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Fast-forward 100 years. What will the Harvard of the future look like? Will students fly from class to class in metal space pods? Will the Harvard campus be an abandoned ghost town of ruins after World War Three? Will people flock from galaxies around to pray to William James Hall?
Anyone who worries for Harvard's future can now rest assured. Psychic medium and North Cambridge resident John Holland, who was featured on "Unsolved Mysteries" earlier this year because of the unusual talents he acquired after a car accident seven years ago, says, "The core of Harvard is safe."
After flipping through pages of various Harvard publications, Holland divined images of what Harvard will be and look like in 2100.
Some of the things Holland forecasted seemed to affirm the actions and statements of current administrators, who view their job as more than managing the day-to-day functions of the college, but ensuring its viability and, in the case of this august place, prominence in the years, decades and centuries to come.
"Immediately what I was getting, before looking at a map, [was] something where the water is going to go through Harvard," he says.
And Holland cautions that he did not mean water fountains: "The Charles or something is going to be incorporated through Harvard."
Although he was not sure if the water would be in the middle of the Yard, he said there will definitely be a water system flowing through the Cambridge campus.
While it is unclear if erosion is slated to take the Charles up JFK Street, alternative explanations from Harvard administrators may validate Holland's claim.
Joe Wrinn, director of the Harvard News Office, also sees water figuring prominently in the University's future.
"A hundred years from now I think the campus will look a lot different, and I think the river will basically be the center of it because there is nowhere else to expand except across the river," Wrinn says. " I think a snapshot a hundred years from now will show that the river will divide the campus the same way that Mass Ave. or maybe Oxford Street does now."
The University's director of community relations for Cambridge, Mary H. Power, has watery images as well.
Power sees "the beautifully restored Memorial Hall tower ruling over Harvard because William James has long since been demolished," describing the tower as "oasis in the Charles River basin, which is now much, much larger due to the effects of global warming."
Holland also predicts that Harvard Yard will be preserved more or less sacrosanct for the next century.
"Harvard will always stick to their traditional buildings...I'm seeing the city grow around Harvard," he says.
Harvard administrators feel the same way.
David A. Zewinski '76, associate dean for physical resources and planning in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and resident czar of most University building projects, says the Yard will be the fixed element of future University construction.
"There is not a building here that will not be here in a hundred years. Nor is there a building not here that will be here in 2100," Zewinski says. "I think
Harvard Yard will look pretty much as it does now in 2100."
But, Zewinski has a future Harvard Yard vision of his own.
" The new trees will be bigger," he notes.
Much as today, future construction will be dictated by the University's academic needs.
"The physical plant will really follow the adage of form follows function," Zewinski says. "Whatever the academic priorities are will shape the physical plant."
Of course, the world around the Yard will change dramatically that, according to Holland's predictions, include "a lot of glass" surrounding the Yard, possible in the form of a dome. "It's almost like we'll come here and look at it like a museum," he says.
To complete the exhibit-like appearance of the campus, Holland predicts statues will dot the Yard.
"I'm seeing statues coming out," he says. As he walks the campus during a psychic session, he stops near one of the gates, pointing to the narrow strip between Boylston Hall and the Wigglesworth dorms: "You all can't see them, but I see statues all along there," Holland says.
An aesthetically pleasing campus might even be drained of students.
"Dorms will be a thing of the past," he says.
University Provost Harvey V Fineberg '67 rejects that notion.
"I do not think you will have a complete substitute for the residential experience," he says.
Some administrators actively steer clear of gazing into their crystal balls.
Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis'68 confesses that his crystal ball was murky at best. Still, like Power, water ran through his predictions for the Harvard of the future.
" I suppose my greatest worry for Harvard is that it will be under water due to global warming!" Lewis wrote in an e-mail message. "It is a sad consequence of our colonial roots that we were founded near sea level. But there I go--speaking in terms of hopes and fears rather than predictions."
Lewis says he avoids publicizing the prophecies of his crystal ball for fear they will be taken too seriously.
"Truly I have lived long enough to be skeptical about futurology. And honest predictions are so likely to be taken as goals to be striven for, or the pessimistic ramblings of old curmudgeons," he writes.
Outside of the Yard, Holland sees less loyalty to traditional Harvard architecture. While the oldest buildings are preserved, he predicts, glass and steel will dominate new construction.
