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TOP 10 NEWS STORIES OF 2010

Fraud and crime dominate a year that also saw historic reform

By Crimson News Staff

On the first day of 2011, The Crimson's news staff looks back at the year that was.

During a year that saw Professor Marc D. Hauser and Adam B. Wheeler fall from grace, fraud dominated the headlines in 2010. But the year also saw an alarming uptick in crime, including an armed robbery inside the Yard. The year was also one of reform as the Corporation announced a set of historic changes to its structure. And following the repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," the Reserve Officer Training Corps is now positioned to potentially return to Harvard after its decades-long absence.

In ascending order, 2010's top stories follow.

#10 ELENA KAGAN JOINS SUPREME COURT

With Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court and subsequent confirmation process, her record as dean of Harvard Law School came under close scrutiny. Kagan’s supporters cited her time at the Law School as evidence that she would be a voice of unity on the court. As dean, Kagan brought to an end the rancorous ideological disputes that had earned the school the nickname “Beirut on the Charles.” But her critics seized on her decision to limit access for military recruiters as evidence that she would bring an anti-military perspective to the court.

Kagan served as dean of the Law School from 2003 to 2009, and her tenure established her as one of the most popular deans in recent memory. But in attempting to reinvigorate the school, she did not hesitate to knock some heads together and deployed a management style that some characterized as brusque.

But Kagan effectively dodged and parried Republican attacks and was confirmed in August by a 63-37 vote in the Senate. Kagan replaced Justice John Paul Stevens on the bench, and her confirmation brought the number of women on the court to three, the most to serve on the court at one time.

#9 ALLSTON EXPANSION STILL PAUSED

While construction on the University’s massive planned expansion in Allston continued to lay dormant, Harvard officials sought to lease some University owned property as it seeks to make plans for how to proceed with its development efforts. Still, Allston residents voiced angry complaints over a planning process that say has not been sufficiently transparent and has failed to address concerns raised by residents.

Before construction abruptly halted in Dec. 2009, contractors had poured the foundation for the cornerstone of the development, the $1 billion Science Complex. But that complex has since been paved over while the community awaits word from University administrators for how they plan to fund and develop the property. Officials have raised the possibility of co-development, or partnering with non-profits or businesses, in order to ease the financial pressure of continuing to fund the development solely on the University’s dime. The University has convened a work team that will deliver recommendations by mid-2011, though it is unclear how specific those plans will be.

In the meantime, the University has focused on smaller projects, including leasing out property. In April, renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma '76 announced that he would relocate the headquarters of the Silk Road Project, his non-profit arts and educational organization, to a Harvard building in Allston. Earlier in the year, Earthwatch, a non-profit environmental organization, also announced that it would move its headquarters to Allston.

But the University’s efforts in Allston have also been fraught with tension—including a dispute over the relocation of an Allston McDonald’s. University officials often cite grants to community groups, the opening of batting cages, and the Allston Education Portal as ways that the University has sought to mitigate the pause in construction. But those efforts often seem to fall on deaf ears with residents who remain incensed that the redevelopment project they had been promised is now little more than a dormant construction site.

#8 CORPORATION ANNOUNCES REFORMS

As fall reading period came to a close, so did a period of reflection for the Harvard Corporation. With criticism of its insular nature mounting, the University’s highest governing body on December 6 announced it would nearly double its membership, institute term limits, and create several committees—changes unprecedented in the Corporation’s more than 300-year history. The oldest corporation in North America, chartered in 1650, the Corporation had maintained the same structure—comprised of the University president and six fellows—since its founding.

In the wake of 2009’s precipitous drop in the value of Harvard’s endowment, the Corporation garnered heavy and strident criticism. In a Boston Globe op-ed, two prominent professors blamed the Corporation for financial mismanagement that led to the University’s fiscal crisis. They and others cited the board’s secretive nature—it chooses its own membership and does not release minutes from its meetings—for making its members out of touch with the University. Such scrutiny of the governing body was not new, having been voiced by many amidst the turmoil surrounding the ouster of former University president Lawrence H. Summers.

The structural changes, the result of a long-running governance review, are the most significant in a recent trend toward openness on the Corporation. The addition of William F. Lee ’72, a Boston-area resident who occasionally dines in Eliot House, to replace James R. Houghton ’58 as a member in 2010 struck many as a sign of a growing desire on the part of the governing body to engage with the greater University. Now, with six new members joining the Corporation over the next two years, current fellows have said that they hope that to not only be able to specialize in their areas of expertise but also reach out to the community on a more regular basis.

