The Late Larry and FAS Arts


A brief campaign statement to the Harvard Community and specifically denizens of FAS Arts who I propose to represent on the Executive Board of HUCTW.

The Late Larry Summers1 had a model for the expansion of Harvard based on a significant shift in the political economy of the University. I once quite loudly suggested that he was planning to divest the Faculty of Arts and Sciences because it was a cost center and not a profit center. I was told by sympathetic, but more timid people to lower my voice and that what I had suggested was too nearly true to be funny.  Of course, the North Academic Complex is clear evidence that he had no intention of deprecating the Science portion of FAS. His top level idea was to favor the departments in any faculty that could increase the inflow of  ‘soft money’ i.e. research contracts. Watson of Double Helix fame, said that the Late Larry told him he favored medical research over basic biology because the former were ‘winners’ and the later ‘losers’. The plan was to convert endowment paper into buildings and use them to house income producing research.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of the recent history of capitalism, the question is, now that Larry is gone, has the plan really changed? Certainly it has been slowed. The first part of the question is, how much of the ‘fiscal austerity’ of the present is related to hopes of reviving the growth plan? The second part, and the one that affects FAS Arts most strongly is what’s going to happen to all those ‘losers’ in the Arts – where Arts is understood to mean The Humanities. The Late Larry’s approach to “The Two Cultures” problem was to divest one of them2. What does the future hold? So while, the HUCTW members in the libraries are under the most serious threat, those in FAS Arts are not far behind.

At the very least, we need a much stronger effort towards job security. As citizens of the Commonwealth and the World, which presumably Harvard serves, we have a right to weigh in on Harvard’s future.

1For those who for whatever reason have not followed the guy by the door for the past few years, I refer to the question, ‘Is there life after being the President of Harvard?’

2And to compound his error, he regarded economics as a ‘social science’ as opposed to the dismal excuse for a science that it is.

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