Harvard University

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Harvard redirects here. For information about undergraduate education at Harvard University, see Harvard College. For other uses of the name Harvard, see Harvard (disambiguation).

Harvard University
Shield of Harvard University
Motto Veritas (Truth)
Established September 8, 1636
School type Private
President Lawrence H. Summers
Location Cambridge, Mass., USA
Campus Urban, 380 acres (1.5 km²)
Enrollment 6,650 undergraduate,
13,000 graduate
Faculty 2,300
Mascot John Harvard
Endowment US$25.9 billion
Official website www.harvard.edu

Harvard University is a private university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and a member of the Ivy League. It is widely considered one of the finest academic institutions in the world. Founded on September 8, 1636, by a vote of the Great and General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, Harvard is the oldest institution of higher education in the United States.

Originally referred to simply as the New College, it was named Harvard College on March 13, 1639, after its first principal donor, a young clergyman named John Harvard. A young graduate of Emmanuel College, Cambridge, John Harvard bequeathed a few hundred books in his will to form the basis of the college library collection, along with several hundred pounds.

The earliest known official reference to Harvard as a "university" rather than a "college" occurred in the new Massachusetts constitution of 1780. Since 1974, nineteen Nobel Prize winners and fifteen Pulitzer Prize winners have served on the Harvard faculty. Currently, Harvard has the world's largest university library collection (third overall after the Library of Congress and the British Library) and the largest financial endowment of any academic institution, standing at $25.9 billion as of 2005.



Statue of John Harvard in Harvard Yard
Statue of John Harvard in Harvard Yard

A faculty of about 2,300 professors serves about 6,650 undergraduate and 13,000 graduate students. In the faculty reputational surveys (peer assessment scores) which form a key component of the college and university rankings published annually by US News & World Report, Harvard consistently receives the highest rating of 4.9/5.0, along with Yale, Princeton, and MIT. The 2004 Times Higher Education Supplement world university rankings ranked Harvard University in first place[1], as did the 2005 World Universities Rankings by Shanghai Jiao Tong University.[2]. Harvard leads the nation in number of faculty in the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, an honor given to only about 2,000 most accomplished scientists. Harvard's current membership is at 167, compared to 128 for UC Berkeley, 126 for Stanford, 101 for MIT, 70 for Princeton, and 63 for Yale.

Admission to Harvard is extremely competitive. It had the highest selectivity score according to the 2006 US News & World Report ranking. Harvard's overall undergraduate acceptance rate for 2005 was 9.1%.[3] The 2006 figures from U.S. News indicated that the business school admitted 14.3% of its applicants, the engineering division admitted 12.5%, the law school admitted 11.3%, the education school admitted 11.2%, and the medical school admitted 4.9%.[4] Harvard College perenially enrolls the largest number of National Merit Scholars (312 out of 2500 national winners, followed by 224 at Yale, 217 at Stanford, and 192 at Princeton), National Achievement Scholars, and Westinghouse/Intel Science Competition winners. Harvard undergraduates lead the nation in winning the prestigious Rhodes and Marshall Scholarships to British universities. Harvard students have won the Putnam Mathematical Competition more than any other university in North America, ahead of rivals such as MIT, Caltech, Princeton, and Berkeley. A study by the Wall Street Journal has found that Harvard graduates are far better represented at the top-notch medical, law, and business schools than their counterparts in the peer institutions.

The school color is a shade richer than red but brighter than burgundy, referred to as crimson, which is also the name of the Harvard sports teams and the daily newspaper, The Harvard Crimson. The color was unofficially adopted (in preference to magenta) by an 1875 vote of the student body, although the association with some form of red can be traced back to 1858, when Charles William Eliot, a young graduate student who would later become Harvard's president, bought red bandanas for his crew so they could more easily be distinguished by spectators at a regatta.

