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Poisoned Ivy



AND the ivy-covered walls came tumbling down....

Last year event after event highlighted how the barriers separating Harvard from the real world have crumbled in the last decades. Gone are the days when the nation's leading institution of higher learning could go about its business in splendid isolation.

As the operations and costs of the modern university have grown more complex, Harvard has taken on all the trappings of a modern corporation. The University has a growing $4 billion endowment, employs a mushrooming staff of more than 15,000, and supervises facilities that stretch around the world. If Harvard ever made a public offering on the stock market, there would be a free-for-all on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

But moving into the real world brings responsibilities as well as benefits. The central question the University will have to face in the coming years is how to reconcile the demands of its involvement in the real world with its academic ideals.

This dilemma was evident in last November's revelation that Kennedy School Dean Graham T. Allison '62 had attempted to swap a $500,000 gift in exchange for University Officer status. The K-School, with only a small pool of alumni but ever-expanding programs, badly needed the money to bolster the school's loan forgiveness program. Administrators let the demands of fundraising overshadow Harvard's ethical guidlines.

Obviously, financial donations to Harvard are crucial to maintaining its position as the nation's premier institution of higher learning--not to mention the nation's richest. But if officials give into the temptation to sell bits and pieces to the highest bidder, how can the University maintain any institutional independence and ethical integrity? And how can Harvard preserve its newfound status as an institution based on merit and no longer just status and wealth?

THIS spring's unionization drive by Harvard's 4000 clerical and technical workers prompted another disappointing example of the administration's inability to act in accordance with its own ideals. President Bok had been a forceful supporter of unions as a law professor. But he made a change of heart when it affected his own workforce; the latest example was when he came out against last year's unionization effort. He marshalled an anti-union propaganda machine--writing two anti-union letters himself, sponsoring work-time meetings between administrators and workers, and issuing anti-union pamphets packed with misleading graphs and partial-truths.

Despite the anti-union campaign--and, in some cases, because of it--a majority of the support staff voted for the union. Yet, the administration jumped in to challenge the verdict. Even though the closeness of the vote may have justified this interference, Harvard's action casts further doubt on its attitude toward workers and their ability to decide their own fate. Such challenges are a common tactic for employers to delay a union's certification and contract negotiations; the University has already dragged out past union election bids for as long as two years--decreasing awareness of the issues among staff and devaluing worker choice. So much for Bok's former support of unions' and workers' right. Apparently, administrators sacrificed these ideals in order to prevent their underlings from gaining a measure of power.

Harvard sponsors an education project for trade unions, which encourages cooperation between universities and labor and accepts huge grants and involvement from the local clerical union's parent, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. This spring the University showed that it is willing to take in the money as long as it doesn't have to learn any lessons.

Aside from conserving money and power, the administration seems to have learned some other unsavory tactics from the corporate world. In a discrimination case brought against the Business School by former Junior Professor Barbara Bund Jackson, questions have arisen about whether the administration purposely destroyed documents relevant to the trial. For a university in which the president issues a report posing his school as a top ethics instructor, this is hardly model behavior.

HARVARD will have to learn the hard way that the days of paternalism and old-boy networks cannot continue. Women are rebelling against the entrenched male hierarchy here, which has tenured only 27 women out of 383 spots and promoted a disproportionately small amount of female middle managers to top jobs.

Already, two female scholars who failed to win tenure have brought the University to court on charges of gender discrimination. Clare Dalton, and associate professor of law whose tenure case was rejected by Bok this winter, has appealed to the federal judiciary, as has Jackson at the Business School. While their cases are difficult to judge, the discrimination claims themselves underline the fact that Harvard is not welcoming women into its ranks with open arms.

Worse yet, when women do arrive, it seems Harvard is not treating them as fairly as it should be. In a suit filed by former Facilities and Maintenance worker Charlotte Walters, a jury found Harvard guilty of sexual discrimination on one count when it failed to discipline a worker who harassed Walters. On the faculty level, women shoulder a larger portion of the undesirable administrative burden than do their male counterparts--holding 31 percent of the head tutor jobs, although they comprise only 14 percent of the faculty eligible for these posts.

Equally discouraging is the state of minority hiring. According to a report by the Minority Students Alliance, the University has failed to aggressively recruit Black, Asian, and Hispanic scholars. Since 1980, the number of Black tenured professors has fallen from five to three, while junior professor positions have been reduced from eight to four. Admittedly, the pool of qualified Ph.d. candidates is small, but the University has made scant attempts to grab a bigger share of the pool or increase the size of the pool.

THE University's commitment to fairness must extend beyond mere platitudes to concrete and substantive actions. The administration should accept the decision of its support staff and bargain with their union in good faith. Harvard should divest of all its South Africa-affiliated stock--ridding itself, once and for all, of this unethical sore. Faculties must move aggressively to recruit and tenure more women and minority scholars. Harvard must also act to bring such groups into positions of leadership and responsibility within the administration itself. By setting a forceful example of equality and integration, Harvard would not only be true to its own ethical code, but also guide society in solving its problems. Harvard has a crucial duty to set an example for its own integrated student body, that fair admissions can extend into fair hiring.

Holding Harvard to its own ethical standards is not just useless, philosophical casuistry. As Bok argues in his annual report, moral education must come from "efforts beyond the classroom." The University must therefore come to terms with its own conduct and deal honestly with fundraising, the union, and tenuring women and minorities.

If not for its students, then at least for the academy. Only by occupying high moral ground have the nation's universities maintained their respected position in American society. By debasing its actions to the level of a self-interested corporation, Harvard is rapidly losing its moral integrity. Venturing into the real world is an irrevocable step, and Harvard had better come to ethical terms with its own practices.

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