Attitude Unchanged

One thing which seems unchanged, despite President Bok's formations of a committee to consider it, a Harvard's attitude towards controversial investments. The portfolio still includes stock in Honeywell. Polaroid and the 200,000 shares of Gulf Oil that Afro wants it to sell as protest against Gulf's involvement in Portuguese Angola.

No doubt Afro, and other radical groups, will continue to all for divestiture of such stocks or for votes, acceptable to them in proxy fights like Campaign GM of a few years back. But if student response to Afro's strike call after the Southern University killings two weeks ago is any indicator, they will probably carry little weight with the Administration.

Even Afro's occupation of Massachusetts Hall last Spring, successful as it was in mobilizing student support, was carefully timed to coincide with a strike against the mining of Haiphong, as though student anger against American foreign policy was deemed necessary to stimulate student anger against Harvard's investments.

Little Defense Contracting

And Defense Department contracts, against which radical students might organize, are relatively unimportant here, totaling less than $3 million a year, and none of it classified research. By contrast there are a great deal of other government contracts, and approximately $60 million a year, or 30 per cent of the University's budget, is derived primarily from the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation.

In 1949, by contrast, only 8 per cent of the University's budget was government contracts. Obviously Harvard is therefore much more vulnerable today to government threats to cut off such contracts. Last Spring, lobbying by Harvard and other colleges helped defeat a Congressional bill that would have cut off funds from colleges that were not entirely of one sex but didn't have sex blind admissions either.

It seems unlikely that Harvard can stave off such bills indefinitely unless, of courses, the Nixon Administration decides to go slow on such matters as a plaintive speech Wednesday by the head of HEW's Civil Rights division for example, seemed to suggest.

In any case, the extent of government money in Harvard's pocket probably means that the decisionmaking power not only on sex-blind admissions but also on such matters as increased faculty hiring of woman and blacks rests not only with the Administration, but also with the Federal government.

There are other aspects to the financial picture. Harvard issued its first revenue bonds over on Tuesday, Though Champion said Wednesday that the University has reached no decision on paying for future construction projects through more bond issues, it seems likely that bond financing may be a major new strategy, particularly if the University decides to go ahead with a $53 million Medical Area power plant.

Finally, this is the first financial report to use accounting system adopted in 1970 to make clear how much of the University's funds for future uses belongs to each department. Before the system's adoption, it was impossible to tell, and whatever income a department didn't spend immediately was reinvested for the whole University.

Under the told system, a dollar given to Harvard two hundred years ago was worth no more than a dollar given yesterday, become the older dollar's extra earnings had gone to the whole University, not to the specific purpose its donor had in mind.

The new unit system, which the University adopted under the threat of legal action, ends the advantage accorded "new money," What "Harvard and Money" refers to as "the dead hand of the past" is therefore likely to be stronger in the future: if Inter galactic Studies are in vogue in 2000, a dollar given to their department then will earn less than a dollar someone gives today to teach say ecology.

But this is only the system's first year, and no such trend is visible so far. Like so much else that Harvard's financial outlook seems to promise, the dead hand of the past may never actually appear

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