Campus & Community

FAS looks forward with ambitious plans:

long read

Undergraduate education is highlighted in Dean’s annual letter

February 1, 2003

Dear Colleagues:

It is a great pleasure to greet you in this, my first Annual Letter on the state of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS). By any comparative measure, the FAS is strong. Across the humanities, the social sciences, and the sciences, we have an outstanding and growing faculty. Our students – be they Harvard College undergraduates, doctoral candidates in the Graduate School, or students in the Division of Continuing Education – have extraordinary talent, creativity, and determination. Our libraries are second to none. Our administrative colleagues and our support staff take as their central mission the support of our academic enterprise. We have, in short, firm foundations on which to build. For all this, as for much else, I am profoundly grateful to Dean Knowles for his powerful leadership and resourceful stewardship, and to President Summers and Provost Hyman for their resolute support of this Faculty.

Our foundations must be strong because our aspirations are large. We will review the content and structure of a Harvard College education for the first time in a generation. We will extend to our students an increasingly international education, at Harvard and abroad. We will expand – as we must – our research facilities in the sciences. We seek to add, significantly, to the size of the faculty. And as of July 1, 2003, we will double our support of senior faculty research time with the implementation of our new sabbatical policy.

I must tell you frankly that we aim to do all this, and more, as we enter a period of greater financial constraint than any of us would have predicted a year ago. We are not immune from the vicissitudes of the national and international economies.

Our expenses are increasing at a higher rate than our revenues. We will need to take sensible steps, now, in order to avoid more drastic measures, later. As the Chinese phrase has it: ju an si wei: “in a time of peace, anticipate danger.” We must and we will be ambitious. We will be prudent, so that we can be ambitious.

We must also be self-critical, in order to improve. We have great strengths, but we cannot be at ease. For institutions as for individuals, flattery and complacency are the enemies of renewal. Harvard became a leading university through a recurrent capacity for self-examination, reflection, and rejuvenation. We have before us the great opportunity – in the curricular review and in all realms of academic planning – to examine ourselves honestly and openly: to see what we are doing well, what we are doing poorly, and how we can do all, better.

Undergraduate Education and Harvard College

Curricular Review. The first area for such questioning is the undergraduate curriculum. It has been nearly 30 years since Dean Rosovsky undertook the last major review of undergraduate education at Harvard. It is time to begin this evaluation anew. As I wrote to the Faculty last autumn, we must ask the most basic questions: What, do we imagine, will it mean to be an educated woman or man in the first quarter of the 21st century? What are the enduring goals of a liberal education, and how can they be provided in the setting of a modern research university? If, as I believe, there is to be a shared foundation, or “core,” to a Harvard undergraduate education, how should it be conceived and how might it best be taught? What should a Harvard graduate know in depth about a discipline or area? How can we give our students greater opportunities to learn in formats other than the “distance learning” of the great lecture? How can we best take advantage of the fact that the College, and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences as a whole, sit within a great university with outstanding scholars in our sister Faculties?

Together with our new Dean for Undergraduate Education, Benedict Gross, I invited the views of faculty, students, and alumni/ae on these and other questions. We received numerous and very thoughtful responses. The purpose and structure of the review was discussed at two Faculty Meetings. Dean Gross organized a series of stimulating symposia on the Core and on models of undergraduate education at other universities.

I am now working with Dean Gross to create the several committees of faculty and students that will lead the review. Although our process is barely under way, and we have not begun to address the meatiest intellectual issues, from your letters and e-mails it seems clear that there is a broad consensus on several points that I should like to share with you.

1. Any revised curriculum should aim to increase direct educational contact between faculty and students.
2. Our curriculum should have a shared foundation, or “core,” that will be common to a Harvard undergraduate education.
3. We should aim to expand the educational choices open to Harvard College students, including courses in other Faculties. Many believe that a revised curriculum should have fewer formal requirements than the current system.
4. A revised curriculum should promote “scientific literacy” for graduates of Harvard College, who should be aware of the frontiers of scientific knowledge.
5. We should place significant emphasis on international and global studies, and our curriculum should enable a larger number of Harvard College students to pursue study and research abroad.
6. We must overhaul the system by which students are, and more often, are not, given academic advice by faculty.
7. We must examine the relationship between undergraduate life (residential and extracurricular) and undergraduate education.
8. For the improvement of undergraduate education, a larger faculty is a necessary, but not a sufficient, condition.

This review requires a serious commitment of the Faculty’s intellectual energies. No work that we undertake over the next several years will be more important. Although we say, ritually, that Harvard College is the heart of Harvard University, we must work continuously to make that statement true. At most American research universities, the undergraduate college has learned to live in the shadow of the graduate and professional schools. This should never happen at Harvard. As scholars and teachers with the responsibility to educate our gifted students, we must renew our commitment to undergraduate teaching and to our undergraduate students more broadly. We must dedicate ourselves anew to think, collectively and critically, about what we teach and how we should teach it.

Transitions. We are well positioned to begin such a large-scale review with the addition of Dick Gross to our ranks of senior deans. Dick brings to this work his background as an undergraduate, a graduate student, and a faculty member at Harvard, including experience as Head Tutor and Chair of the Math Department, and as a member of the 1995-97 Core Review Committee, the Standing Committee on the Core Program, and the Educational Policy Committee. He succeeds as Dean for Undergraduate Education Professor Susan Pedersen, who with great energy and judgment led the Faculty to implement significant curricular changes, including the reinvigoration and expansion of the Freshman Seminar Program (which offers 89 courses this year compared with 36 just two years ago).

