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Faculty Tempted by Perks at Other Schools

By Joshua L. Kwan, Crimson Staff Writers

Two months ago, an economics professor named Robert J. Barro almost left Harvard for Columbia and $300,000 a year--supposedly the trendsetter for a generation of academics demanding sports-star salaries.

But instead of a pioneer or even really a problem for Harvard, Barro may have just been a distraction from a very real vulnerability: the power of academic perks.

In particular, Stanford University's offer of greater funding for these non-salary perks--especially in the form of increased research funding, reduced teaching responsibilities and the support of academic centers--may be sapping the strength of Harvard's American government Faculty.

Barro's decision to stay at Harvard--which he attributed to the quality of his colleagues and students--had seemed a triumph for Harvard's egalitarian salary system. With above-average but relatively equal wages, the University said it could keep a stable of contented academics without entering bidding wars for "star" professors like Barro.

But Harvard's own Faculty say to focus on salary is to miss the point. Money well-spent is undeniably a powerful force in attracting top Faculty. Salary, they say, is not.

In salary, Harvard treats its Faculty fairly equally. In non-salary benefits and academic perks--the real draw for those who entered academia seeking distinction over dollars--it follows the same kind of "star system" it criticizes in others.

Top Faculty know they could make more money in or out of academe by leaving Cambridge. By choosing Harvard in the first place, they signal that more important than a fat paycheck is the academic support that will put them ahead in their fields.

These are the areas where carefully spent funds can and do tempt top professors--as an aggressively-spending Stanford political science department continues to show through its recruiting of the Americanists in the Harvard government department.

And some say the government department might be the first sign of a larger problem: In the "star wars" to attract top faculty, a conservative Harvard is losing the battle more often than it once did.

If You Fund It...

According to Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles, the mean salary for Harvard Faculty is "at or near the highest in the country" in all age groups. Beside a few higher-paid University professors, most salaries are tightly clustered around this mean of about $125,000.

The result of this egalitarian treatment is that most professors could make more money as a franchise professor at a less prestigious university or even in the private sector, where the pay scale is not so evenhanded.

Knowles acknowledged this in his annual budget letter to the Faculty. "We could all earn more elsewhere as the lone star in a less luminous firmament," he writes.

But this realization does not always make Harvard vulnerable to lesser schools willing to commit big money to pay a few star professors.

"There's no question that Harvard salaries are lower than [they could be] at comparable universities," says Associate Professor of Government Eva R. Bellin '80. "But they were that way when we were attracted to Harvard. That's not the all-important issue."

Instead, the most important factors are those perks that were mostly window dressing in the Barro controversy--control of research centers, increased research funding and a better support staff.

"The pay [at Harvard] is pretty low compared toother universities, but that's not enough to makeme move," says Daniel J. Jacob, McKay professor ofacademic chemistry and environmental engineering."I would only move for the directorship of aninstitute or research center."

Jacob's sentiments are common. Most Faculty saymoney spent on strengthening department prestigeor improving research opportunities can still be apowerful attraction for professors who areunconcerned with salary.

Lane Professor of the Classics and of HistoryChristopher P. Jones, tenured in two of Harvard'smost prestigious departments, still speaks formany Faculty members in this regard.

"I love teaching [at Harvard]," Jones says."But [an offer] that would make me freer to doresearch would be a very tempting one."

Our Own Star System

The power of academic perks has not goneunnoticed at Harvard--in fact it is recognized bya different kind of "star system" ignored inrhetoric about egalitarian salaries.

Knowles and others are quick to point toHarvard's tightly-clustered salary system asevidence that the University values "collegiality"over the clear hierarchy of salary star systems.

But it seems that in order to attract and keeptop Faculty, Harvard has been forced into asimilar brand of unequal rewards for unequalreputation.

"Undoubtedly there are non-salary aspects ofthings that are not as evenly distributed asfaculty salaries," says Professor of GovernmentJeffry Frieden.

Frequently, the most obvious examples ofacademic perks are directorships of prominentprograms or centers.

Harvard professors so rewarded include DillonProfessor of International Affairs Jorge I.Dominguez with the directorship of the WeatherheadCenter for International Affairs and Professor ofGovernment Gary King with the head of theHarvard/MIT Data Center.