Harvard today has nine faculties, listed below in order of foundation:

Gore Hall, the former Library (no longer standing)
Gore Hall, the former Library (no longer standing)

In 1999, the former Radcliffe College was reorganized as the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Memorial Church
Memorial Church

The Harvard University Library System, centered in Widener Library and comprising over 90 individual libraries and over 14.5 million volumes, is the largest university library system in the world and, after the Library of Congress, the second-largest library system in the United States. Harvard operates several art museums, including the Fogg Museum of Art (with galleries featuring history of Western art from the Middle Ages to the present, with particular strengths in Italian early Renaissance, British pre-Raphaelite, and 19th-century French art); the Adolph Busch Museum (formerly Busch-Reisinger Museum, formerly Germanic Museum) (central and northern European art; and a Flentrop pipe organ, familiar from recordings by E. Power Biggs); the Sackler Museum (ancient, Asian, Islamic and later Indian art); the Museum of Natural History, which contains the famous glass flowers exhibit; the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology; and the Semitic Museum.

The Science Center, located just north of Harvard Yard
The Science Center, located just north of Harvard Yard

Prominent student organizations at Harvard include the aforementioned Crimson; the Harvard Lampoon, a humor magazine; the Harvard Advocate, one of the nation's oldest literary magazines; and the Hasty Pudding Theatricals, which produces an annual burlesque and celebrates notable actors at its Man of the Year and Woman of the Year ceremonies; and the Harvard Glee Club, the oldest college chorus in America, which is currently in the midst of festivities to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2008. The Harvard-Radcliffe Orchestra, composed mainly of undergraduates, was founded in 1808 as the Pierian Sodality and has been performing as a symphony orchestra since the 1950s. Let's Go Travel Guides, a leading travel guide series and a division of Harvard Student Agencies, is run solely by Harvard students who research and edit new versions of the books every summer.

Image:Harvard weld hall.jpg
Weld Hall, a freshman residence dormitory in Harvard Yard

The radio station WHRB (95.3FM Cambridge), is run exclusively by Harvard students, and is given space on the Harvard campus in the basement of Pennypacker Hall, a freshman dormitory. Known throughout the Boston metropolitan area for its classical, jazz, underground rock and blues programming, WHRB is also home of the notorious radio "Orgy" format, where the entire catalog of a certain band, record, or artist is played in sequence.

Harvard's athletic rivalry with Yale is intense in every sport in which they meet, coming to a climax in their annual football meeting, which dates to 1875 and is usually called simply The Game as a sign of its importance. While Harvard's football team is no longer one of the country's best, as it often was a century ago during football's early days, today Harvard does field top teams in several other sports, such as ice hockey, crew, and squash. As of 2003, there were 43 Division I intercollegiate varsity sports teams for women and men at Harvard, more than at any other college in the country.

Harvard College has traditionally drawn many of its students from private schools, though today the majority of undergraduates come from public schools across the United States and around the globe.

An example of cooperation, "The Coop" is the official bookstore of both institutions
An example of cooperation, "The Coop" is the official bookstore of both institutions

Harvard has a friendly rivalry with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which dates back to 1900, when a merger of the two schools was frequently mooted and at one point officially agreed upon (ultimately cancelled by Massachusetts courts). Today, the two schools cooperate as much as they compete, with many joint conferences and programs, including the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology, the Harvard-MIT Data Center and the Dibner Institute for the History of Science and Technology. In addition, students at the two schools can cross-register without any additional fees, for credits toward their own school's degrees. The city of Cambridge is notable for the presence of two major research universities within two miles (3.2 km) of each other.

Over its history, Harvard has graduated many famous alumni, along with a few infamous ones. Among the best-known are political leaders John Hancock, John Adams, and John F. Kennedy; philosopher Henry David Thoreau and author Ralph Waldo Emerson; poets Wallace Stevens, T. S. Eliot and E. E. Cummings; composer Leonard Bernstein; actor Jack Lemmon; architect Philip Johnson; civil rights leader W. E. B. Du Bois; and terrorist Ted Kaczynski (the Unabomber). Among its most famous faculty members are biologists James D. Watson and E. O. Wilson. For a fuller listing of famous faculty and alumni (including all seven US Presidents with degrees from the college or one of the graduate schools), see List of Harvard University people.

