Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hahvahd and the burden of financial excess.

As pointed out by Julianne at Cosmic Variance, the president of Harvard had this to say about the combined issue of declining federal science research (in real dollars) and Harvard's soul-crushing dilemma of extreme wealth:
"One thing we all must worry about — I certainly do — is the federal support for scientific research. And are we all going to be chasing increasingly scarce dollars?" says Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard's new president.

Not that Faust seems worried about Harvard or other top-tier research schools. "They're going to be—we hope, we trust, we assume—the survivors in this race," she says. As for the many lesser universities likely to lose market share, she adds, they would be wise "to really emphasize social science or humanities and have science endeavors that are not as ambitious" as those of Harvard and its peers.

Wow. So much for thinking that Larry Summers' arrogance was anomalous.


4 comments:

sylow said...

I think it is extremely important to point out here that Harvard's so called extreme wealth refers to its endowment and Harvard doesn't spend one single penny from its endowment for research(just like any other research university) thus even though Berkeley's endowment is way smaller than Harvard's for instance, it is an equally competitive school in almost every field.

Doug Natelson said...

Read the actual article from which the quote originates. Harvard absolutely does spend endowment money on extremely important (to research) things like faculty recruitment, start-up, renovations, lab infrastructure, etc. It's absurd to claim that a university that shells out $100M (some from donors, some from the endowment) on a science building "doesn't spend one single penny" on research.

sylow said...

Doug, I read the article you provided the link to. Where does it say that Harvard's science building was financed with the university's endowment? Your university has a pretty big endowment too (must be close to 5 billion by now). Why do you think your physics building is shambles then?

Dan.M said...

Indeed, many of the aforementioned universities do spend quite a few pennies from their endowment each year on operating expenses, which includes things that are relevant to research. And most of the others (including Rice) spend the interest that they earn on the endowment, rather than the endowment itself. Of course, the interest that is earned scales with the size of the endowment, so bigger is better. Thus, it is nonsense to say that research universities don't rely on their endowment for their operations. And if you think anything at Rice is a shambles, then your exposure to research facilities nationwide is incredibly narrow.