While usually embracing academic support,non-salary benefits can also include a job for aprofessor's spouse and a housingallowance--quality-of-life improvements notcounted as salary.

"There is a difference in perks handed out tofaculty members in order to attract stars," saysone Faculty member.

And, while Knowles refuses to comment on theissue of perks, Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67admits that all-important academic perks are "noteven-handedly distributed."

Fineberg adds that this system is far moreconservative than those at schools with whichHarvard competes for Faculty.

But that conservatism may be exactly theproblem. As the humming stock market has allowedother universities to spend freely to strengthencertain academic areas, some in the Faculty feelthe University is being too stingy with itsenormous nest egg.

Some professors feel the University works themtoo hard and provides too little monetary supportfor research.

Consequently, other institutions hope that byconcentrating their resources on a particular areaof department, they can attract top scholars witha more blatantly uneven--and generous--system.

Two recent cases provide ample evidence of thepower of well-placed funding.

First, there is the New York University (NYU)School of Law, which in the space of a decade wentfrom mediocre to top-tier using aggressiveacademic perks and programs.

And, much more frightening for the University,there is the American track of the Harvardgovernment department, in which professors unhappywith the University's "hoarding" are being preyedon by a selectively-generous Stanford.

NYU Law: A Quick Move to the Top

If Barro is the Mercenary Professor, then Deanof New York University (NYU) Law School JohnSexton is the man who shows them the money.

In 1988, Sexton took over a middle-of-the-packlaw school that had played second fiddle tointracity rival Columbia for its entire history.After a decade of academic pump-priming, theschool now hovers among the nation's elite.

Sexton inherited a sizable war chest and didimpressive fund-raising on his own. But ratherthan locking up the loot, he gave the key to starprofessors--without a large hike in salaries--byexpanding prominent programs for legalscholarships.

To suggest that stars negotiate bigger andbetter deals with NYU might even insult Sexton. Hesimply asks them for an academic wish list.

"Your job is to tell me what will make it workfor you, and my job is to make it happen if it isall within my power," he reportedly told afree-agent professor. "We are not in a negotiatingsituation here."

What sets Sexton and NYU apart from the pack isthe willingness to spend as freely as their donorsgive.

That generosity has paid great dividends, oftento the detriment of traditionally more prestigiousschools--like Chicago, Stanford and Harvard--fromwhom NYU has plucked away prominent professors inrecent years.

Richard Stewart, a nationally renowned expertin environmental law, left Harvard in 1992 forgreener, if not richer, pastures at NYU.

Salaries are nice, but NYU officials pin theirsuccess in attracting faculty on the developmentof a myriad of innovative academic programs.

"People do feel very good about this placebecause the school has been supportive aboutfaculty growth and programs," says Oscar G. Chase,vice dean and professor of law at NYU.

With an aggressive effort to tap into thewealth of alumni, Sexton has been able to initiateseveral attractive projects: $5 million for theGlobal Law program, another $5 million toestablish the Center on Innovation in a GlobalEconomy and $100 million to start a tuition poolthat would make an NYU legal education completelyfree.

"The dean at NYU has done a good job ofbuilding resources," says Harvard Professor of LawLawrence Lessig, who says he was drawn to Harvardby a research center on the laws of the Internet.

The NYU law school is, of course, not thebroad-ranging academic power Harvard is, but itssuccess is still a scary example for those likeHarvard seeking to maintain prestige across theboard.

Slipping Away?

Examining Harvard's government department islike looking at the other side of the coin: seniorFaculty are being tempted by a Stanford departmentwilling to spend more on academic perks.

Thomson Professor of Government Morris P.Fiorina Jr. announced last month that he isleaving for Stanford. Professor of Government andof Sociology Theda Skocpol is seriouslyconsidering an offer from the same school as isShattuck Professor of Government Paul E. Peterson,who says he and Stanford have "chatted."

Then come the caveats. Skocpol has not made anydefinite decisions. Peterson's fate is still up inthe air. And it is not unusual for Harvard Facultyto have outstanding offers from other schools.

But this case is unique because the competingschool is so aggressive and its offers are takenso seriously. Only a handful of senior governmentFaculty have left in the past two decades.

Stanford's success in this case appears to takeadvantage of perceptions within the departmentthat Harvard does not give its governmentprofessors enough academic support.