Harvard affiliates' politics are generally liberal (center-left): Richard Nixon famously attacked it as the "Kremlin on the Charles". In 2004, the Harvard Crimson found that Harvard undergraduates favored Kerry over Bush by 73% to 19%, consistent with Kerry's margin in major eastern cities.[5] At the same time, Harvard has been criticized from the Left as the "incubator for an American ruling class" (Douthat) and "hostile to progressive intellectuals". (Trumpbour) President George W. Bush, in fact, graduated from the Harvard Business School. Indeed, there are both prominent conservative and prominent liberal voices among the faculty of the various schools.

Though Harvard has been featured in many films, including Legally Blonde, The Firm, Good Will Hunting, With Honors, " How High", and Harvard Man, the University has not allowed any movies to be filmed on its campus since Love Story in the 1960s. Many movies have characters identified as Harvard graduates, including A Few Good Men, American Psycho, and Two Weeks Notice.


Rhinoceros sculpture, Biological Sciences Building.
Rhinoceros sculpture, Biological Sciences Building.

Harvard's foundation in 1636 came in the form of an act of the colony's Great and General Court. By all accounts the chief impetus was to allow the training of home-grown clergy so the Puritan colony would not need to rely on immigrating graduates of England's Oxford and Cambridge universities for well-educated pastors, "dreading," as a 1643 brochure put it, "to leave an illiterate Ministry to the Churches." In its first year, seven of the original nine students left to fight in the English Civil War.

Harvard was also founded as a school to educate American Indians in order to train them as ministers among their tribes. Harvard's Charter of 1650 calls for "the education of the English and Indian youth of this Country in knowledge and godliness". Indeed, Harvard and missionaries to the local tribes were intricately connected. The first Bible to be printed in the entire North American continent was printed at Harvard in an Indian language, Massachusett. Termed the Eliot Bible since it was translated by John Eliot, this book was used to facilitate conversion of Indians, ideally by Harvard-educated Indians themselves. Harvard's first American Indian graduate, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck from the Wampanoag tribe, was a member of the class of 1665. Caleb and other students-- English and American Indian alike-- lived and studied in a dormitory known as the Indian College, which as founded in 1655 under then-President Charles Chauncy. In 1698 it was torn down owing to neglect. The bricks of the former Indian College were later used to build the first Stoughton Hall. Today a plaque on the SE side of Matthews Hall in Harvard Yard, the approximate site of the Indian College, commemorates the first American Indian students who lived and studied at Harvard University.

The connection to the Puritans can be seen in the fact that, for its first few centuries of existence, the Harvard Board of Overseers included, along with certain commonwealth officials, the ministers of six local congregations (Boston, Cambridge, Charlestown, Dorchester, Roxbury and Watertown), who today, although no longer so empowered, are still by custom allowed seats on the dais at commencement exercises.

Despite the Puritan atmosphere, from the beginning the intent was to provide a full liberal education such as that offered at European universities, including the rudiments of mathematics and science ('natural philosophy') as well as classical literature and philosophy. Nonetheless, Harvard became the bastion of a distinctly Protestant elite--the so-called Boston Brahmin class--well into the 20th century. Its discriminatory policies against immigrants, Catholics and Jews were partly responsible for the founding of Boston College in the 19th century and Brandeis University in 1948. The social milieu at Harvard is depicted in Owen Wister's Philosophy 4, set in the 1870s, which contrasts the character and demeanor of two undergraduates who "had colonial names (Rogers, I think, and Schuyler)" with that of their tutor, one Oscar Maironi, whose "parents had come over in the steerage." Myron Kaufman's 1957 novel Remember Me to God follows the life of a Jewish undergraduate in 1940s Harvard, navigating the shoals of casual antisemitism as he desperately seeks to become a gentleman, be accepted into The Pudding, and marry the Yankee protestant Wimsy Talbot.

