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Harvard University

Massachusetts Hall, Harvard University, Cambri...
Massachusetts Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA. 
Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Its history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.[6][7][8][9]Established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature and soon thereafter named for John Harvard (its first benefactor), Harvard is the United States' oldest institution of higher learning,[10] and the Harvard Corporation (formally, the President and Fellows of Harvard College) is its first chartered corporation. Although never formally affiliated with any denomination, the early College primarily trained Congregation­alist and Unitarian clergy. Its curriculum and student body were gradually secularized during the 18th century, and by the 19th century Harvard had emerged as the central cultural establishment among Boston elites.[11][12] Following the American Civil War, President Charles W. Eliot's long tenure (1869–1909) transformed the college and affiliated professional schools into a modern research university; Harvard was a founding member of the Association of American Universities in 1900.[13] James Bryant Conant led the university through the Great Depression and World War II and began to reform the curriculum and liberalize admissions after the war. The undergraduate college became coeducational after its 1977 merger with Radcliffe College. Drew Gilpin Faust was elected the 28th president in 2007 and is the first woman to lead the university.
The university comprises eleven separate academic units—ten faculties and the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study—with campuses throughout the Boston metropolitan area.[14] Harvard's 209-acre (85 ha) main campus is centered on Harvard Yard in Cambridge, approximately 3.4 miles (5.5 km) northwest of downtown Boston. The business school and athletics facilities, including Harvard Stadium, are located across the Charles River in the Allston neighborhood of Boston and the medical, dental, and public health schools are located in the Longwood Medical Area.[5] The Harvard University Library is the largest academic library in the United States, and one of the largest in the world.[15]
Eight U.S. presidents have been graduates, and 144 Nobel Laureates have been student, faculty, or staff affiliates. Harvard is also the alma mater of sixty-two living billionaires, the most in the country.[16]The Harvard Crimson competes in 42 intercollegiate sports in the NCAA Division I Ivy League. Harvard has an intense athletic rivalry with Yale University culminating in The Game, although the Harvard–Yale Regatta predates the football game. This rivalry, though, is put aside every two years when the Harvard and Yale Track and Field teams come together to compete against a combined Oxford University and Cambridge University team, a competition that is the oldest continuous international amateur competition in the world.[17]Harvard has the largest financial endowment of any academic institution in the world, standing at $30.4 billion as of September 2012


Harvard was founded in 1636 by vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, making it the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Initially called "New College" or "the college at New Towne", the institution was renamed Harvard College on March 13, 1639. It was named after John Harvard, a young English clergyman from Southwark, London, an alumnus of the University of Cambridge (after which Cambridge, Massachusetts is named), who bequeathed the College his library of four hundred books and £779 pounds sterling, which was half of his estate.[18] The charter creating the corporation of Harvard College came in 1650. In the early years, the College trained many Puritan ministers.[19]
The college offered a classic academic course based on the English university model—many leaders in the colony had attended the University of Cambridge—but one consistent with the prevailing Puritan philosophy. The college was never affiliated with any particular denomination, but many of its earliest graduates went on to become clergymen in Congregational and Unitarian churches throughout New England.[20] An early brochure, published in 1643, described the founding of the college as a response to the desire "to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches".[21]
The leading Boston divine Increase Mather served as president from 1685 to 1701. In 1708, John Leverett became the first president who was not also a clergyman, which marked a turning of the college toward intellectual independence from Puritanism.

