An Unpopular Development


The Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID) emerged from the periphery of the University consciousness this winter when President Bok announced in February that he had asked Arnold C. Harberger, chairman of the economics department at the University of Chicago to become director of the institute.

Harberger's association with the Chilean military regime, his brand of "Chicago school" economics and his strictly economic approach to development prompted Faculty and students to first question, then protest Bok's offer.

Bok exacerbated discontent over Harberger at the HIID by offering the post without consulting the Faculty Council, a step in the decision-making process which the HIID charter requires.

Defending his choice at a Lowell House dinner in late February, Bok said he would appoint a Nazi to an academic position at Harvard if he were qualified.

"Political, moral or ideological considerations" should play no part in University appointments, Bok argued, adding, "I would not make affiliation with the National Socialist Party a bar to an academic appointment in this University."

Opponents observed that this reasoning only applied to Harberger's appointment as a tenured professor in Economics.

In April, Bok amplified this position in the fifth of his series of open letters on ethics and the University, stating that someone's ideological views should only make a difference when those views would hamper the appointee from effectively performing his job.

Many petitions to Bok, several student- and faculty-staged protests, and one open forum with Harberger and HIID fellows later, Harberger backed out of the HIID offer in April, claiming a better offer from the University of Chicago--a larger salary and a guaranteed quota of Latin American students--made him change his mind.

Harberger's original vow in February that "if I come to Harvard it will be having surmounted these obstacles and not under a cloud," apparently proved prophetic.

Bok then offered the post to a safer choice, Dwight H. Perkins, chairman of the Economics Department. This time Bok carefully consulted with both the HIID Faculty Council and HIID fellows, who approved his decision.

Sources within the University of Chicago offered the final ironic footnote to the episode: Harberger never intended to accept the HIID appointment in the first place, they said. Suffering from a tarnished reputation within his own department, Harberger latched onto the Harvard offer as an ideal way to boost his status among his Chicago colleagues and possibly jack up his salary.

The plan evidently backfired--upon Harberger's return to the University of Chicago, he requested extra funds for his special Latin American Economic Studies Institute. They said no.