"Harvard's view is Faculty should use theHarvard name to provide their own [researchfunding]," says Fiorina, who does not blame hisown departure on any Harvard failing.

Fiorina is careful to say it was not a salaryincrease which made him switch coasts. But atStanford, he will work in the Hoover Institute onWar, Revolution and Peace--cutting his teachingload in half and devoting his attention to aprestigious research center.

Skocpol says she too might leave Harvardin search of a more generous school which requiresher to spend less time on fundraising.

"It's a big time drain, and I wouldn't have todo as much at another university which provided mewith more support," Skocpol says. "Stanford seemsto be taking aggressive steps to improve itspolitical science department."

These "aggressive steps" include hiring 10additional faculty members as well as increaseddirect grants for Faculty research.

"Lately, Stanford has been very inviting forsome subfields, most notably Americanists," Bellinsays.

Her colleagues say that while Harvard'ssalaries are still high and its research supportstill formidable, the University has lost acushion of prestige which might previously haveinsulated it from the need to engage in biddingwars with aggressive competitors.

"There may have been a time when Harvard couldattract people with prestige, but that time islong since past," Frieden says.

And while no one says Harvard's academicprestige is in danger of real attrition for themoment, the loss of any Faculty member cannot helpbut chip away at the world's most prestigiousschool.

"The University is entirely the people thatmake it up," Frieden says.CrimsonPaul S. Gutman

"The pay [at Harvard] is pretty low compared toother universities, but that's not enough to makeme move," says Daniel J. Jacob, McKay professor ofacademic chemistry and environmental engineering."I would only move for the directorship of aninstitute or research center."

Jacob's sentiments are common. Most Faculty saymoney spent on strengthening department prestigeor improving research opportunities can still be apowerful attraction for professors who areunconcerned with salary.

Lane Professor of the Classics and of HistoryChristopher P. Jones, tenured in two of Harvard'smost prestigious departments, still speaks formany Faculty members in this regard.

"I love teaching [at Harvard]," Jones says."But [an offer] that would make me freer to doresearch would be a very tempting one."

Our Own Star System

The power of academic perks has not goneunnoticed at Harvard--in fact it is recognized bya different kind of "star system" ignored inrhetoric about egalitarian salaries.

Knowles and others are quick to point toHarvard's tightly-clustered salary system asevidence that the University values "collegiality"over the clear hierarchy of salary star systems.

But it seems that in order to attract and keeptop Faculty, Harvard has been forced into asimilar brand of unequal rewards for unequalreputation.

"Undoubtedly there are non-salary aspects ofthings that are not as evenly distributed asfaculty salaries," says Professor of GovernmentJeffry Frieden.

Frequently, the most obvious examples ofacademic perks are directorships of prominentprograms or centers.

Harvard professors so rewarded include DillonProfessor of International Affairs Jorge I.Dominguez with the directorship of the WeatherheadCenter for International Affairs and Professor ofGovernment Gary King with the head of theHarvard/MIT Data Center.

While usually embracing academic support,non-salary benefits can also include a job for aprofessor's spouse and a housingallowance--quality-of-life improvements notcounted as salary.

"There is a difference in perks handed out tofaculty members in order to attract stars," saysone Faculty member.

And, while Knowles refuses to comment on theissue of perks, Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67admits that all-important academic perks are "noteven-handedly distributed."

Fineberg adds that this system is far moreconservative than those at schools with whichHarvard competes for Faculty.

But that conservatism may be exactly theproblem. As the humming stock market has allowedother universities to spend freely to strengthencertain academic areas, some in the Faculty feelthe University is being too stingy with itsenormous nest egg.

Some professors feel the University works themtoo hard and provides too little monetary supportfor research.

Consequently, other institutions hope that byconcentrating their resources on a particular areaof department, they can attract top scholars witha more blatantly uneven--and generous--system.

Two recent cases provide ample evidence of thepower of well-placed funding.

First, there is the New York University (NYU)School of Law, which in the space of a decade wentfrom mediocre to top-tier using aggressiveacademic perks and programs.

And, much more frightening for the University,there is the American track of the Harvardgovernment department, in which professors unhappywith the University's "hoarding" are being preyedon by a selectively-generous Stanford.

NYU Law: A Quick Move to the Top

If Barro is the Mercenary Professor, then Deanof New York University (NYU) Law School JohnSexton is the man who shows them the money.