Religion and philosophy

The takeover of Harvard by the Unitarians in 1805 resulted in the secularization of the American college. By 1850 Harvard was the "Unitarian Vatican". The "liberals" (Unitarians) allied themselves with high Federalists and began to create a set of private societies and institutions meant to shore up their cultural and political authority, a movement that prefigured the emergence of the Boston Brahmin class. On the other hand, the theological conservatives used print media to argue for the maintenance of open debate and democratic governance through a diverse public sphere, seeing the liberals' movement as an attempt to create a cultural oligarchy in opposition to Congregationalist tradition and republican political principles.[22]
In 1846, the natural history lectures of Louis Agassiz were acclaimed both in New York and on the campus at Harvard College. Agassiz's approach was distinctly idealist and posited Americans' "participation in the Divine Nature" and the possibility of understanding "intellectual existences".' Agassiz's perspective on science combined observation with intuition and the assumption that a person can grasp the "divine plan" in all phenomena. When it came to explaining life-forms, Agassiz resorted to matters of shape based on a presumed archetype for his evidence.
This dual view of knowledge was in concert with the teachings of Common Sense Realism derived from Scottish philosophers Thomas Reid and Dugald Stewart, whose works were part of the Harvard curriculum at the time. The popularity of Agassiz's efforts to "soar with Plato" probably also derived from other writings to which Harvard students were exposed, including Platonic treatises by Ralph Cudworth, John Norrisand, in a Romantic vein, Samuel Coleridge. The library records at Harvard reveal that the writings of Plato and his early modern and Romantic followers were almost as regularly read during the 19th century as those of the "official philosophy" of the more empirical and more deistic Scottish school.[23]
Charles W. Eliot, president 1869–1909, eliminated the favored position of Christianity from the curriculum while opening it to student self-direction. While Eliot was the most crucial figure in the secularization of American higher education, he was motivated not by a desire to secularize education, but by Transcendentalist Unitarian convictions. Derived from William Ellery Channing and Ralph Waldo Emerson, these convictions were focused on the dignity and worth of human nature, the right and ability of each person to perceive truth, and the indwelling God in each person.[24]

20th century

During the 20th century, Harvard's international reputation grew as a burgeoning endowment and prominent professors expanded the university's scope. Rapid enrollment growth continued as new graduate schools were begun and the undergraduate College expanded. Radcliffe College, established in 1879 as sister school of Harvard College, became one of the most prominent schools for women in the United States. Harvard became a founding member of the Association of American Universities in 1900.[13]


James Bryant Conant (president, 1933–1953) reinvigorated creative scholarship to guarantee its preeminence among research institutions. He saw higher education as a vehicle of opportunity for the talented rather than an entitlement for the wealthy, so Conant devised programs to identify, recruit, and support talented youth. In 1943, he asked the faculty make a definitive statement about what general education ought to be, at the secondary as well as the college level. The resulting Report, published in 1945, was one of the most influential manifestos in the history of American education in the 20th century.[26]In 1945–1960 admissions policies were opened up to bring in students from a more diverse applicant pool. No longer drawing mostly from rich alumni of select New England prep schools, the undergraduate college was now open to striving middle class students from public schools; many more Jews and Catholics were admitted, but few blacks, Hispanics or Asians.[27]


Women remained segregated at Radcliffe, though more and more took Harvard classes. Nonetheless, Harvard's undergraduate population remained predominantly male, with about four men attending Harvard College for every woman studying at Radcliffe. Following the merger of Harvard and Radcliffe admissions in 1977, the proportion of female undergraduates steadily increased, mirroring a trend throughout higher education in the United States. Harvard's graduate schools, which had accepted females and other groups in greater numbers even before the college, also became more diverse in the post-World War II period. In 1999, Radcliffe College, founded in 1879 as the "Harvard Annex for Women",[28] merged formally with Harvard University, becoming the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Drew Gilpin Faust, the Dean at Radcliffe, became the first woman president of Harvard in 2007.


Harvard and its affiliates, like many American universities,[29][30] are considered by some to be politically liberal (left of center).[31] Conservative author William F. Buckley, Jr. quipped that he would rather be governed by the first 2000 names in the Boston phone book than by the Harvard faculty,[32] President Richard Nixon famously referred to Harvard as the "Kremlin on the Charles" around 1970,[33] and Vice President George H.W. Bush disparaged what he saw to be Harvard's liberalism during the 1988 presidential election.[34] Such is its reputation as a bastion of liberalism and privilege, alumni who run for public office sometimes downplay their affiliation with the university.[35]

Recent history

President Lawrence Summers resigned his presidency in 2006. His resignation came one week before a second planned vote of no confidence by the Harvard Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Former president Derek Bok served as interim president. Members of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which instructs graduate students in GSAS and undergraduates in Harvard College, had passed an earlier motion of "lack of confidence" in Summers' leadership on March 15, 2005 by a 218–185 vote, with 18 abstentions. The 2005 motion was precipitated by comments about the causes of gender demographics in academia made at a closed academic conference and leaked to the press.[36]
In response, Summers convened two committees to study this issue: the Task Force on Women Faculty and the Task Force on Women in Science and Engineering. Summers had also pledged $50 million to support their recommendations and other proposed reforms. Drew Gilpin Faust is the 28th president of Harvard. An American historian, former dean of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, and Lincoln Professor of History at Harvard University, Faust is the first female president in the university's history.[37][38] In 2012, roughly 125 Harvard College students were investigated for cheating on a take-home final examination in a course about the Congress;[39] in 2013, a survey by the Harvard Crimson found that 10% of incoming freshmen had cheated on an exam prior to attending the university, and 42% had cheated on a homework assignment.[40]