International Study. Last spring, the Faculty accepted the recommendations of the committee, headed by Professor William Fash, which proposed a significant revision of our policies on study abroad. Harvard has grown over the last century and a half from a provincial college into a national institution. We now face the challenge of becoming a truly international university. In the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences (GSAS), we are enriched by students from every corner of our planet, and we train them to become scholars and teachers for America and the wider world. The FAS is home to an extraordinary set of research centers in international and area studies. Our Summer and Extension Schools are becoming ever more international. In the College itself, we teach some 54 languages and offer innumerable courses in international studies. Yet for Harvard College students, who will live and work in many corners of the globe after graduation, it seemed extremely difficult to combine an education of the world with an education in the world. Only a very tiny percentage of our undergraduates studied abroad for credit.

We have started to change that, and we have begun to implement the Fash Committee recommendations. In July, I established a new Office of International Programs. I am pleased to announce that I have now appointed Dr. Jane Edwards, currently Director of International Studies at Wesleyan University, as the first director of this office, effective July 1, 2003. Dr. Edwards will report to the Dean for Undergraduate Education, and she will work closely with the Faculty Standing Committee on Out-of-Residence Study, now chaired by Professor John Coatsworth, who succeeded Professor Fash in that role. With vigor and determination, Professor Coatsworth has worked with Dean Jeffrey Wolcowitz and Dr. Elizabeth Doherty to expand the international opportunities open to our students even before the new Office for International Programs can be fully up and running. I look forward to the closer integration of study abroad and other international opportunities into our curricular programs and our students’ overall planning for their time at Harvard. While it is true that teaching is at the heart of what goes on at Harvard College, it is also true that not all of the education that a student receives must take place in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

The physical embodiment of the FAS’s renewed commitment to international studies, broadly conceived, is the new Center for Government and International Studies that will shortly be rising on both sides of Cambridge Street. It replaces Coolidge Hall – demolished with great drama this fall – and it will house many of our international centers as well as the Department of Government. I am grateful indeed for the vision, generosity (and patience!) of Sidney Knafel, for whom the north building will be named, and for the planning efforts of center directors and other colleagues. Many of our international centers will reside for the next two years in the “near abroad” of 625 and 1033 Massachusetts Avenue, where they have thrived this autumn.

Grading and Honors. Last May the Faculty voted legislation concerning grading and honors. Beginning in academic year 2003-2004, we will replace the traditional Harvard 15-point scale for calculating students’ grade averages with the 4-point scale that is commonly used elsewhere, with equal intervals between each consecutive passing grade. This change will make it easier for faculty to use a wider range of grades by reducing the “penalty” associated with awarding B-range grades, and also promote transparency in our grading practices. Also, beginning this fall, course heads will be asked to report the distribution of grades assigned in a class on the course grading sheet, as a means of raising awareness about one’s own grading practices. The simple act of talking about grading standards appears to have led to a modest decline in the mean grade awarded in the College for the first time in at least 15 years.

The Faculty also voted to change its standards for awarding degrees magna cum laude, cum laude in field, and cum laude, based solely on grade point average, so that these honors will be awarded to fixed percentages of the graduating class in a way similar to our practices in the awarding of the degree summa cum laude. The Handbook for Students provides a detailed description of the new standards, which go into effect in June 2005.

Early Course Selection. This past summer, I asked the Office for Undergraduate Education and the Registrar to develop a plan for early course selection by which students would indicate the courses they intend to take before the start of each term. Students would still be able to change their minds, and to drop and add classes, during the first weeks of term. My request was motivated by a set of concerns. Faculty have for many years complained that, in the absence of even “ball-park” enrollment estimates, it is impossible to plan properly the staffing of sections and labs; the ordering of textbooks, library resources, and other materials; and, in some cases, even knowing whether a course would be in a seminar or lecture format. Graduate students for many years have pointed out the difficulties they face when they cannot know which sections they may teach, in which course, until several weeks into the term. Undergraduates have sometimes complained about the quality of section instruction, in part because section leaders could not be trained in advance for the teaching assignments that they received only once the final enrollment of courses was known.

Earlier information about students’ course selections should help improve instruction by addressing these concerns. It should also improve academic advising, about which students have rightly complained for years. The current system, which mandates advising primarily during the chaotic first week of term has simply not worked. I hope that we will improve the advising of undergraduates by scheduling conversations between students and their advisers in the previous term, before they have selected their classes for the next term. It can surely do no harm to have students and their advisers think about their courses earlier, rather than later.

Of course, for our students to select their courses, they need to know what is going to be taught. So departments will be required to settle on their course offerings for the coming term much earlier than they do now. In that sense, preparation for early course selection is closely tied to curricular planning by departments. I expect that we will be able to implement early course selection during the next Fall Term, when students will be asked to pre-select their Spring 2004 courses.

Admissions. However they choose their courses, students have had no problem in selecting Harvard as their college. For the 11th time in the past 12 years, applications for admission to the College rose. The 2,066 students admitted to the Class of 2006 were selected from a record pool of 19,609 applicants. The percentage of applicants admitted was 10.5, the lowest in Harvard’s history. For the first time, students were notified of their admissions decisions by electronic mail, while also receiving the traditional admission letter and certificate.

As we have done for many decades, particularly since the implementation of the National Scholars Program in the 1930s, Harvard College has made deliberate and targeted efforts to attract the interest of very promising students from all backgrounds. We have relied on the help of our alumni/ae around the world, as well as on direct mail, staff and student travel, and telephone outreach to convey the message that Harvard is open to talent – not to privilege. In making that case we are keenly aware of our good fortune in having the support of a generous need-based financial aid program in support of our need-blind admission policy, which enables us to admit and enroll the most talented students regardless of their family’s financial resources. It is worth noting here, in this season of heightened discussion of the role of race in college admission, that, in choosing from among many qualified applicants the few whom we can admit, the Admissions Committee has long taken into account personal circumstances, including race and family background.