Verging on Merging
One of the biggest changes Holland sees is a union between the University and another company in the next century.
"Harvard is going to be merged--it's almost like a company merger," Holland predicts.
"Big business runs the schooling system. Harvard is going to have a slash and another name [to follow it] like Harvard/IBM," says Holland about the solution to Harvard's future funding problems. Holland was quick to assert that he did not see IBM as that partner.
He also allayed the fears of alumni now and in the future, offering that "Harvard will always be Harvard, it will have top billing."
The presence of the businesses will allow smaller, interactive affiliates around the country.
"I'm seeing this big screen. I see a screen, Internet-based. And there are not just people in lecture halls, not just in Boston," Holland says--though he admits that this isn't much of a prediction because distance learning is "most likely going to happen anyway."
These screens will change the face of collegiate instruction. Holland says computers running these screens will not displace the need for teachers, but their role will change.
"There will always be teachers, but more computers and teachers running the computers," Holland forecasts.
Fineberg has similar notions of the nature of future instruction.
"The great lecturer may or may not be the same professor who is going to be as famous as a media communicator," he says. "There will be more and more learning taking place even when the professor is not in the room."
Instead of using paper, Holland says students will complete all of their work on special clipboard computers.
"It will be the flattest computer, like a clipboard," Holland says. "A lot of paperwork will be taken away, [making it] easier for students and the environment."
The reduced busy-work caused by paper will free up the time of students who will be, by then, more involved in the running of the University, he says.
Working with the University will mean interaction with its female leaders.
"There will be more women on the board, I'm seeing more women running it," Holland forecasts.
With the role of big business on campus, work-study programs will expand beyond Loker and Dorm Crew with students working as a way of paying their tuition debt.
"Barter's going to come into play," Holland says.
And the good news for parents, Holland doesn't see the need for continual tuition increases in the Harvard of the future.
"It won't be outrageously priced here, there'll be other ways to pay those bills," Holland said.
As far as departments of the future, it seems Harvard Dining Services Director Ted A. Mayer has already latched on to the wave of the future by offering annual classes for seniors in the kitchen.
"Culinary Arts are going to be big," Holland forecasts.
Mayer is more focused on the future of produce in his department.
"The technology will be improved so that instead of buying chicken fingers, food will appear more natural," he says. "Foods will be cooked to order, there will be more individualized variety in foods geared to your own diet."
While Holland didn't say much about variety, he differs from Mayer in the natural state of the options.
"Junk food is gone," Holland envisages. "Things are more powdered, condensed and broken down here and added to stuff. I think we'll all be vegetarians...Something will happen to the animals, pets and animals are going to be such a rare thing."
"I hope we don't have the pills that rehydrate," Mayer says. "Eating is too much fun."
Oh, and by the way, the increased water flowing through campus will result in more bridges, but students won't necessarily get to class in the same way.
"Harvard researchers have developed a way to transport people without cars, traffic lights, and horns honking. Sort of 'Beam-me-up-Scotty technology,'" Power offers.
Holland has similar ideas.
"There will be moving sidewalks and tubes," he says. "I'm seeing tubes that take you from classroom to classroom. I'm not sure if it's for weather protection."
Holland is least clear about what students will do for fun in the future. But he foretells more recreation sports and has a vision for one new pastime involving a "ball or a disc...you shoot it out," he says. Asked to provide more details, he says only, "Some of type of science ball or something."
And where do you play such a game?
"Outside or inside a gymnasium," he suggests.
"There will be headlines in The Crimson, will final clubs consider female members? They will still disagree on alcohol," says Rev. Douglas W. Sears '69, president of the Inter-Club Council.
Of course, Harvard won't be any less competitive 100 years down the road.
Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid William R. Fitzsimmons '67 says admissions of the future will have moved beyond recruiting a diverse national student body.
"At the moment we have achieved our objective of a national student body, we are working on international. Then we're looking at an intergalactic student body," he says.
Fitzsimmons reports that his office already has reconnaissance on demographic numbers through 2018 and said Byerly Hall's embrace of technology will only grow in the future. Still, he says, "I don't know how that will translate in our intergalactic recruiting."
And what happens then?
President Neil L. Rudenstine puts it best: "All of a sudden, the world is a completely new ball game."
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