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A University task force likely spelled the end of the troubled Harvard Institute for International Development (HIID) last week, recommending it be dissolved and its programs distributed among Harvard schools.
The task force conducted a six-month-long review of HIID and included this recommendation in its final report Jan. 4. The institute conducts international research and acts as a consultant to foreign nations.
University President Neil L. Rudenstine and the Harvard Corporation are expected to accept the task force's recommendations, and a final decision is likely to come by the end of the month, according to University spokesperson Joe Wrinn.
Wrinn added that if the recommendation is accepted, the administration might distribute HIID programs to schools like the Kennedy School of Government (KSG) and the School of Public Health (SPH) as soon as the end of spring term.
Some programs will probably not be picked up, according to the task force's report. At this stage, no one can say what will happen to employees of those programs. Wrinn said there will be no loss of income for any HIID employee through June.
HIID interim director Richard B. Pagett said until there is a final decision, the provost's office has instructed the institute to "proceed with business as usual."
"When the task force was appointed in July it was made very clear that this was a comprehensive review,"
Pagett said. "I think everyone understood that that meant all possibilities were on the table from the very beginning."
A Troubled Past
Now, the institute has 20 overseas offices and 25 more international programs headquartered in Cambridge. Its annual budget is over $34 million.
In recent years, allegations of mismanagement and a scandal involving possible insider trading by HIID personnel in Russia have brought the institute embarrassing media attention.
In February 1999, the federal government launched an investigation into allegations that two HIID employees stationed in Russia in 1997 misused government grant money.
And in June, then-Institute Director and Stone Professor of International Trade Jeffrey D. Sachs '76 stepped down from his post, saying he wanted to spend more time on his other duties, including the leadership of the recently created and more research-oriented Center for International Development (CID). Pagett has served as interim director since Sachs' departure.
University officials have been adamant in saying that internal and national developments at HIID played no role in the committee's recommendation to dissolve the institute.
Thompson added that HIID's managerial issues are "not unusually problematic."
Pagett said he thinks the recommendation to dissolve HIID will likely not affect the federal investigation into the Russia scandal.
Even if HIID functions are moved to different schools, he added, they will remain University functions.
"It really is not related to Russia," Wrinn also said of the report.
Still, the report cites the Russian scandal as highlighting "the unforeseeable risks inherent in a worldwide enterprise such as HIID."
The report says HIID's main problem is that its size makes it difficult to integrate its programs into the University's academic mission.
Because its work is so isolated from the rest of the University, officials said, students and non-participating faculty rarely reap the benefits of HIID's work.
The report says "overseeing a large number of advisory projects located throughout the world" had become a "formidable challenge" for Harvard. By putting the programs under the closer gaze of various schools, the University hopes to increase its oversight.
An Uncertain Future
"Most people are quite uncomfortable with the idea of having the functions distributed throughout the University, but realize that this could be a unique and positive way to institutionalize these functions," he said.
Still, he said, "most people at HIID would have preferred not to have had these opportunities."
Another option open to the task force was to scale back HIID's operations but keep it centralized. Pagett said he would have preferred this plan, which would also have made HIID an "allied institution" like the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study.
"It would be disingenuous to say this would have been my preferred way of doing it," Pagett said. "But I don't see any reason why this can't work."
Provost Harvey V. Fineberg '67 responded to the task force's 60-page report in a letter to the fellows and staff of HIID, saying that he is "disposed to accept" the recommendation of the task force.
In a meeting with over 200 HIID staff members last week, Thompson said he expects KSG and SPH to be most interested in HIID programs.
According to Thompson, these and other Harvard graduate schools have been increasingly involved in international development and research.
One of the biggest advantages of having HIID functions move to individual schools would be increased accessibility for students and faculty.
"This kind of integration will be better certainly for teaching and research," Thompson said. "I take a very positive view."
HIID staff may begin familiarizing faculty from the various schools with HIID contacts even before the dissolution is final, Pagett said.
According to the report, some HIID functions may not carry over to specific schools. And if the recommendation is accepted, the annual budget for HIID-type projects is likely to be cut.
Pagett says that estimating a new operating budget is difficult because programs will be under the jurisdiction of different graduate school deans. The funding will certainly be cut to some extent, Pagett says, but the degree will be determined by what the schools decide they want. In the past, HIID has drawn fire for having a larger budget than certain of Harvard's graduate schools.
The functions of HIID should be geared more toward the University's teaching and research, the report says.
In a memorandum to HIID staff, Fineberg wrote that any comments sent to him by today would be helpful.
Pagett said his main concern about the recommendation is how the plan to distribute HIID functions would actually be carried out.
"The task force was charged with making a recommendation, not developing an implementation plan," Pagett said.
The challenge, he added, is to integrate administrative support for a consulting operation into "a more traditional academic structure."
"To do development advisory work requires a different administrative structure," he added.
In a statement released yesterday, Fineberg thanked the task force and promised that HIID's functions would be preserved even if the institute was lost.
"Harvard remains committed to the field of international development studies and its integration into the University's academic mission," he said.
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