The Graduate Students' Case

"We urge all students, graduate and undergraduate, to support today's work-stoppage. We urge you to join the picket lines. The Union's interests are the interests of the students at this University."

(The authors are on the steering committee of the Graduate Student and Teaching Follow Union.)

On Monday, March 13, Dean R. V. Jones called a meeting of graduate students to "discuss" Harvard's "financial crisis" and the solutions to it that the administration had decided upon. Up until that moment, he and the administration faced, in the graduate population, the most atomized and disunited segment of the University community. The expectation was docility: the outcome of that meeting, however, was the Graduate Student and Teaching Fellow Union. Since that time, although the administration continues to ignore the existence of the Union, it has increased its membership to over 1000 and has begun discussions within the University community about both graduate and undergraduate education--and about the educational priorities of Harvard University.

As Union members have repeatedly pointed out, what is at stake is not merely the level of financial support for graduate students. The entire academic community, and especially the undergraduates, will be affected by the new policies announced by the administration. Graduate students and undergraduates are not two separate and unrelated groups, but are very closely connected in the educational process. For, in their function as teaching fellows, graduate students perform the bulk of the real teaching done within the university both in the classroom and in the Houses.

As the administration continues to sacrifice education, at all levels, to cost-accounting, it is clear that the undergraduates are just as severely threatened as the graduate students--if not more. The particular policy set forth by Dean Jones that led graduate students to unionize beginning some two weeks ago was in no way an isolated decision on the part of the administration. Perceiving a need to cut costs, the administration once again decided to do so at the expense of the most poorly paid of the teaching staff. This may be seen to relate to administrative policy, so far successful, to further offset costs by continually raising an already outrageous tuition rate for both graduates and undergraduates.


Dean Jones, both in his letter of March 8 calling the graduate students' meeting, and at the meeting itself, claimed that an "intensifying problem of financial aid for graduate study" existed at Harvard. The administrative solution to the supposedly "critical situation" was to abolish teaching fellow Staff Tuition Scholarships (STS), tuition rebates held by about half of this year's teaching fellows. The STS money, administered up to now by a separate office, was to be allocated as part of general financial aid to the departments to divide as they saw fit.

Administration claims that the re-channelling of this money will leave support levels for graduate students constant is patently false, even on the basis of their own figures. When the same amount (or a smaller one) of money is spread out over a greatly increased number of recipients, the average level of support per recipient cannot help but decline. Many departments are faced with a reduction in allotments for graduate student and teaching fellow support--some with drastic cut-backs of over 50 per cent. Teaching fellows, with the abolition of the STS, will be faced with effective salary cuts varying from 25 per cent up to 67 per cent, for the STS cannot be regarded as anything but an integral part of a teaching fellow's salary.

In a further effort to squeeze more money out of graduate students, the administration has also announced that beginning in 1973-74, all third-year graduate students, despite having completed all their course-work, will be required to pay full tuition of $3000 instead of the so-called "reduced" tuition rate of $1000 per year. Even $1000 is an outrageous amount to pay for the use of the library (available to outside scholars and all alumni for minimal rates) plus an occasional conference with one's thesis advisor. Three thousand dollars for the same minimal services is all the more outrageous. With an average salary of $30-40 per year (for two-fifths time) the third year grad student will be left with only $40 a year net income before taxes. Even in the case of graduate students on reduced tuition, net income will be drastically slashed.

For these reasons the Union, in point number 3, demands "a return to the two year residency requirement for graduate students in GSAS." It is why we demand in point number 1 "that there be no cuts in the real income of teaching fellows...and that all teaching fellows who request staff tuition fellowships receive them." The Union recognizes that its needs must not be fulfilled at the expense of those of others in the community, and therefore further demands that "Implementation... must not come at the expense of: a) the pay of non-professional employees: b) the scholarships of non-teaching graduate or undergraduate students: or c) the quality of graduate or undergraduate education..."

Thus far the administration has refused to acknowledge either the Union's existence or the justice of its demands. At the initial graduate student meeting with Jones, he suggested forming a committee to discuss grievances, but students dismissed the idea upon hearing from one student that a committee on graduate education had existed since last fall, without a single meeting having been called--and that Jones himself was its chairman. The administration will, in the next few weeks, undoubtedly recommend the establishment of an innumerable series of consultative bodies and committees. Such maneuvers should be seen for what they in fact are--essentially delaying tactics designed to prevent effective action from being taken.

Without directly replying to the Union, the administration has, in all its statements on graduate student grievances, pleaded poverty and resorted to the 'share-of-the-pie' argument: if teaching fellows greedily demand tuition remission, in a time of declining outside support, that money must come from other graduate students: if both groups demand more money, undergraduate support will suffer. The Union rejects both arguments. Claims of financial crisis, which are made the basis of salary cuts and tuition increases for a significant portion of the University community, should not be based on secret information available only to Dean Dunlop. For this reason the Union demands a full financial disclosure of Harvard's budget--the total budget, with a break-down of items, not merely a general statement concerning that portion allocated to Arts and Sciences.

As it presently stands the Harvard budget is simply a convenient device for obscuring the finances of the University. Without convincing, publicly-presented evidence, the Union refuses to accept the claim that an institution whose assets amount to more than one billion dollars--making Harvard one of America's 500 wealthiest corporations--can overcome its 'financial crisis' only at the expense of its students. Working with the few available figures, the Financial Research Committee of the Union has established some interesting facts which highlight the one-sided picture that the administration has offered concerning Harvard's 'poverty'.

Harvard's total annual income approaches $200 million; of that, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is allotted $58 million. Every year, moreover, approximately $15 million of the annual income is not spent at all, but appears to be plowed directly back into the endowment without ever reaching any of the operating budgets. The existence of this reinvestment surplus makes Harvard's claim to be running at a deficit somewhat unconvincing. Harvard is not only a very rich institution, furthermore, but it could be even richer if its investments were administered more effectively. The rate of return on Harvard's investments over the last ten years (with the single exception of 1970-71) has been disappointing to say the least. The average American using the Dow Jones figures from the daily newspaper could have earned the same rate of return as Harvard's very expensive financial consultants have managed.

Such revelations raise a number of interesting questions concerning the way budget and investment decisions are made at Harvard. Decisions of crucial importance--how much of the annual income should be directly re-invested, how and where Harvard should invest, and what priorities within the budget should be--are handed down by a few administrators over whom none of us have any control. Even the Harvard faculty, to say nothing of students, cannot see the full budget of the University, with detailed break-downs and itemization.

Without a full accounting, administration claims of "crisis" seem to represent bookkeeping-juggling of planned deficits to justify belt-tightening. In Dean Dunlop's letter to Jones, for instance, stating that "the unrestricted deficit of the Faculty in 1970-71 was $1 million and the budgeted deficit for the current year, 1971-72, is $1 million." he presents but one side of the story. Although unrestricted funds showed a deficit, total funds (including restricted funds, such as endowments for unoccupied chairs) showed a surplus.