#7 LIBRARY REFORM

As the University’s sprawling library system undergoes its largest overhaul in decades, the snail-paced reforms began to take more concrete shape in 2010. In a report released in Nov. 2009, the Provost’s University Library Task Force recommended a series of changes to the “labyrinthine” structure of the largest academic library in the world. While some faculty members were up in arms about what they feared were proposals of cuts and more cuts, a collaborative effort among faculty and administrators has since led the effort toward restructuring the library system with a focus on efficiency rather than cost. Still facing strapped budgets and rising costs, the library system has taken steps to centralize its administration and increase coordination among the disparate libraries—including a total of over 70 separate library units—of individual University schools.

The Task Force’s successor, the Implementation Work Group led by Divinity School Professor David C. Lamberth, concluded its work this fall by handing off long-term reforms to the newly established Harvard Library Board. Composed of faculty and administrators from across the University, the Board will help centralize executive authority under a single entity, leaving larger proposals of the Task Force and the Work Group—such as reforms to the Harvard Depository—to be overseen by the Board. The mid-December selection of Helen Shenton, formerly at the British Library, as the Board’s Executive Director, has put an experienced hand in place to spearhead system reforms in the years ahead.

#6 YARD SUICIDE

The serenity of Harvard Yard was broken in dramatic fashion last September when a man walked onto the steps of Memorial Church and shot himself in the head. Police immediately locked down the area surrounding the church and increased their perimeter throughout the day. By mid-afternoon, the entire eastern half of the Yard was shut down. A tour group of more than 20 people, which had been posing for a photo in front of the church the moment the man pulled the trigger, was taken aside for questioning. Inside the church, Yom Kippur services were underway when the man took his life. Attendees said they were unaware of what had transpired on the other side of the wall and services continued uninterrupted.

Hours after the suicide, a source familiar with the investigation said the man was not affiliated with Harvard, and in the aftermath of the death, College administrators and mental health officials reached out to freshmen, many of whom live in the buildings surrounding the steps where the man took his life. It would be days before officials released the man’s identity and, more perplexingly, what led up to his death. Mitchell L. Heisman, a 35-year-old writer who was born in New York City and lived in Somerville, had written a 1,905-page opus replete with references to religion, philosophy, history, and the death of his father. Titled “Suicide Note,” the manifesto argued for what Heisman called his own “nihilistic self-destruction.”

#5 CRIME SPREE HITS HARVARD

A string of robberies during the fall semester left administrators and police seeking to reassure students about the level of safety on campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods. Beginning with four robberies near MIT at the end of October, the first day of November saw two Harvard affiliates robbed at knifepoint in separate incidents, one of which was stabbed in the arm. The next day, a robbery occurred near the Quad. A Malden man was arrested the following day on robbery charges, but the crimes continued that week with an attempted armed robbery outside the Dudley Co-op. The following Thursday, a man was robbed at gunpoint near Thayer Hall in the Yard. Two days later, a man fired a gun at a Cambridge police officer after holding up three freshmen. The man missed the police officer and was arrested after falling down a set of stairs.

But the robberies would continue throughout the fall. On Nov. 13, three men robbed a victim in Cambridge Common. On Nov. 16, three men robbed a Boston resident at the corner of Mass. Avenue and Brattle Street. On Nov. 21, an undergraduate was robbed near the Quad. December also saw at least three robberies of Harvard affiliates: a graduate student, a Business School student, and an Extension School student.

All the while, the Harvard University Police Department and College administrators sought to reassure the campus that they were taking measures to keep Harvard affiliates safe. Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds and Dean of Student life Suzy M. Nelson sent messages to College students that cautioned against unsafe behavior and announced that the University would step up security. As HUPD added officers to patrol the Yard, the College also tasked security guards with adopting “a more visible stance."

#4 ROTC POISED TO RETURN TO CAMPUS

With the repeal of the U.S. military’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy having been signed into law on December 22, the University is poised to formally recognize the Reserve Officer Training Corps, long shunned from Harvard and other Ivy League campuses. Harvard, which first ousted the corps during protests against the Vietnam War in 1969, had said that the military’s policy preventing gay and lesbian troops from openly serving was discriminatory and violated University policy. As a result, Harvard students who participate in ROTC have been forced commute to MIT for military science classes and physical training.

