is a sad memoir of an old man reflecting on a set of events that
profoundly influenced his life. In
1971 I was in many respects on "top of the world." I was married
to just the right woman and had three wonderful children. I had a
good and demanding job that I loved. I was doing some interesting
teaching and my research was generously supported by DARPA and the Air
Force. I thought I had good rapport with graduate students and
had, at that time, supervised at least thirty Ph.D. theses. My good friend
Frederic Abernathy and I had done a good job in managing the graduate
program in the, then, Division of Engineering and Applied Physics. Above
all, I thought I understood and was pretty good at academic
administration and politics.
the events described in this memoir, the bottom dropped out. I
found I really didn't understand academic politics and couldn't
function on even a very basic level. Through a very
difficult year I had no support from any of my Harvard colleagues nor
did my administrative superiors back me in any way. I became
a hated icon for graduate students to the point where I was hung in
effigy at the time of the 1972 Commencement. Particularly disturbing was the
manor in which former graduate student friends and associates would
shun me as we passed in the street. In an effort to be somewhat
objective I have tried to tell the story of my failure through articles
from The Harvard Crimson and
similar media which are linked below. What I can't record is the incessantly depressing
stories about me every night on the 10 PM radio news program on my beloved WHRB. As the story
developed in the Crimson and elsewhere I, of course, became deeply disturbed by the increasing use of two metaphors - the Jones debacle* and Jones's inept performance**. The view from outside Harvard was a bit more generous as an unsolicited letter from a fellow graduate dean
bears out. In fact, because of all the notoriety I did eventually
receive several fairly attractive job offers from other institutions..
perhaps, a more measured treatment of the the whole affair I
refer any possible reader to the introductory section of the GSAS Dean's Report for 1971-72. In an attempt to objectivize what follows, I shall refer to myself in the third person.
The issue that generate all the trauma of 1972 - i.e., the
Staff Tuition Scholarship (STS) - was basically a trivial one, but, as
we learn from Henry Kissinger, academic troubles are particular bitter
because they are so trivial. Before I die I hope that I can
exorcise these demons, but I doubt it.
1971 when Derek Curtis Bok ascended to the presidency of Harvard
University he faced a host of formidable challenges. Among
these challenges were looming problems in graduate education in general
and at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences in particular.
Following the launch of Sputnik in 1957 there was a tremendous
infusion of public (mainly Federal) and private foundation resources
dedicated to the expansion and enhancement of graduate education.
Teaching, research and scholarship in nearly every field grew and
flourished. For example, at Harvard the number of students in the GSAS more than
doubled in the period between 1955 and 1970.
by the late 1960s the picture was changing rapidly. On the
national scene, the Viet Nam era turmoil on college campuses was
leading many to question the value of the country's investment in
higher education. The expansion of graduate education also raised
employment issues and the popular image of a "Ph.D. glut" became
widespread. At Harvard, the Committee on the Future of the Graduate School - better known as the Wolff Committee after its chairman Professor Robert Lee Wolff - had called for a
severe reduction in the size of the GASA to better match the size of the
Faculty of Arts and Sciences. At the suggestion of Dean Harvey
Brooks of the, then, Division of Engineering and Applied Physics. R. Victor Jones was asked to
write a paper analyzing the problems facing graduate education at
Brooks felt that Jones and his predecessor as Associate
Dean of DEAP, Professor
Frederic H. Abernathy, had done a particularly
good job in managing graduate issues and resources in the DEAP.
Based, largely, on this paper Bok asked Jones to take over the
GSAS and Jones was eager to do so in spite of highly prescient warnings
from Harvey Brooks. In his last communication with his new dean,
President Bok sent Jones a formal charge which seems in retrospect
quite naive. In a Harvard Crimson interview
about his new appointment, Jones anticipates troubles ahead by invoking
the spiritual with the hope that "God have mercy on us all."
An insightful article in the Crimson did an excellent job spelling out the issues as Jones assumed the deanship. To
cope with these issues and to provide all the services for over 3000 graduate students, Jones found
at the GSAS a minuscule, mainly, part-time administrative staff -
perhaps a total of 8 or 9 FTEs in senior and support staff positions.