Harvard's 209-acre (85 ha) main campus is centered on Harvard Yard in Cambridge, approximately 3.4 miles (5.5 km) northwest of downtown Boston and extends into the surrounding Harvard Square neighborhood. Harvard Yard itself contains the central administrative offices and main libraries of the university, academic buildings including Sever Hall and University Hall, Memorial Church, and the majority of the freshman dormitories. Sophomore, junior, and senior undergraduates live in twelve residential Houses, nine of which are south of Harvard Yard along or near the Charles River. The other three are located in a residential neighborhood half a mile northwest of the Yard at the Quadrangle (commonly referred to as the Quad), which formerly housed Radcliffe College students until Radcliffe merged its residential system with Harvard. The Harvard MBTA station provides public transportation via bus service and the Red Line subway.
The Harvard Business School and many of the university's athletics facilities, including Harvard Stadium, are located on a 358-acre (145 ha) campus opposite the Cambridge campus in Allston. The John W. Weeks Bridge is a pedestrian bridge over the Charles River connecting both campuses. The Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Dental Medicine, and the Harvard School of Public Health are located on a 21-acre (8.5 ha) campus in the Longwood Medical and Academic Area approximately 3.3 miles (5.3 km) southwest of downtown Boston and 3.3 miles (5.3 km) south of the Cambridge campus.[5] A private shuttle bus connects the Longwood campus to the Cambridge campus via Massachusetts Avenue making stops in the Back Bay and at MIT as well.[41]Each residential house contains rooms for undergraduates, House masters, and resident tutors, as well as a dining hall and library. The facilities were made possible by a gift from Yale University alumnus Edward Harkness.[42]
Radcliffe Yard, formerly the center of the campus of Radcliffe College (and now home of the Radcliffe Institute), is adjacent to the Graduate School of Education and the Cambridge Common.
From 2009–2011, Harvard University reported on-campus crime statistics that included 69 forcible sex offenses, 12 robberies, 15 aggravated assaults, 80 burglaries, and 10 cases of motor vehicle theft.[43]

Satellite facilities

Apart from its major Cambridge/Allston and Longwood campuses, Harvard owns and operates Arnold Arboretum, in the Jamaica Plain area of Boston; the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, in Washington, D.C.; the Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts; and the Villa I Tatti research center[44] in Florence. Harvard also operates the Harvard Shanghai Center in China.

Major campus expansion

Harvard has purchased tracts of land in Allston, a walk across the Charles River from Cambridge, with the intent of major expansion southward.[45] The university now owns approximately fifty percent more land in Allston than in Cambridge. Proposals to connect the Cambridge campus with the new Allston campus include new and enlarged bridges, a shuttle service and/or a tram. Plans also call for sinking part of Storrow Drive (at Harvard's expense) for replacement with park land and pedestrian access to the Charles River, as well as the construction of bike paths, and buildings throughout the Allston campus.
The institution asserts that such expansion will benefit not only the school, but surrounding community, pointing to such features as the enhanced transit infrastructure, possible shuttles open to the public, and park space which will also be publicly accessible. One of the foremost driving forces for Harvard's pending expansion is its goal of increasing the scope and strength of its science and technology programs. The university plans to construct two 500,000 square foot (50,000 m²) research complexes in Allston, which would be home to several interdisciplinary programs, including the Harvard Stem Cell Institute and an enlarged Engineering department. In addition, Harvard intends to relocate the Harvard Graduate School of Education and the Harvard School of Public Health to Allston. The university also plans to construct several new undergraduate and graduate student housing centers in Allston, and it is considering large-scale museums and performing arts complexes as well. Unfortunately the large drop in endowment has halted these plans for now.


