GSAS May Enter Era of Change

News Analysis

Sally Falk Moore and John B. Fox Jr. '59 have their work cut out for them. The new deans of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences don't take up residence in Byerly Hall until Thursday, but a detailed agenda already awaits their attention.

Last April, after more than eight months of research, a committee of 10 professors completed the first major review of Harvard's graduate program since 1969.

The study, commissioned by former Dean of the Faculty Henry Rosovsky and directed by Leverett Professor of Physics Karl Strauch, identified growing problems at the graduate school and recommended broad changes in its organization and educational policy.

The so-called Strauch Report, a 40-page summary of the committee's findings, is slated for discussion by the full Faculty this fall. Early signals suggest that it could serve as a blueprint for Dean of the Faculty A. Michael Spence's young administration.

If that's the case, the long-awaited appointment of permanent leadership could usher in a period of reform at the GSAS, which many professors say has suffered from neglect in recent years.


The Strauch Committee's report addresses almost every aspect of the graduate program, but all of its conclusions feature a familiar refrain: a need for drastically increased funding.

If Moore and Fox ultimately choose to follow its recommendations, their most difficult task may be raising the necessary sums--or competing with the College for a larger share of the Faculty's budget.

The first of the Strauch Committee's recommendations became reality yesterday when Spence announced the appointment of two GSAS deans, one for academics and one for administration.

The Committee urged the creation of the administrative post as part of a larger effort to centralize authority, which has traditionally rested with the school's individual departments. Spence's decision to fill the post with Fox, a veteran fundraiser, further suggests a long-term plan consistent with the Committee's conclusions.

The Strauch Committee's other recommendations will be implemented more slowly, if at all. They would require broader Faculty consensus, complicated financing, and in many cases, time to evolve. They include the following:

1. A modest increase in student enrollment.

Between 1968 and 1979, the number of graduate students entering Harvard each year declined by 60 percent. Meanwhile, the number of professors teaching in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences rose dramatically, from 467 in 1967 to 552 in 1984.

Student enrollments have shown a slight upturn in the past few years, but the student-faculty ratio remains low. Some departments complain that they have too few students to sustain their research and seminars, the Strauch Committee reported. In order to remedy the imbalance, the committee recommended an increase in student admissions.

However, the committee qualified its position, cautioning that some graduate students already receive inadequate attention from the Faculty. The committee also warned that today's scholars face "uncertain employment prospects."

The bottom line lies somewhere in the red: any rise in enrollment would require a larger financial aid budget.