The beauty of a column is that you can dig up the story, then say it straight: You can expose the cynicism that leaves D.C. school kids worse off at the end of their education than they were at the start, then you can call that system a criminal enterprise. You can reveal the narrow-mindedness that threatens to put mentally retarded people out on the street and then push until embarrassed officials do the right thing. You can keep hitting the same note until a school principal with a phony doctorate is removed….
Am I the only one who wonders why the Globe doesn’t even point this out?
This is one sign of how Boston remains a small, charming/insular, parochial/combination of both town. If A-Rod were hitting abuckeighty, and the Yankees were falling out of first place thanks to a series of losses in close games, the NY press, for better or worse, would be screaming bloody murder….
Boston Magazine has a long, shocking piece about how the people running the world’s greatest university almost bankrupted the school through a series of very dumb financial decisions after a decade of unbelievable growth in the endowment. Reading the litany of horror — making bad decisions in the stock market, paying for buildings they couldn’t afford, learning to hate Goldman Sachs — it occurred to me that Harvard has never seemed more like average Americans.
Blogger Derek Thompson writes optimistically:
Harvard’s expansion might slow, but even if the endowment simply stopped growing, the school could continue spending at its current levels for another 20 years.
It’s an odd argument: So far as I can tell, he means that it would take that long to spend the endowment to zero, so Harvard’s good for 20 years anyway. I’m not sure anyone should find that reassuring.
In all this mutual cooing, the question is never answered: If Forst is really leaving of his own volition, isn’t it kind of crummy to bail on an exec v-p job after less than a year? Crummy enough so that it’s hard not to suspect reasons for leaving other than the need for a decent bagel?
Instead, it’s filled with self-aggrandizing lines like, “Before the game, I told David Ortiz…..”
There’s no question in my mind that Ortiz is costing the Red Sox games, and now that the Yanks are right up there in first along with them, it’s a bigger deal than it used to be. How long can Terry Francona stick with him? Or is time to stick a fork in him, because he’s done?
For Yankee fans, it’s win-win. Unless Theo Epstein goes out and finds some great young replacement….
The piece begins by quoting Faust’s Commencement address about a year ago.
If the endowment weren’t so enormous, Faust concluded, the university would face a choice: Seek more money from alumni and the federal government, or “do less—less research, less teaching, at a lesser level of quality.”
Nobody, of course, really expected that to happen. But today that is exactly the choice Harvard confronts.
In the piece, I tried to sum up what is at stake for Harvard in this particular moment.
While the failed presidency of Lawrence Summers generated more headlines, this quiet crisis is actually a greater threat to Harvard. The university has been so rich for so long that most of its denizens can’t remember a time when money was a concern. While Harvard officials are doing their public-face best to downplay the problem, the numbers don’t lie, and this economic crunch will leave the school a profoundly changed place. Harvard will have to become smaller and academically more modest, and as it does it will chafe at having grand plans without the resources to fund them. For the first time in decades, it will worry about merely paying its bills. The university will have to decide: If it is no longer so rich that it doesn’t have to make choices, what does it really value? What are its priorities? It won’t be a comfortable debate.
“We are in trouble,” says one Crimson professor. In the aftermath of deep and damaging cuts, “there is a real chance that Harvard will no longer be considered the best there is.”
I hope the article adds to the discussion. See what you think.