In 2000, Harvard hired a full-time campus sustainability professional and launched the Harvard Green Campus Initiative,[46] since institutionalized as the Office for Sustainability (OFS).[47]With a full-time staff of 25, dozens of student interns, and a $12 million Loan Fund for energy and water conservation projects, OFS is one of the most advanced campus sustainability programs in the country.[48] Harvard was one of 27 schools to receive a grade of "A-" from the Sustainable Endowments Institute on its College Sustainability Report Card 2010, the highest grade awarded.[49]


Harvard has the largest university endowment in the world. As of September 2011, it had nearly regained the loss suffered during the 2008 recession. It was worth $32 billion in 2011, up from $27.6 billion in September 2010[50] and $25.7 billion in 2009. It suffered about 30% loss in 2008-09.[3][51] In December 2008, Harvard announced that its endowment had lost 22% (approximately $8 billion) from July to October 2008, necessitating budget cuts.[52] Later reports[53] suggest the loss was actually more than double that figure, a reduction of nearly 50% of its endowment in the first four months alone. Forbes in March 2009 estimated the loss to be in the range of $12 billion.[54] One of the most visible results of Harvard's attempt to re-balance its budget was their halting[53] of construction of the $1.2 billion Allston Science Complex that had been scheduled to be completed by 2011, resulting in protests from local residents.[55] As of 2012, Harvard University had a total financial aid reserve of $158.725 million for students, and a Pell Grant reserve of $4.093 million available for disbursement.[56]

Teaching and learning 

Harvard is a large, highly residential research university.[58] The university has been accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges since 1929.[59] The university offers 46 undergraduate concentrations (majors),[60] 134 graduate degrees,[61] and 32 professional degrees.[62] For the 2008–2009 academic year, Harvard granted 1,664 baccalaureate degrees, 400 masters degrees, 512 doctoral degrees, and 4,460 professional degrees.[62]The four year, full-time undergraduate program comprises a minority of enrollments at the university and emphasizes instruction with an "arts and sciences focus".[58] Between 1978 and 2008, entering students were required to complete a core curriculum of seven classes outside of their concentration.[63] Since 2008, undergraduate students have been required to complete courses in eight General Education categories: Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding, Culture and Belief, Empirical and Mathematical Reasoning, Ethical Reasoning, Science of Living Systems, Science of the Physical Universe, Societies of the World, and United States in the World.[64] Harvard offers a comprehensive doctoral graduate program and there is a high level of coexistence between graduate and undergraduate degrees.[58] The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, The New York Times, and some students have criticized Harvard for its reliance on teaching fellows for some aspects of undergraduate education; they consider this to adversely affect the quality of education.[65][66]
Harvard's academic programs operate on a semester calendar beginning in early September and ending in mid-May.[67] Undergraduates typically take four half-courses per term and must maintain a four-course rate average to be considered full-time.[68] In many concentrations, students can elect to pursue a basic program or an honors-eligible program requiring a senior thesis and/or advanced course work.[69] Students graduating in the top 4–5% of the class are awarded degrees summa cum laude, students in the next 15% of the class are awarded magna cum laude, and the next 30% of the class are awarded cum laude.[70] Harvard has chapters of academic honor societies such as Phi Beta Kappa and various committees and departments also award several hundred named prizes annually.[71] Harvard, along with other universities, has been accused of grade inflation,[72] although there is evidence that the quality of the student body and its motivation have also increased.[73] Harvard College reduced the number of students who receive Latin honors from 90% in 2004 to 60% in 2005. Moreover, the honors of "John Harvard Scholar" and "Harvard College Scholar" will now be given only to the top 5 percent and the next 5 percent of each class.[74][75][76][77]
Undergraduate tuition for the 2009–2010 school year was $33,696 and the total cost with fees, room, and board was $48,868.[78] Under financial aid guidelines adopted in 2007, parents in families with incomes of less than $60,000 will no longer be expected to contribute any money to the cost of attending Harvard for their children, including room and board. Families with incomes in the $60,000 to $80,000 range contribute an amount of only a few thousand dollars a year. In December 2007, Harvard announced that families earning between $120,000 and $180,000 will only have to pay up to 10% of their annual household income towards tuition.[79] In 2009, Harvard offered grants totaling $414.1 million across all 11 divisions; $339.5 million came from institutional funds, $35.3 million from federal support, and $39.2 million from other outside support. Grants total 87.7% of Harvard's aid for undergraduate students, with aid also provided by loans (8.4%) and work-study (3.9%).[78].[3]
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