On The Road

When the campaign gets going, University leaders hit the trail

Kirby, for his part, says fundraising and engaging with alumni enables administrators to hear outside perspectives on Harvard.

“It’s very important to get out and talk with others,” he says. “It’s a central part of the job, irrespective of a campaign.”


With increasing travel commitments and fundraising responsibilities, the campaign adds to schedules already stretched thin by running a major research university. According to Kirby, when going on a fundraising trip necessitates traveling to a significantly different time zone and then returning to campus, “you’re basically up most of the night."

“You are simply busier, without question, if you’re on the West Coast or you’re in Europe or you’re in East Asia, than you’d otherwise be,” Kirby says, adding that administrators are “totally plugged in” to the goings on in Cambridge while they are off campus.


Faust maintains that she still runs the University when she is on the road for the campaign—she says just using her cell phone allows her to keep in touch with her responsibilities on campus.

“The fact is, the deans and Drew [Faust] and I—we all are pretty much available 24/7,” Garber says.

Other administrators, like Nohria, similarly suggest that they are able to keep up with day-to-day roles in Cambridge despite increased focus on the campaign. Murray says she can delegate work on campus to two executive deans.

Still, some faculty members question the effectiveness of leadership whose topmost executives devote as much, if not more, time to fundraising than to addressing faculty concerns. Ali S. Asani ’77, a professor in the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations Department, says that it is difficult for faculty members to meet with Smith, and suggested that “the campaign definitely affects” the dean’s level of engagement with the academics in the departments he oversees.

“There are so many demands on [the FAS Dean’s] Office—you’re an administrator, you’re in the campaign, you’re doing this—that he has no time for faculty,” Asani says.

An FAS spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment on the claim that Smith has become inaccessible to faculty members.

Richard M. Losick, the interim chair of the Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, says that he remembers “an era when the senior leadership was much more engaged with the faculty and students than is the case today.” He says that while a lack of connection across the University hierarchy may or may not be a direct result of campaigning, it is commonly used as an explanation for it.

“I didn’t notice an abrupt change that I could attribute to the campaign, but I’ve heard this brought as an excuse,” Losick adds.

Even administrators who insist that they are fully engaged with their on-campus responsibilities while fundraising acknowledge the added demands of a campaign.

Although at “crucial moments” it could take up to two-thirds of his efforts, Rudenstine says that he set a personal rule not to spend more than 30 or 40 percent of his time on his campaign, as an average, when he was president.

“There were just too many other academic and other things to attend to that had obvious, very high priority, and while the campaign was an immense priority as well, one just had to ration what one did,” Rudenstine says. Still, he says that traveling on the road was “tremendously important” in his own experience.

"It might seem to some people to take the President or other people away from the University, which in one sense it obviously does, for a reasonable amount of time,” Rudenstine says. “At the same time...there's no way to communicate what the University means and what it’s doing and what it can achieve without actually having group sessions, without meeting with individuals, without having large alumni gatherings where you can give talks, and so on.”

—Staff writers Matthew Q. Clarida, John P. Finnegan, Amna H. Hashmi, Steven S. Lee, Dev A. Patel, and Steven R. Watros contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Madeline R. Conway can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MadelineRConway.


Recommended Articles