Nearly 79 percent of students admitted to the Class of 2006 chose to enroll, marking a 1 percentage point increase over last year’s yield, and matching the College’s highest posted yield since the early 1970s. Harvard’s yield is – by a significant margin – the highest of the nation’s selective colleges, particularly striking because students admitted under the Early Action program are free to enroll at other colleges.

Our generous financial aid program remains crucial in our efforts to attract the best students from around the world. Financial aid has been enhanced greatly in the past few years, and the self-help portion of our aid packages – the amount students are expected to contribute – has been reduced twice, by over $2,000 per year, lowering to $3,250 what would otherwise have been a self-help level of over $7,000. Overall, approximately 47 percent of undergraduates in 2002-03 will receive scholarship support, amounting to nearly $68 million, of which 95 percent comes from University sources.

Faculty members once again were an integral part of the recruitment and selection process, reading hundreds of applications, telephoning admitted students, and serving on panels during the April Visiting Program. Faculty accessibility to prospective students remains a key to our success. I am very grateful to all of you who have helped us to attract such outstanding students to the College.

Residential Life. We continue to be blessed with an extraordinarily committed group of faculty Masters in the Houses. I want to thank Professor Everett Mendelsohn, who has completed his term as Master of Dudley House. He is replaced by James Hogle of the Harvard School of Public Health and the Harvard Medical School, and director of the Ph.D. program in Biophysics in the GSAS. Five new Allston Burr Senior Tutors were appointed, each teaching half-time in the FAS. Dean Karen Avery took up the role of Coordinator of Race Relations Advisers, pursuant to a recommendation made by students of the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations. We hope that the renewed effort to attend to potential racial issues in the Houses, not prompted by any recent incident, will make the College even more successful than it has been in maintaining mutual respect and tolerance in these tightly woven communities of diverse individuals.

For the seventh consecutive year – starting in the year after the policy of distributing freshman rooming blocks to the Houses without any preferences being considered – student satisfaction with the residential experience at Harvard has increased over the previous year. With 97 percent of Harvard College students living on campus all four years, in spite of housing policies that require only freshmen to live on campus, occupancy rates in all of the Houses have continued to be so high that relief for overcrowding was essential. Harvard’s housing on DeWolfe Street is now home to more undergraduates. A major and badly needed renovation project improved the Jordan and Wolbach dormitories at the Radcliffe Quadrangle, adding beds and providing more handicapped-accessible housing at the same time.

Space. While the shortage of housing was thereby reduced to a welcome degree, the pressure on extracurricular and recreational spaces continues unabated. Space for music practice and performance is very tightly scheduled and still inadequate. The Hasty Pudding building remains open, but it is in need of a major, difficult, and costly renovation. The anticipated transfer of the space that had housed the Rieman dance center to the Radcliffe Institute in June 2005 has caused significant anxiety among dancers in the College, numbering as many as 900. It is essential that we locate appropriate space for this need. In spite of newly acquired equipment, the Malkin Athletic Center (MAC) needs a significant expansion to meet student demand. Such an expansion could happen only by moving intercollegiate programs out of the MAC, a process that promises to be costly and complex. We have authorized an architect to investigate phased approaches to the renovation of this important facility.

Policy on Sexual Assault. In response to a faculty complaint and a request by the Dean of the College, a faculty committee appointed by Dean Knowles recommended a change in the procedures used by the Administrative Board in adjudicating allegations of peer misconduct, including sexual assault. Although the change elicited limited comment when it was reviewed by the Faculty Council, publicity following the approval by the Faculty of the relevant language in the new Handbook for Students led to considerable discussion on campus and in the national media about sexual assault on campus and Harvard’s mechanisms for preventing and responding to it.

Let me be clear about our policy. Harvard College does not tolerate sexual misconduct of any kind. Harvard College’s student disciplinary body, the Administrative Board, will continue to investigate every student dispute that is brought before it, including every complaint of sexual misconduct. Every complaint will be taken seriously by the full disciplinary board. Decisions will be made only after giving the main parties to the dispute a fair opportunity to be heard. We are endeavoring to do everything that we can to deter instances of sexual assault and, consistent with appropriate due process, to punish those who carry them out.

A committee was formed in May under the chairmanship of Professor Jennifer Leaning of the School of Public Health to look at these issues in a broader context, to examine Harvard’s support services for victims of sexual violence and all preventive, educational, and outreach programs to reduce the incidence of sexual violence. The Committee, which includes student representation, will make its recommendations in the spring.

The Graduate School

Improving graduate student support has been, and remains, a leading priority. In recent years we have improved substantially the level and structure of graduate student financial aid in the humanities and social sciences. Between 1999 and 2001, we increased the annual unrestricted subvention to the GSAS by $5.6 million to expand and guarantee financial aid for students in the humanities and social sciences. As part of the FY02 funding, we increased the stipends for our graduate students in the humanities and social sciences by 8 percent. For FY02, we committed to a further $3.2 million annual increase in GSAS funding to support more fully students in the sciences. These contributions, amounting to a total of $8.8 million over the past four years, are equivalent to what would have been provided by nearly $200 million of endowment; they have increased the subvention to the GSAS by nearly 50 percent.