In 1988, Sexton took over a middle-of-the-packlaw school that had played second fiddle tointracity rival Columbia for its entire history.After a decade of academic pump-priming, theschool now hovers among the nation's elite.

Sexton inherited a sizable war chest and didimpressive fund-raising on his own. But ratherthan locking up the loot, he gave the key to starprofessors--without a large hike in salaries--byexpanding prominent programs for legalscholarships.

To suggest that stars negotiate bigger andbetter deals with NYU might even insult Sexton. Hesimply asks them for an academic wish list.

"Your job is to tell me what will make it workfor you, and my job is to make it happen if it isall within my power," he reportedly told afree-agent professor. "We are not in a negotiatingsituation here."

What sets Sexton and NYU apart from the pack isthe willingness to spend as freely as their donorsgive.

That generosity has paid great dividends, oftento the detriment of traditionally more prestigiousschools--like Chicago, Stanford and Harvard--fromwhom NYU has plucked away prominent professors inrecent years.

Richard Stewart, a nationally renowned expertin environmental law, left Harvard in 1992 forgreener, if not richer, pastures at NYU.

Salaries are nice, but NYU officials pin theirsuccess in attracting faculty on the developmentof a myriad of innovative academic programs.

"People do feel very good about this placebecause the school has been supportive aboutfaculty growth and programs," says Oscar G. Chase,vice dean and professor of law at NYU.

With an aggressive effort to tap into thewealth of alumni, Sexton has been able to initiateseveral attractive projects: $5 million for theGlobal Law program, another $5 million toestablish the Center on Innovation in a GlobalEconomy and $100 million to start a tuition poolthat would make an NYU legal education completelyfree.

"The dean at NYU has done a good job ofbuilding resources," says Harvard Professor of LawLawrence Lessig, who says he was drawn to Harvardby a research center on the laws of the Internet.

The NYU law school is, of course, not thebroad-ranging academic power Harvard is, but itssuccess is still a scary example for those likeHarvard seeking to maintain prestige across theboard.

Slipping Away?

Examining Harvard's government department islike looking at the other side of the coin: seniorFaculty are being tempted by a Stanford departmentwilling to spend more on academic perks.

Thomson Professor of Government Morris P.Fiorina Jr. announced last month that he isleaving for Stanford. Professor of Government andof Sociology Theda Skocpol is seriouslyconsidering an offer from the same school as isShattuck Professor of Government Paul E. Peterson,who says he and Stanford have "chatted."

Then come the caveats. Skocpol has not made anydefinite decisions. Peterson's fate is still up inthe air. And it is not unusual for Harvard Facultyto have outstanding offers from other schools.

But this case is unique because the competingschool is so aggressive and its offers are takenso seriously. Only a handful of senior governmentFaculty have left in the past two decades.

Stanford's success in this case appears to takeadvantage of perceptions within the departmentthat Harvard does not give its governmentprofessors enough academic support.

"Harvard's view is Faculty should use theHarvard name to provide their own [researchfunding]," says Fiorina, who does not blame hisown departure on any Harvard failing.

Fiorina is careful to say it was not a salaryincrease which made him switch coasts. But atStanford, he will work in the Hoover Institute onWar, Revolution and Peace--cutting his teachingload in half and devoting his attention to aprestigious research center.

Skocpol says she too might leave Harvardin search of a more generous school which requiresher to spend less time on fundraising.

"It's a big time drain, and I wouldn't have todo as much at another university which provided mewith more support," Skocpol says. "Stanford seemsto be taking aggressive steps to improve itspolitical science department."

These "aggressive steps" include hiring 10additional faculty members as well as increaseddirect grants for Faculty research.

"Lately, Stanford has been very inviting forsome subfields, most notably Americanists," Bellinsays.

Her colleagues say that while Harvard'ssalaries are still high and its research supportstill formidable, the University has lost acushion of prestige which might previously haveinsulated it from the need to engage in biddingwars with aggressive competitors.

"There may have been a time when Harvard couldattract people with prestige, but that time islong since past," Frieden says.

And while no one says Harvard's academicprestige is in danger of real attrition for themoment, the loss of any Faculty member cannot helpbut chip away at the world's most prestigiousschool.

"The University is entirely the people thatmake it up," Frieden says.CrimsonPaul S. Gutman

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