Recent developments

Destroyed by fire in the 1950s, Memorial Hall's ornate tower was rebuilt in 1999
Destroyed by fire in the 1950s, Memorial Hall's ornate tower was rebuilt in 1999

In a move unprecedented in the history of Harvard on March 15, 2005, members of Harvard's Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which instructs graduate students in GSAS and undergraduates in Harvard College, passed 218-185 a motion of "lack of confidence" in the leadership of the current president Lawrence Summers, with 18 abstentions. A second motion that offered a milder censure of the president passed 253 to 137, also with 18 abstentions. Although the immediate cause for disapproval were Summers' controversial statements about women, the resistance against Summers is said to express reservations about the changes he wants to implement that according to his opponents would weaken the position of the liberal arts and favor a conservative curriculum. The resolution has no immediate formal effects since the president is not elected by the professors nor by the students but by the Harvard Corporation and can therefore only be discharged by this body. 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 has also pledged $50 million to support their recommendations and other proposed reforms.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Harvard, along with numerous other institutions of higher education across the United States and Canada, has offered to take in students who will be unable to attend universities and colleges that have been closed for the fall semester. Twenty-five students will be admitted to the College, and the Law School has made similar arrangements. Tuition will not be charged and housing may be provided.

Criticism of Harvard

Harvard is the target of a number of critiques, many of them also leveled at other research-based American educational institutions. It has been accused of grade inflation,[6][7] as have other Ivy League institutions and Stanford University.[8] The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, The New York Times, and some students have criticized Harvard (as well as many leading universities)[9][10] for its reliance on teaching fellows in undergraduate education, as many in the faculty are engaged in research (assistant teaching is not taken into account by the major college and university rankings); they consider this to be detrimental to the quality of education.[11][12] According to some internal faculty and external observers, including former Harvard president Derek Bok,[13] the Harvard Corporation exercises disproportionate power, negatively compromising the independence of Harvard academics. However, the former Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Henry Rosovsky, who was once appointed as a member of the corporation, [14] sees it as instrumental in maintaining a long-term view and sound stewardship.

Harvard's undergraduate admissions policy has been criticized. In particular, the undergraduate admissions office's preference for children of alumni and wealthy benefactors [15] has been the subject of debate, as has been its preference for underrepresented minorities. Similar debates have occurred at other prominent schools.

As documented by sociologist Jerome Karabel in his book "The Chosen", Harvard's current admissions policies, like those of other Ivy League institutions, originated in the 1920s, when the school sought to limit the number of jewish students. Harvard officials worried that admissions base purely on academic promise and intelligence would result in a large proportion of jews in the student body, which in turn would degrade the school's social standing. The officials sought to prevent this by introducing more "well rounded" admissions criterion such as participation in sports and other extracurricular activities, which they felt would benefit white protestant candidates. See also [16].

Defenders of Harvard assert that, whatever the unsavory origins of the policy, the benefits of a diverse student body outweigh the cost in lowered academic standards. They further point out that even with the liberalized admission policy, Harvard's academic standards are still among the highest in the country, if not the highest.

The New York Times considers minorities and women underrepresented on the faculty of Harvard, as at several other Ivy League universities.[17] The College is not the sole target of criticism: the Business School has been criticized for over-reliance on the case method,[18], and several Law School faculty have been implicated in plagiarism.[19]


The main campus is centered around Harvard Yard in central Cambridge, and extends into the surrounding Harvard Square neighborhood, approximately two miles (3.2 km) from the MIT campus. The Harvard Business School and many of the university's athletics facilities, including Harvard Stadium, are located in Allston, on the other side of the Charles River from Harvard Square. Harvard Medical School is located in the Longwood district of Boston.

Harvard Yard itself contains the central administrative offices and main libraries of the University, several academic buildings and the majority of the freshman dormitories. Upperclass students live in twelve residential Houses; three Houses are located at the Quadrangle, in a residential neigborhood half a mile northwest of the Yard, and the other nine are in a largely commercial district south of the Yard, situated along or close to the banks of the Charles River.