The new support for the sciences was designed to address issues faced by several departments. Among these concerns were the support available for first-year students, the nature of the first-year experience, and constraints on the ability of programs to offer admission to excellent international candidates due to restrictions imposed on many federal funding sources. Additional financial aid resources were made available to departments to help address these concerns, beginning with the offers made to prospective students in 2002. One result of this initiative has been the removal of any need for new students in the sciences to teach in their first term, or in most cases in their first year of graduate school.

The financial aid initiative in the sciences, together with strong recruitment at the departmental level, appears to have had an immediate impact on admissions yields. Overall yields in the natural sciences, which had been holding steady between 46 and 50 percent for the past five years, jumped to 58 percent. Many departments, including Astronomy, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and Physics, as well as the Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences, saw increases in their admissions yields of 10 percentage points or more over those of recent years.

Admissions yields in the humanities and social sciences remained very strong: over 60 percent in both cases. The same is true of our interfaculty Ph.D. programs. The combined result is that admissions yields for GSAS overall have crossed the 60 percent threshold for the first time ever, to 61 percent. We know of no peer institution that comes close to this figure. At the same time, we are aware of continued intensification in the competition for the best students among leading institutions. If the FAS is intent on building on its current record of success, we will have to continue to make competitive offers of financial support so that prospective students are able to respond to the quality of our programs and our faculty in making their decisions about graduate school.

The Faculty

Since 1999, when the total size of the Faculty was 603, we have grown – as of this academic year – to 641 professorial faculty. This increase is the result of continued steady growth in the senior ranks (in fact, the number of senior faculty has increased by more than 65 since the late 1980s), and, over the past several years, the reversal of a decade-long trend of declining numbers of assistant and associate professors. This last factor is of critical importance, for our assistant and associate professors make an essential, and, in growing numbers, enduring contribution to the life of the University. In return we must provide them with support for their teaching and research, we must make them fully a part of the community within each department, and we must nurture their development as teachers and scholars.

Women and Minority Faculty. In addition to continuing these upward trends in all ranks, a priority of my deanship will be to continue to expand the representation of women and minority faculty in the FAS. One of the lasting legacies of Dean Knowles is the impressive growth in the number of tenured women in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Few may realize that more than 80 percent of the net increase in the number of tenured faculty from the late 1980s to this year is accounted for by growth in the number of tenured women, whose ranks have increased from 27 in 1988 to 81 this year. Although the progress has been significant, the number and percentage of tenured women in our ranks is still far from optimal. Meanwhile, the expansion in the ranks of tenured minority faculty has come at a slower pace. I look forward to working with colleagues in every department to identify outstanding minority candidates for tenure at Harvard, and in particular to focus on broad and inclusive searches at the assistant professor level, so that we are well positioned as the number of minority Ph.D.’s increases over the coming years. For the attraction and retention of women and minority colleagues, there is much work to do. I will need the advice and support of the Faculty to make sure that we can build substantially on the progress of the past decade.

Challenges in the Sciences and in Space Planning. If, as noted earlier, the review of undergraduate curriculum and “internationalization” are two of our leading challenges, the renewal and growth of the sciences is surely another. We aim to make scientific literacy common among Harvard graduates, to attract the most talented science graduate students the world over, all to work with an outstanding faculty that has the best possible facilities for its research. Our ability to achieve all of these goals is limited not the least by our physical plant. To be sure, there are space constraints across the Faculty, but those in the sciences are most acute. Our laboratory buildings are bursting at the seams. Our scientific museums cannot easily accommodate the combination of artifacts, specimens, and faculty for which they were long ago designed. Yet at the same time that departments and programs compete for scarce space, intellectual connectivities among the sciences have never been greater. Opportunities exist for increasing our available space in the North Precinct, Watertown, and, in time, in Allston. Each area presents its own challenges, but all demand the most careful and integrative academic planning.

This past year has been one of robust planning and construction activity. For example, the Bauer Laboratory is now complete and serving well the needs of the Bauer Center for Genomics Research (BCGR). Bauer also accommodates a central instrumentation suite for the Department of Chemistry and Chemical Biology and temporary space for the Center for Imaging and Mesoscale Structures (CIMS). Significant landscape improvements to both the north and south of Bauer have made the area a pedestrian-friendly environment.

The first phase of the Science Center project – additions to the west terrace (expansion space for FAS Computer Services) and the seventh floor (additional space for Statistics) – is also complete. Phase II, the demolition of the Oxford Street wing and construction of a four-story addition, has begun. Upon completion of Phase II, the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, the Department of the History of Science, and Science Center Administration will take occupancy of the newly created space. A gracious exhibition gallery for the scientific instruments will be prominently located on the first floor. Successive phases include renovations to the vacated History of Science space for the Department of Mathematics, construction of a new handicap-accessible entrance on Oxford Street, replacement of the arcade glazing, and basement renovations. When completed in the spring of ’04, approximately 30,000 square feet will have been added to the building and 30,000 square feet of existing space will have been renovated.

A new building for research in the Physical Sciences, to house the Center for Imaging and Mesoscale Structures adjacent to the Gordon-McKay laboratory building, is in the planning process. The Biology Research Infrastructure beneath the Biolabs courtyard has received Corporation approval.

Last year, Dean Knowles reported that we had hired the planning firm of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill (SOM) of Chicago to put forth a phased approach for the development of the North Precinct (the area framed by Hammond, Oxford, and Kirkland Streets as well as Kirkland Place). This area represents the largest remaining development potential for Harvard in Cambridge. Working in concert with our Planning Office, SOM produced a projected need for all of the FAS departments north of Kirkland Street. After consultation with our adjacent neighbors, we are now actively working to implement the development plan created for this area. Sixty Oxford Street, the new home for University Information Systems, is nearly complete. The new underground parking garage that will clear the surface parking now on the North Precinct site is under construction. Initial planning work has begun for two prospective laboratory buildings in this zone.