In spite of urgent requests, Jones's administrative superiors
were reluctant to expand the GSAS staff. It should be noted that
as a result of the Jones debacle recounted
here the GSAS staff eventually quadrupled. Since graduate
education has always been a department-centered activity Jones was
eager to develop a support structure within the academic departments to
deal with the many challenges ahead. To that end on December 7,
1971 he convened a "Convocation"
of the faculty members serving as departmental graduate
representatives/supervisors to explain the looming issues and to solicit their
support in carrying the sobering message to other faculty members and graduate
students. This was, in fact, probably Jones's greatest mistake or ineptitude.
Although the discussions at the Convocation were brisk and
informative it was obvious that most of the representatives
did not see it as their responsibility to communicate to their
students and colleagues on the impending crisis and were uninterested in any of the
minutia of student financial support. What Jones knew, but did not fully
appreciate nor draw upon was the critical role of, as they were called then,
"departmental secretaries" in maintaining the well-being and morale of
graduate students. If he had not been so inept he would have
had a series of Convocations with these departmental secretaries
to gain their support and, thereby, develop an effective dialog with
the graduate students.
The Kraus Plan and the STS Fiasco:Jones's
position on the distribution of financial aid had two district modes.
For departments that had outside resources and the means to
administer financial aid - mainly science departments - the GSAS would
allocate Harvard scholarship resources to the department in accord with
the goals of the Wolff Committee. For departments with few
outside resources and little interest in managing financial aid -
mainly departments in the humanities and some social sciences.
However, the total allocation to these department would
again be fixed in accord with goals of the Wolff Committee. This
second modality fit with the practice in professional graduate schools
and was much discussed in communications with other major graduate
schools. (Throughout Jones's tenure at GSAS he benefited
tremendously from regular meetings with the "Seven Dwarfs" - i.e., the graduate deans
from Brown, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, UC Berkeley and
Yale. One of the few bright spots in a very sad year was a treasured letter from one of the Dwarfs.)
To administer this more complex system of aid, Jones finally
prevailed on his administrative superiors to hire Dr. Richard Kraus who
had earned his Ph.D. in the Harvard Economics Department and had
extensive experience in need-based undergraduate financial aid.
From that point on all of Jones's efforts were characterized and
demonized by the vaguely teutonic appellation of Jones's "Kraus Plan."
implement a more equitable and rational financial aid regime it was
necessary to suspend a costly program called the Staff Tuition
Scholarship - i.e., the STS. To quote the cautious phrasing from Jones's mea culpa document:
the Staff Tuition Scholarship was established over ten years ago, it
was perceived as a limited form of assistance for those Teaching
Fellows who were experiencing financial difficulties, In recent
years, however, the program has grown rapidly and it became apparent
that some departments were appointing Teaching Fellows not exclusively
on the basis of teaching needs of the department but individual
financial need had become a factor.
initially a laudable effort to improve the quality of teaching by
Teaching Fellows, this nearly one million dollar program had become
somewhat of a scam. Some department administrator understood the
implications of the STS and used it to pump disproportional fund
allocations out of the GSAS - Jones knew how easy it was to scam
the system and had done so himself when he was Associate Dean of the
DEAP. In suspending the STS, Jones requested that his
administrative superiors "sweeten the pot" to make the impact more
manageable, but he was not authorized to do so. When the
suspension was announced all hell broke lose. The Harvard Crimson
articles linked below tell the rest of story quite precisely.
However, there is an additional aspect of the story which may not
be obvious from the articles. At the time of the Jones debacle,
a significant fraction of the graduate students had been undergraduates
when the turmoil on college campuses was at its height. As a result,
many of these media sophisticated students understood the power of
capturing media attention with rallies and staged events. Jones
was like a helpless babe in the woods.
After the events of the Spring of 1972 - some of which are well described in the linked Crimson
articles - it was clear that Jones had lost all credibility with the
graduate students. While his administrative superiors had
completely undermined his position, for reasons of public relations
they were reluctant to let him resign. However, late in the
summer Jones forced the issue with a letter that said in part, "...it is
essential that I get free of the obligations of the deanship as soon as
possible... From the view point of Harvard's interests it would
be my judgment that it is the right time to make the break. The
functions and responsibilities of the GSAS Dean have to be given
sharper focus. The organization of the GSAS staff needs drastic
and immediate attention. Accomplishing both of these objectives
is bound to be inhibited by my incumbency."
Finally, it should
be noted, that after some forty years the GSAS still uses a version of
the financial aid system Kraus and Jones put in place in 1972.