Speaking at an event with Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, University President Drew G. Faust said she looked forward to welcoming ROTC back but conditioned its return upon the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” “A ROTC program open to all ought to be fully and formally present on our campus,” she said. Still—despite Mullen’s statement that having ROTC units at schools like Harvard is “incredibly important”—it remains unclear that the University would receive its own unit. The Pentagon must consider the cost-effectiveness of recruiting at a university where it is unlikely to get a large number of participants .

ROTC at Harvard was in the spotlight throughout the fall as a repeal worked its way through Congress. In September, Massachusetts Senator Scott P. Brown publicly rebuked Harvard for its stance and started a petition against the University’s unwillingness to recognize ROTC. When a federal judge issued an injunction halting the enforcement of “Don’t Ask” in October, there were questions if Harvard would change its policy. Congress’s repeal of the policy, finally passed during a lame-duck session, has made it more likely than ever that the University will once again recognize the corps.

#3 MARTY PERETZ

It was meant to be a celebration of liberal thought. But the Committee on Degrees in Social Studies’ 50th year anniversary blew up into a national controversy after one of its honored guests, Martin “Marty” H. Peretz, a former social studies professor and editor of the New Republic magazine, made bigoted comments in a September blog post regarding the Park51 project in downtown Manhattan. Two weeks later, members of the Social Studies community launched a petition opposing the upcoming tribute to Peretz as well as a $650,000 undergraduate research fund for Social Studies students to be provided in his name. The Committee came under fire from faculty and students across campus, including student ethnic groups and the Undergraduate Council, for not more aggressively distancing itself from Peretz’s comments.

The September 25 anniversary celebration in the Science Center endured, but the focus repeatedly drifted toward Peretz. Several members of the Social Studies community walked out of the ceremony in protest, while others expressed their disapproval of the Committee’s actions on stage. Protestors outside the Science Center followed Peretz across campus, requiring police escorts for the former Harvard professor. The protestors posted video coverage of their picketing online.

But the controversy continued as administrators wrestled over what to do with the $650,000 fund in Peretz’s name. The University had already announced that it would keep the money, but the Social Studies community was not entirely onboard. On October 6, around 40 students walked out of their Social Studies 10 lecture in protest. The Committee held an open discussion on the topic, and finally formulated a series of options that would give students the choice as to how or if they would use money from the new Marty Peretz Fund. Administrators said they planned to direct funds toward projects that focused on topics like inequality and social justice.

#2 ADAM WHEELER

It was not until Adam Wheeler began applying for a United States Rhodes Scholarship and the Fulbright Scholarship that his entire academic career started to unravel. The University initiated a full-scale investigation and discovered that he had cheated his way into Harvard—faking a transcript from MIT and his SAT scores, among other parts of his application.

The Crimson analyzed Wheeler's resume, discovering a number of falsehoods. Soon after Wheeler's lies began to surface, he faced legal action. In Middlesex Superior Court, he pled not guilty to 20 charges that included larceny, identity fraud, falsifying an endorsement or approval, and pretending to hold a degree. But in November, The Crimson learned that Wheeler would likely plead guilty. On Dec. 16, Wheeler admitted that he duped the Harvard admissions office and defrauded the University out of over $40,000 in grants and prizes. Wheeler was sentenced to ten years of probation, ordered to pay Harvard $45,806, and instructed to continue psychological treatment.

#1 MARC HAUSER

Marc D. Hauser, a prominent Harvard psychology professor, was found to be "solely responsible" for eight instances of scientific misconduct in his laboratory after a three-year internal investigation by the University. In three instances, published studies had to be retracted or corrected to remove unsupported findings. He is also facing inquiries from The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts and the Office of Research Integrity at the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Science Foundation's Inspector General.

While the University has not revealed the details the punishments levied against him, Hauser went on a year-long leave of absence. At first Hauser was allowed to teach classes at the Harvard Extension School, despite the federal investigation that has likely been opened against him, but the Extension School reversed its decision, canceling Hauser's courses. He will not return to teach until the fall of 2011, but the University continued to allow Hauser to run his laboratory, which studies the psychology of dogs, moral judgments in adults, and economic decision making in children.

With little known about the consequences Hauser might face, The Crimson examined the possible outcomes of a federal inquiry and the likelihood that Hauser would lose tenure. While the campus was abuzz with talk of the accusations surrounding Hauser, his laboratory remained quiet but functioning in the weeks after the scandal broke.

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