While these new buildings promise to enhance our science facilities in the near future, we are very fortunate, already, for having completed a merger last March with the Rowland Institute for Science. Founded in 1981 by Edwin Land, the Rowland was originally set up as an independent experimental research center to facilitate interdisciplinary and collaborative science. The Senior Fellows, at present, are conducting research in nanoscience, biophysics, biochemistry, and technology. Through members of our faculty, Harvard has a longstanding relationship with the Rowland, and this merged Institute, now under the direction of Professor Frans Spaepen, presents exciting opportunities for our students as well. The 110,000-square-foot laboratory facility overlooks the Charles River just east of Kendall Square.

In the sciences as in other parts of the FAS, as we aim to upgrade and develop our remaining spatial resources, we must work in close consultation with our Cambridge neighbors to improve our facilities in what is, and will be, the home of most of our enterprise. But we must not ignore or resist the possibilities for important activities in Allston and Watertown, for these will become increasingly important to Harvard.

The President and Provost are actively engaged in planning for Allston, with the aim to approve an initial framework for development by the end of next summer. Two firms have been retained to analyze several alternatives for Allston development: science interdisciplinary research centers; professional schools; cultural institutions; and graduate and faculty housing. Any model, or any combination of models, would have important effects (directly and indirectly) on the FAS. Indeed, all of our space planning decisions must take place in the context of the planning process for Allston, for which the FAS, like our sister faculties, will be providing the President and the Provost with sets of alternative proposals.

The Watertown Arsenal property, recently purchased by Harvard, represents another possible solution to space shortages. In contrast to Allston, the buildings are in place, available and ready to be fit out. I encourage anyone who has not visited the site to do so. As the Michelin Guide might say, the Watertown Arsenal “vaut le voyage.” It is a beautiful campus with glorious, flexible, 19th and early 20th century buildings and river views. Some FAS functions would thrive at the Arsenal.

We trust that much will change, and for the better, in the physical state of our sciences over the next five to 10 years. Yet as we seek to build, we cannot pretend, in the sciences or anywhere else, that we are using all of our current space efficiently. Departments will need to exercise greater authority over the allocation and reallocation of space, none of which is guaranteed in perpetuity to any faculty member. Longstanding research collections that are not centrally and frequently used for research and teaching may need to be moved to locations that are accessible, but off-site. Above all, the allocation of space must follow the academic priorities of this Faculty.

Academic Planning and Divisional Deans. Growth in the size of the Faculty and its physical resources is vital to the health of our entire enterprise: for the improvement of undergraduate education; for the training of graduate students; for remaining, as departments, competitive with our peers. But we do not seek growth for growth’s sake. Over the coming year I expect to begin development of academic plans that will refine our estimation of how much growth is necessary to achieve our teaching and research mission, and where that growth ought to occur. There will be difficult decisions to make among competing priorities. Our plans will emerge in part as an outcome of our review of undergraduate education. For as we decide, as a Faculty, what and how students need to learn, we will ourselves be setting intellectual agendas, some of which may well be rather different from those currently pursued at Harvard.

How then best to plan? Organized as we are in so many separate departments, we have reasonably good information – from annual reports and Visiting Committees – on the strengths and weaknesses of individual departments and disciplines. However, despite joint appointments and shared committee assignments, we have very little means of thinking beyond the department. Yet are there not enduring intellectual and instructional connections to be made across disciplines? Is our current structure of departments – very few of which are more than a century old – the only one imaginable for Harvard? Without some means of conceiving of our enterprise across the humanities, the social sciences, the sciences – indeed across the entire Faculty – we cannot be sure (or at least I cannot be sure) that we are doing our best.

For this and for other reasons – to respond more rapidly to faculty requests, to open new lines of communication, to bring more faculty colleagues into the governance of the FAS, and to create a more manageable structure in the Dean’s Office – there has been much expression of interest in the idea of faculty divisional deans. A divisional dean has, of course, already long served the DEAS, with notable success. I have recently begun discussions on the creation of a new deanship in the life sciences and related areas. I will explore this model also for the humanities and the social sciences. I welcome your thoughts on this prospect.

Faculty Appointments Process. Last term I appointed a committee chaired by Associate Dean Cynthia Friend to review our procedures for the appointment and review of teaching faculty in the FAS. A central purpose is to make sure that we have procedures that are clear, fair, and comprehensible to those being reviewed for promotion and are consistent across our many departments. The larger aim is to ensure that we are recruiting, promoting, and retaining outstanding teachers and scholars from the rank of assistant professor to professor. Some of the most significant appointments in recent years have been of scholars of unusual strength whom we have promoted or appointed to tenure at an early stage of their careers. We hope that this review will enhance the prospect of more such appointments. Dean Friend and the members of her committee welcome comments and suggestions.

Leave Policy. This fall I wrote to all tenured faculty to explain the FAS’s new leave policy for tenured professors. When fully implemented, this policy will provide a term of paid leave following each six terms in residence. This improvement will enhance opportunities for faculty research and publication, and it should make it easier for us to attract outstanding scholars from other institutions. The planning for this new policy, which began under Dean Knowles, foresaw a transition period of several years as individual faculty move to the new schedule. As I wrote in my earlier letter on this subject, we can only implement the new policy as each department completes (and continues in the coming years) a multiyear curricular plan that incorporates the courses that we must provide each year to sustain undergraduate concentrations, the Core and Freshman Seminar programs, sufficient offerings for graduate students, and service courses for nonconcentrators. This may require in some departments a new level of cooperation in the assignment of teaching and administrative responsibilities. I want all colleagues to know that department chairs and those responsible for nondepartmental instruction have my full support in this endeavor. We can only enjoy the fruits of this new policy if we together recognize our responsibility to our students and our colleagues.

