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The Graduate Students' Case

By Carole Adams and Steve Bornstein

"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.

Further, while the University, according to Dunlop, "foresaw" the drop in outside financial support several years ago. It was continuing to plan expansion during that period (the Science Center, the Design School building, the Ed School library.) knowing full well that it would have to support the new annual maintenance and operating costs of those buildings out of its budget. (The new Science Center, for example, will cost the University over $1 million a year.)

All of the figures quoted by the administration should be treated with the same skepticism. In his letter. Dunlop noted that "the unrestricted resources of this Faculty allocated to graduate fellowships and STS have grown each year from $1,094,000 in 1966-67 to $1,565,000 for 1971-72." Along with this, he argued that the University had no plans to reduce graduate-level support. However, this whole argument is misleading, for such increases came only because the University first raised tuition and then was forced to raise tuition scholarships accordingly. Between 1966-67 and 1971-72, reduced-tuition increased from $300 to $1000, while full tuition increased from $1760 to $2800. All of Dunlop's one-half million dollar increase in fellowship funds, and more. is due to the rise in tuition: the administration has merely taken money from one pocket and placed it in another.

To get a total picture of graduate student aid, one must consider scholarships, stipends, and teaching fellow salaries paid by both Harvard and outside sources, not simply Harvard aid. From 1969-70 to 1971-72 the net annual pay and assistance per graduate student fell from $1900 to the present level of $1300. Even is outside sources of funds had remained constant, net pay and assistance would have fallen to $1750 per graduate student--at a time when the cost of living rose substantially. Should third-year graduate students be charged full tuition, and be paid at junior rate for teaching fellowships, net salary and assistance will immediately drop to about $1000 per student. And the fall in Harvard aid comes at a time when enrollment in GSAS has already been cut 8 per cent from 3034 to 27851, so that there are actually fewer students in need of support. This reduction will definitely continue; next year's projected entering class will be approximately 250, half of last year's number of entering students.

Such considerations demonstrate that the University has offered only selected 'facts' that bolster its position but do not really substantiate or explain the 'financial crisis.' The administration's policy, as so often in the past, is to deal only with individuals or isolated groups--divide and rule. Its statements that increased funds for one group can only come at the expense of another creates a situation in which members of the Harvard community are set in competition with one another. Administration decisions may look as if they are independent of one another, affecting only one segment of the University. But each 'independent' action is related to others, and establishes a general policy of administrative action that affects teaching fellows, graduate students, and undergraduates alike. In the name of a 'financial crisis' the administration is creating an 'education crisis'. This crisis affects undergraduate education at least as much as that of graduate students.

The administration has been quick to point out that the number of teaching fifths has greatly increased in past years. (Each 'fifth', an undefinable quantity supposedly representing one-fifth of a full-time teaching load, covers an amount of work extending from one section or tutorial group to several, depending on the department.) There was, in fact, according to Dunlop's figures, an increased in the number of fifths throughout the sixties, but a docline in number in the last two years. The implication that the increase during the sixties was somehow an unwarranted expansion, and a gift to the graduate students, bears analysis. It was during this period that House courses were instituted--often the only opportunity undergraduates have to participate in a seminar course outside of tutorial.

In addition, it was during this period that the position of instructor was abolished. Instructors were junior faculty members who often carried much of the tutorial load: in effect the addition of teaching fellows was simply the replacement of badly paid instructors with worse-paid teaching fellows. Bearing these facts in mind, it is significant that the number of fifths has already begun to drop, and this at a time when Harvard's undergraduate enrollment is increasing. Does the Harvard administration regard House courses, tutorials, and other seminar-type courses as frill, to be cut at the first signs of 'financial crisis'?

There is also a noticeable squeeze being placed on the House system. Adams House has already reached the point where it can, for the rest of the term, no longer provide meals for its resident and non-resident staff. Proposals are being considered in many Houses to charge rent for resident staff and to further cut meal allotments next year. Both of these proposals would seriously weaken the House system. Meals are the best opportunity available for students and staff alike to meet one another and to interact in an informal and unstructured atmosphere. Rents at the rates being discussed, coupled with the increased financial burdens of teaching fellows, would lead to an exodus of resident staff. Graduate students who remained in the Houses would feel no compunction about considering themselves mere dormitory residents with no obligations to the House or its students--this is already happening in trial set-ups where graduate students pay regular dormitory rates.

What are the consequences of such a policy over the next few years? Houses could become mere dormitories, with House courses a thing of the past. Students would be faced with large lecture courses; if sections are offered at all, their size might well increase to 30 or 50 students each--pressure is already being placed upon department heads to abolish sections in upper level courses. Tutorial might become optional; sophomore tutorial might disappear. It is also conceivable that many graduate students would choose to withdraw from the university after fulfilling their residence requirement (thus by-passing tuition payment), and seek outside jobs. The number of teaching fellows then available would drop below even that minimum level which the administration recognizes as necessary for undergraduate education.

'Quality of education' might should like a vague term, but in any light, $3000 seems an enormous fee to pay for an undergraduate education consisting of a distant senior faculty concerned with its own research, combined with large lecture courses and a few over-worked teaching fellows whose salary returns to the University as tuition. It is in the interests of all students at this University to demand that such a situation not arise. It is in our interest to question the priorities that the administration has set, to demand an accounting of the budget and a large degree of participation in University decisions that affect our education. Are Harvard's goals our goals, those of a business corporation, or those of an educational institution?

The general meeting held at Sanders last night was called to deal with questions such as these. The need to bring pressure upon an unresponsive administration has brought about today's work stoppage. So far the administration, although willing to 'discuss' issues with individuals in the Harvard community', has refused to recognize the existence of the Union. Without recognition, there is no way to discuss issues that are vital to our education; without a full financial disclosure there is no basis for judging Harvard's 'crisis'. Our only conclusion can be that quality education, both graduate and undergraduate, is low on the list of Corporation priorities.

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. Only through a massive show of support can we demonstrate to the administration that students at all levels are concerned about the content of education at Harvard. Only through such support can we show our concern with the kind of institution that Harvard is and our doubts about its present policies, both educational and social

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