He told The Crimson at that time that a shortage of construction and operating funds led him to cancel the extension. The decision was also based on widespread concern that the plan for a limited sale of several Fogg pieces would be extremely controversial.
The Crimson also reported that Bok had doubts about whether Stirling would be able to adhere to his prescribed budget.
"We looked over the whole project and it seemed that the risks and burdens were just too great to proceed," Bok said at the time.
"With inflation, cutbacks in government aid to higher education, and the rapid rise of tuition, it didn't seem prudent to take on a new building," he said.
Harvard art-lovers were angered and disappointed by the announcement. "We absolutely need the building. We simply can not go on the way we are now. The disappointment was extraordinary, especially since the decision was so unexpected," said Professor of Fine Arts and Fogg Curator Konrad J. Oberhauer, echoing the sentiments of others in the Fine Arts Department.
Slive released a statement at the time, saying, "The Fogg has been dealt a blow from which the museum and the university it exists to serve may never recover."
Other critics had harsher words.
Ralph F. Colin, a member of the Fogg Visiting Committee and a leading museum fundraiser, wrote a letter to Bok in which he said, "There seem to be only two alternatives. Either a) You are unaware of the Fogg's role and importance as are the other five members of the Corporation, or b) Being aware, you are unwilling to go to bat and if necessary lay your job as president on the line to accomplish what needed to be acomplished. You may therefore take your choice as to whether "ignorance" or "ignominy" more aptly describes the basis of your behavior."
"The fact is that Harvard's decision will, I assure you, cost it much more than $3 to $4 million in lost financial support in the future," Colin wrote.
Others echoed Colin's statement that the decision to cancel the project would result in serious financial loss to the university. Slive told The Crimson that $11 million of the $16 million already raised would have to be returned.
However, George Putnam '49, then treasurer of the Corporation, said that Slive's $11 million figure was "absolutely fictitious," and said that only $1.1 million would have to be returned.
At first, the Fogg supporters did not know what to do next. "Suddenly all the rules of the game have been changed," said Oleg Grabar, chairman of the Fine Arts Department. "After three long years of work, we're back at square one."
But about ten days after Bok announced his decision to cancel the museum addition, he informally indicated to Fogg officials that he might reconsider--provided the museum could raise more money.
On February 22, less than three weeks after Bok announced the cancellation, hope was renewed when he recommended that the Fogg could proceed with its planned extension as long as the museum raised an additional $3 million by March 15, and another $3 million over the next three years.
Museum officials were once again optimistic about their chances of saving the project, saying an additional $1.5 million had already been raised at the time of Bok's announcement. By March 13, an additional $2.5 million had been pledged.