Retirement. Even as we seek the expansion of the faculty, we will need to watch trends in the retirement decisions of our colleagues. The average retirement age of colleagues who have retired since the end of mandatory retirement in 1993 is just over 69 years of age. But a steadily rising proportion of those who have reached age 70 since 1993 have not yet chosen to assume emeritus status. Twenty-seven percent of those who have turned 70 since 1993 have not yet retired. As a consequence, approximately 7 percent of the total tenured faculty are over age 70, and nearly 18 percent are over age 65. By comparison, 15 years ago just over 11 percent of the tenured faculty were over age 65. In the natural and applied sciences the trend toward later retirement is even more striking, for there the average retirement age is over 70, and the proportion of faculty who have turned 70 since 1993 and have not retired is more than one-third.

The decision about when and in what manner to retire is shaped by many factors, among which are the vicissitudes of individual financial circumstances, the culture of particular disciplines and departments, and relative opportunities for continued research (and continued access to external research support in some fields) both before and after retirement. To date, the University has not adopted any retirement incentive policy, as some of our peer institutions have, in part because the effectiveness of such programs elsewhere has not been impressive. I expect to continue to monitor the situation carefully, particularly in the sciences, where space is so short. We must ensure that no matter the career stage of an individual faculty member, the allocation of space and other forms of support is reasonably aligned with each colleague’s contributions to research, teaching, and citizenship.

Free Speech. The final issue to address in this section on our faculty is among the most important to us all. There has been much discussion this academic year on our policies regarding speakers and our principles regarding speech, and criticism, at Harvard. The Faculty Council, the Academic Advisory Group to the President, consisting of the deans of the Faculties, and our full faculty have all recently discussed this issue.

This would seem to be a place to note the Faculty legislation and inherited practice that have defined the principles under which we operate. I refer specifically here to the “Guidelines on Free Speech,” adopted by the Faculty in 1990, and a larger body of precedent that has expounded and, historically, expanded the concept of free speech at the University.

Let me first quote from the “Guidelines on Free Speech” of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences:

Because no other community defines itself so much in terms of knowledge, few others place such a high priority on freedom of speech. As a community, we take certain risks by assigning such a high priority to free speech. We assume that the long-term benefits to our community will outweigh the short-term unpleasant effects of sometimes noxious views. Because we are a community united by a commitment to rational processes, we do not permit censorship of noxious ideas. We are committed to maintaining a climate in which reason and speech provide the correct response to a disagreeable idea.

Several Presidents of the University have reaffirmed their support of principles of free speech, most recently President Summers, on Nov. 20, 2002, when he said:

Invitations to lecture in Harvard departments are commonly extended by those departments. We are ultimately stronger as a university if we together maintain our robust commitment to free expression, including the freedom of groups on campus to invite speakers with controversial views, sometimes views that many members of our community find abhorrent. We must stand firmly behind that commitment.

The test of these beliefs lies not when we agree with a speaker, but when we disagree, even to the point of finding his or her views unconscionable. To paraphrase President Lowell: If the University censors what speakers may say, if it restrains them from uttering something that it does not approve, it thereby assumes responsibility for that which it permits them to say.

Of course the commitment to free expression is not a commitment to agree with that expression; nor is it a commitment, on the part of either individual faculty or of University administrators, to remain silent in opposition. As President Bok’s 1984 letter “Reflections on Free Speech: An Open Letter to the Harvard Community” makes clear, there are occasions on which the University may feel the need to make public the fact that views offered on our premises do not have the endorsement of the University and do not represent University policy.

For an important principle is: on almost all of the issues set forth in our numerous talks, workshops, and seminars, the University does not have a policy. For example, in my own experience of hosting many, very controversial symposia on Chinese and Asian studies, it has been a comfort to know that Harvard University, for all its power and prestige, does not have a foreign policy.

We do, however, have one further, and very important, policy regarding speech. In our community, there is no room for intimidation of, or threats against, those with whom we disagree. Our departments and programs, as well as our student organizations, often extend invitations to speakers with controversial views. Whatever our own individual views – which we are of course free to articulate – speakers must be heard and debated, with the civility that underlies rational discourse.

The Division of Engineering and Applied Sciences

The strategic planning process in the Division, begun last year, was focused this year in a review by the Visiting Committee of the Board of Overseers. This review examined the administration of the Division, the need to build a critical mass of faculty in Electrical Engineering, and – anticipating the efforts in the College as a whole – the revision of the undergraduate curriculum. In administration, Professor Margo Seltzer now serves as Associate Dean for Computer Science and Engineering. She will guide this growing area of the Division and will serve as a resource for recently hired junior faculty. In Electrical Engineering, DEAS has been successful in hiring faculty in key areas spanning communications, applied physics, devices, and circuits. Electrical Engineering now joins computer science in approaching its ideal size. A committee has begun examination of the undergraduate engineering curriculum with the goal of educating the “renaissance engineer.”

Harvard’s Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) has been approved after a yearlong competitive renewal process by the National Science Foundation. The award is for $10.8 million for 2002-08. Twenty-nine faculty members from DEAS, the departments of Physics, Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Molecular and Cellular Biology, and the Harvard Medical School participate in the Center.