Radcliffe Yard, the center of the campus of the former Radcliffe College (and now Radcliffe Institute), is west of Harvard Yard, adjacent to the Graduate School of Education.

Major campus expansion

Throughout the past several years, Harvard has purchased large tracts of land in Allston, a short walk across the Charles River from Cambridge, with the intent of major expansion southward. The university now owns approximately fifty percent more land in Allston than in Cambridge. Various proposals to connect the traditional Cambridge campus with the new Allston campus include new and enlarged bridges, a shuttle service and/or a tram.

One of the foremost driving forces for Harvard's pending expansion is its goal of substantially 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.

Harvard University people

Further reading

  • John T. Bethell, Harvard Observed: An Illustrated History of the University in the Twentieth Century, Harvard University Press, 1998, ISBN 0674377338
  • John Trumpbour, ed., How Harvard Rules, Boston: South End Press, 1989, ISBN 0896082830
  • Hoerr, John, We Can't Eat Prestige: The Women Who Organized Harvard; Temple University Press, 1997, ISBN 1566395356
  • Ross Gregory Douthat, Privilege: Harvard and the Education of the Ruling Class, Hyperion, 2005, ISBN 1401301126

External links


  1. ^  Zachary M. Seward. "Endowment Up 21 Percent". The Harvard Crimson. September 15, 2004. http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=503347
  2. ^  "World University Rankings". The Times Educational Supplement. http://www.thes.co.uk/worldrankings/
  3. ^  Daniel J. T. Schuker. "Admissions Rate Sets New Low". The Harvard Crimson. April 4, 2005. http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=506804
  4. ^  Don Peck. "The Selectivity Illusion". The Atlantic Monthly. November 2003. http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200311/peck
  5. ^  "The Best Graduate Schools 2006". U.S. News & World Report. http://www.usnews.com/usnews/edu/grad/rankings/rankindex_brief.php
  6. ^  Rebecca D. O'Brien. "Kerry Tops Crimson Poll". The Harvard Crimson. October 29, 2004. http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=504151
  7. ^  Linda Wertheimer. "Harvard Grade Inflation". All Things Considered. National Public Radio. November 21, 2001. http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1133702
  8. ^  Rebecca M. Milzoff, Amit R. Paley, and Brendan J. Reed. "Grade Inflation is Real". Fifteen Minutes. March 1, 2001. http://www.thecrimson.com/fmarchives/fm_03_01_2001/article4A.html
  9. ^  "Princeton becomes first to formally combat grade inflation". Associated Press. April 26, 2004. http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2004-04-26-princeton-grades_x.htm
  10. ^  David L. Hicks. "Should Our Colleges Be Ranked?" Letter to The New York Times. September 20, 2002. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9803E5D71130F933A1575AC0A9649C8B63
  11. ^  John Merrow. "Grade Inflation: It's Not Just an Issue for the Ivy League". Carnegie Perspectives. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. June 2004. http://www.carnegiefoundation.org/perspectives/perspectives2004.June.htm
  12. ^  Mark Alden Branch. "Who's Teaching Whom?" Yale Alumni Magazine. Summer 1999 http://www.yalealumnimagazine.com/issues/99_07/GESO.html
  13. ^  http://www.dartreview.com/archives/1998/04/29/harvard_research_and_destroy.php
  14. ^  Bok, in Derek Bok, Universities in the Marketplace, Princeton (2003)
  15. ^  Rosovsky, in Henry Rosovsky, The University: An Owner's Manual, Norton (1990)
  16. ^  Jack Trumbour, How Harvard Rules, South End (1989)
  17. ^  http://www.digitas.harvard.edu/~perspy/old/issues/1997/nov/second.html
  18. ^  http://www.nytimes.com/2005/03/01/education/01college.html
  19. ^  http://www.cfoeurope.com/displayStory.cfm/1777470
  20. ^  http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?ref=503493

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