The Industrial Outreach Program (IOP) is a new initiative aimed at increasing and extending collaborations with the outside world. DEAS invites leading scientists from academia, industry, and a network of national laboratories to participate in IOP workshops, research collaborations, and recruitment activities. The Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard (TECH), which sponsors courses bridging academia and industry, has seen a surge in participation from about 250 to more than 400 students. As TECH continues to evolve, undergraduates have increasing opportunities to network, learn and share their business ideas with leading industry affiliates.

As noted above, graduate recruitment, which had begun to rise in previous years, has increased significantly in both the numbers of applicants and those admitted. This past year, out of some 1,041 Ph.D. applicants, 103 were admitted and 60 matriculated.

The Division of Continuing Education

The major programs of the Division of Continuing Education (the Extension School, the Summer School, the Institute for English Language Programs, and the Institute for Learning in Retirement) maintained their mission of providing academic access to Harvard for the nontraditional student. Despite some attrition in enrollments due to the after-effects of September 11, the Division still recorded a total of 19,405 women and men (a decrease of only 3 percent) enrolled in its programs. During the year the Division experienced significant enrollment growth in three areas: the University’s Tuition Assistance Plan (TAP), international students, and distance education courses.

Harvard staff continued to avail themselves of the University’s Tuition Assistance Plan (TAP) by enrolling in courses offered by the Harvard Extension and Summer Schools for credit and noncredit, for specific skills and general education, and for degrees and graduate certificates. Under the auspices of TAP, more than 2,200 Harvard staff enrolled for more than 3,200 courses (a 12 percent increase), and 32 staff were awarded Harvard Extension School degrees and graduate certificates during the year.

The growth in international students in the Harvard graduate schools is also reflected in the Division’s academic programs, as 2,350 students from 100 countries enrolled. The Harvard Summer School enrolled nearly 1,400 foreign nationals representing 94 countries, whereas the Harvard Extension School in its Certificate in Special Studies in Administration and Management (CSS) program graduated 163 international students representing 49 countries. (A 1993 graduate of the CSS program, Alvaro Uribe, was elected the president of Colombia earlier this year!) The Institute for English Language Programs of the Extension and Summer Schools also provided instruction at various levels of proficiency to more than 400 Harvard students and affiliates.

The Division of Continuing Education continued its rapid development of distance education, offering 31 courses in such subjects as computer science, biology, environmental management, history, philosophy, and mathematics. These courses enrolled 600 students living in the Middle East, South America, Europe, and Asia, as well as many regions of the United States. Students and faculty expressed overall satisfaction with their experience in the distance courses, including two regular Harvard College computer science courses offered by distance through streaming video to students off campus.

As part of the Faculty’s new initiative to promote study abroad, the Summer School sponsored summer course programs with Harvard faculty in Cuzco, Peru; Calabria, Italy; and Olympia, Greece. Next summer will see an expansion of programs in Santiago, Chile; Shanghai, China; and Munich, Germany, among other places.

In sum, the Division of Continuing Education remains one of the most active and innovative parts of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. As Dean Michael Shinagel observed in his Annual Report, the record of service of the Division was “remarkable” because it “has given access to Harvard through its assorted academic programs to more than a half-million nontraditional students over the years.” We have a great tradition of serving nontraditional students well.

The Library

Widener Renovations. Widener Library is the physical and intellectual heart of this Faculty. The extraordinary renovation of Widener, begun in June 1999, continues on time and within budget. Together, the FAS and the President are devoting in excess of $90 million to this project. The first phase of the project, completed in the spring of 2002, ensures the long-term preservation and security of the stack collections and improves the environment for users through the addition of appropriate climate control, smoke detection and fire suppression, motion-sensitive lighting, two new elevators, additional restrooms, and new study carrels with network connectivity. The light courts have been transformed into usable space featuring two beautiful new reading rooms. The first to open was the Phillips Room where many of Widener’s noncirculating materials can be comfortably consulted. In addition, a renovated Periodicals Room has opened on the first floor.

The construction activity is now centered on the north side of the building, facing the Yard. On the lowest level, the Library’s preservation and imaging services have been brought together. One of the lessons learned in moving and cleaning more than 3 million volumes during the Widener stack renovation was that we have a very large number of books and journals in need of preservation. Some books are repaired and rebound, while others are deacidified. This is all part of our larger endeavor, in these renovations, to save our great collections.

Renovations continue this year, requiring the closing of Widener’s front entrance. Next summer Widener’s second floor, including the Loker Reading Room, will be closed as the renovation continues. The entire project, which is nothing less than a grand renewal of the world’s pre-eminent university library, is scheduled for completion in spring 2004.

HOLLIS. On July 8, 2002, the new HOLLIS went “live.” Among its many new features, this Web-based HOLLIS allows readers to review a list of their checked-out books and to make requests for materials from the Depository or through Interlibrary Loan. You can even find out how much you owe in fines.

Collections. It is the Library’s responsibility to develop research collections, including those in digital formats. What we collect now allows present and future generations to read, to study, to reflect, and to learn. However, a good collections program must be dynamic. As faculty and student research interests become ever more international, our librarians now travel to Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Latin America to identify and acquire important materials. As the Faculty embarks on a review of the undergraduate curriculum, the Library is poised to refine its collecting priorities.

Information Technology

Once again, during 2001-02, use of our digital systems increased. For reasons of speed, efficiency, and economy, President Summers and I expect to use these systems to communicate with the Faculty on important matters. Each regular appointee is expected to have, and virtually every appointee now has, an official e-mail address at which he or she can be reached. Some colleagues may consider electronically dispatched messages, such as this letter, to be another, more official, kind of “spam.” I will try not to overuse it.

A number of issues are more worrisome than spam. These include the protection of the integrity of systems and data from malevolent intruders and viruses, the assurance of the privacy of confidential data, and the prevention of the illegal receipt or transmission of copyrighted materials. Those operating our network review these issues continually, and they will be alerting users to steps they should be taking. The network architecture must be flexible enough to allow different users to make different trade-offs between security and accessibility for collaboration and data exchange. With the overall increase in network activity as an integral part of FAS academic life – as well as student life – have come increased costs.

As you know, the Instructional Computing Group (ICG) develops tools that faculty and staff can use to enhance course instruction through digital technology, and helps them use technology effectively. Close integration of the tools with student information systems facilitates communication among students and between students and instructors. In 2001-02, between five and six of the eight half courses in which a “typical” student was enrolled had active Web sites using ICG tools on HASCS machines.

We continue to upgrade and extend our IT infrastructure. Wireless networking is being installed at many sites on campus, primarily in libraries, common areas, and meeting rooms, where mobility is key. The general computing labs in the Science Center have been remodeled, with new furniture and systems to provide better working space for students. A new Science Center computer lab for the life sciences helps students keep up with the latest in simulations, computational methods, and programs.

Everyone’s personally configurable home page – – has a new look and functionality, and it now includes special modules for administrators and for Masters. Our own FAS Web site – – has also been redesigned. It is positively cool. I invite everyone to take a look. I also invite you to view Harvard@home – – with vignettes featuring many of you, now accessible directly from the Harvard home page.

Financial Status

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We have good and bad news. We are emerging from a period of very strong finances. Now, like most institutions in this country, we are entering a time of serious constraint.

The Faculty ended fiscal year 2002 with a $22.6 million increase in net operating assets, down from the $45.6 million increase realized in fiscal year 2001. The surplus is primarily in restricted funds. It is principally a result of the significant jumps in the endowment payout allotted over the past two years. The Corporation authorized a 28 percent increase in fiscal year 2000, followed by an 8 percent increase in fiscal year 2001 and a 21 percent increase in fiscal year 2002. Our major source of revenue is endowment and investment income, now comprising roughly 50 percent of the Faculty’s revenue. A consolidated report of the FAS operating revenue and expense for the past two fiscal years is appended at the end of this letter. Because the financial statements now include Dumbarton Oaks as an FAS affiliate, the fiscal year 2001 numbers have been restated accordingly.

Despite last year’s favorable results, we are approaching difficult fiscal times. The corporation authorized a 2 percent growth in endowment payout for the current fiscal year (fiscal 2003). The payout increase will be limited to 2 percent again next year, and we are told to expect continued low increases in the long term. Tuition increases will be held down, given the low inflationary indexes and weak state of the economy. Current use gifts, another important source of income, declined 8 percent last year (following a 4 percent decline the prior year). At the same time, expenses are increasing at a higher rate than revenues. Continued growth in the Faculty ranks, competitive and contractual pressures driving salaries above inflation, and the cost to operate and maintain new space result in expense growth exceeding revenue.

Other universities are feeling these pressures today. Many of the nation’s wealthiest universities are implementing budget cuts, postponing building projects, and imposing hiring freezes and layoffs. In order to avoid similar measures in the future, the Faculty will need to make prudent spending decisions now.

Long-range financial projections reflect quickly declining surpluses in the FAS, leading to deficits, beginning in fiscal year 2005. Of most concern is the depletion of unrestricted funds. These are the primary sources for department operating budgets and our facultywide priorities. At the same time, restricted fund balances (primarily managed by academic departments) are expected to grow.

If we do not implement measures to both hold down expenses and redirect spending (from unrestricted budgets to restricted endowment and gift funds), the unrestricted reserves would be depleted by fiscal year 2007. This would put the Faculty in a position of implementing double-digit budget cuts and other dramatic measures in order to meet debt payments and other obligations.

We cannot allow that to happen. To assure the financial strength on which academic excellence depends, we must and we will be careful. Our long-term aspirations will require difficult choices in the near term. The Faculty’s cooperation in using restricted funds and curbing spending will allow us to move forward in support of our common goals.


Our present situation is sound. Our ambitions for the future are great. Our financial outlook is sobering. These are the three basic conclusions from which we must now plan. President Lowell once observed: “Universities have shown that there is no difficulty in combining the retention of what is good in the old with the strenuous search for new truth.” President Pusey would later add: “The free search for knowledge costs money.”

Ours is, above all, the challenge of continuous renewal. Every year we greet new freshmen after the seniors depart. We welcome new doctoral candidates after others (in the fullness of time) graduate. We award honorary degrees to new Faculty colleagues, while more senior colleagues are liberated to emeritus status. And with every generation, it seems, we review fundamentally our mission.

A century ago, the Chinese reformer Liang Qichao compared his nation to a tree: “Unless some new limbs come out every year, its withering may soon be expected … Only if we can make something new every day can we find the means to keep the old.” China’s modern dilemma – how to add new branches while preserving its roots – is in some ways our own, as we renew our collective responsibility for this old but vital College and University.

As we outline an agenda of renewal – of the undergraduate curriculum, of our physical spaces, of our administrative structures, and of the faculty itself – I hope we will start in a spirit of humility, self-reflection, and, where needed, self-criticism. Xing yuan zi er, deng gao zi bei: To go a great distance, one sets out from the nearby; when ascending heights, one starts from below.

I look forward to working with all of you.

Yours sincerely,

William C. Kirby
Edith and Benjamin Geisinger Professor of History
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences