Taming the energy beast

first_imgWhile officials from many nations gather in Copenhagen to debate further action against climate change, Harvard University is taking action on its own.Last year the University pledged to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions 30 percent by 2016, inclusive of growth, with 2006 as a baseline year.Meeting the ambitious goal “is both urgent and difficult,” said Harvard University President Drew Faust, who appointed a task force on greenhouse gas reduction in 2007. Such reductions “are not just Harvard issues,” she said earlier this year. “They are part of the national agenda.”Greenhouse gases, primarily carbon dioxide and methane, contribute to global warming by trapping heat in earth’s atmosphere. Perhaps 40 percent of the emissions are tied to making the energy required for lighting, heating, and cooling buildings.On Monday (Dec. 14), Harvard released its first data on the University’s progress toward meeting the pledge. In fiscal 2006-09, greenhouse gas emissions dropped 10 percent University-wide. With growth factored in, that reduction is about 5 percent.The cuts came from energy-efficiency projects in buildings, more than half from efficiency improvements at Harvard’s Blackstone energy plant and its new chilled-water plants.According to Thomas E. Vautin, Harvard’s acting vice president for administration, greenhouse gas emissions at the Blackstone plant have already dropped by 28 percent as a result of improvements. These include changing the primary fuel source to natural gas, and installing a new steam boiler, as well as a high-efficiency combined heat and power generating system.“These are smart choices that will have a long-term positive impact on the environment and the cost of our operations,” said Katherine Lapp, Harvard’s new executive vice president. She will oversee the implementation of the University’ greenhouse gas reduction plan.Click image for full view (graphic by Gervis A. Menzies Jr./Harvard Staff)The bulk of future emissions reductions will have to come from greater energy efficiency in Harvard’s buildings, said Heather Henriksen, director of Harvard’s Office for Sustainability (OFS).Mostly, that means optimizing building operations, especially when occupants are not present, as well as deploying conservation measures. But it also means behavioral changes, like shutting fume hoods, turning off computers, switching off lights, and setting what Henriksen called “other pragmatic defaults.”In November, each Harvard School and unit completed comprehensive draft plans for greenhouse gas reductions — blueprints for how they can meet the 30 percent goal, and for how much money. Once finalized, those plans will be incorporated into a master policy for University-wide reductions.OFS spearheaded an implementation planning process that included a Harvard University Greenhouse Gas Executive Committee and targeted working groups. The idea was to streamline the assessment process and to convene the Schools and units so they could share best practices.The executive committee co-chairs are Jeremy Bloxham, dean of science at Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences; Robert S. Kaplan, professor of management practice at the Harvard Business School; and Lapp.The task force — about 200 staff members, faculty, administrators, and students — met regularly this year in five working groups: finance, building efficiency and demand management, energy supply, greenhouse gas inventory, and communications and engagement.The initial infrastructure is now in place, said Kaplan, including an updated methodology to inventory greenhouse gas emissions and a common framework for cost-benefit analysis. “OFS ran a collaborative process, and the working groups, comprised of School and unit leaders, created alignment across the University,” Kaplan said. “We now have a much more integrated assessment of the University, and we are moving forward to create and implement an effective University-wide plan.”In a mid-year meeting with working group members, Faust listened to updates. Afterward, she said the collaboration should be a model for future action at Harvard and other universities.“This is not just a set of solutions to one of the most important problems we face on the planet,” she said, but a way to “attack” other big issues that require large-scale cooperation.A sixth working group, with heavy participation from the faculty, will start meeting early in the new year. It will analyze options for closing gaps in the goals over time. Not every school may be able to meet the 30 percent goal by 2016, said Henriksen, so backup solutions are needed to help make up the difference.Among other strategies, the “gaps” working group will look at creative options, including Renewable Energy Credits, energy from renewable sources, and investing in local carbon offset projects.A Student Advisory Group, made up of 50 students from each of Harvard’s 10 Schools, will approach greenhouse gas emissions from a student perspective. The group will report its recommendations by the end of the spring semester.In addition, Harvard adopted a University-wide temperature policy designed to reduce energy use. It was designed with attention to human health and comfort and to legal codes. Helping in its creation was John “Jack” Spengler, Akira Yamaguchi Professor of Environmental Health and Human Habitation at the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH).Harvard’s Schools and units have completed basic energy audits for most buildings and are midway through comprehensive audits to be completed by 2011. (The University manages 26 million square feet of space in 700 buildings.) At the same time, the University has also completed audits of its central steam and chilled-water plants for energy conservation.As University buildings are more efficiently heated, cooled, and lighted, more of Harvard’s reduction in greenhouse gases will depend on individual action and on reducing energy demand, said Henriksen. Her office oversees programs on changing behavior in offices, classrooms, dormitories, and laboratories.These are values already “held very deeply” at Harvard, Faust said, and there are signs she is right. Since 2007, more than 15,000 Harvard staffers, students, and faculty have signed a sustainability pledge, which is renewed each year.Harvard also has the highest recycling rate in the Ivy League at 55 percent, gets about 16 percent of its electricity from renewable sources, and has 66 LEED-certified or registered projects, the most of any institution of higher education. (LEED, a U.S. system of green-building standards, stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design.)“Energy use varies widely across the University, from energy-dense laboratories to offices to student houses, each posing very different challenges in reducing our emissions,” said Bloxham, who is also Mallinckrodt Professor of Geophysics and a professor of computational science. He praised the collaborative ethic of the working groups, as well as the OFS planning.When it comes to greenhouse gas emissions, said Bloxham, “the problem belongs to all of us.”To view a snapshot of Harvard’s emission reductions.last_img read more

Multiple interests

first_imgContrary to what many people may think about the originator of the theory of multiple intelligences (MI), Howard Gardner spends little time these days thinking about his breakthrough. As he told a crowd during remarks at Askwith Hall on Tuesday (Jan. 26), “I don’t wake up and say, ‘Hey, there’s a sexual intelligence or a cooking intelligence.’”Gardner reflected on his famous theory ― in which he posits that all humans possess numerous autonomous intelligences rather than a single intelligence that can be measured through a tool such as the IQ test ― at an Askwith Forum called “Multiple Intelligences: The First 25 Years.” His theory made Gardner one of the most famous academics in the world, earning him the first MacArthur Prize Fellowship and honorary degrees from 26 universities. Gardner, who is the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, was also named one of the world’s top 100 leading public intellectuals by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines.“The heuristic value of this theory simply cannot be overstated,” said Dean Kathleen McCartney of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. “Howard’s theory of multiple intelligences has been inspiring the work of practitioners, researchers, and policymakers for more than 25 years, not just here but around the globe.”Calling himself a “lifer,” Gardner came to Harvard in 1961 as an undergraduate. As founding member in 1967 of Project Zero, of which he is senior director, Gardner began studying children’s artistic development. At the same time, he began research at a veterans’ hospital, studying patients with brain damage.“The MI theory would never have been spawned if I hadn’t been working with these two populations,” he said. “That turned out to be the critical spark that led to the ideas, because every day I would see children who had scattered intellectual profiles, [who] were not very good at school, or vice versa.” Gardner found himself immersed in data about what children could and couldn’t do. “I’d try to make sense of it, and it was not easy,” he said.In 1979, the Bernard van Leer Foundation awarded the School of Education more than $1 million to probe the nature of human potential. Gardner decided to focus on human cognition using disciplines such as evolution, various cognitive profiles and processes, different cultures, and human abilities.“I didn’t know I’d come up with the theory of MI,” Gardner said. “I thought, here’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to put together all this stuff I had been observing and seeing and make sense out of it.” What Gardner discovered was that the human mind operated more like several computers related to one another. These computers, or “intelligences,” are linguistic, logical, kinesthetic, interpersonal, intrapersonal, musical, and spatial.Gardner largely credited his use of the word “intelligences” as pivotal to the theory. “I would not be standing here today in this hall if I called it seven abilities or seven powers,” he said, even though he could not recall how he selected that word.The theory led to his 1983 book, “Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences.” Gardner recalled how the theory initially made people uncomfortable, but also seemed to resonate with educators, even though he admitted he never really thought about education.Ultimately, it was public reception of the theory that pushed Gardner into a level of fame rarely seen by academics. In fact, Gardner pinpointed the start of his “15 minutes of fame” at a 1984 meeting of the National Association of Independent Schools, where his arrival in the packed and noisy room in New York’s Hilton Hotel immediately caused it to become silent.Eventually, Gardner decided not to focus his entire life on MI. Still, 15 years ago, he added an eighth intelligence, naturist. And he has spent many years ruminating on whether there is a ninth intelligence, existential, which contemplates the big questions of life, such as: What is love? Why am I here? Who am I? However, Gardner said that he still needs more evidence on that one, so for now he suggests there are eight-and-a-half intelligences.These ideas continue to spread globally, even though Gardner said he has had little to do with what we might see as MI in the world. Today there are Asian milk drinks (promising to develop each intelligence), books, conferences, and schools dedicated to the theory. Although Gardner initially resisted addressing the implications of MI, he found that other people developed their own. While it has been interesting for him to watch people assimilate his work, this prompted a shift in Gardner’s own beliefs.“I said to myself, if I developed these ideas, I can’t simply say it’s up to other people how to use them,” he said. “If they’re being abused … I have to take responsibility.”In the past 15 years, that notion has largely inspired Gardner’s efforts on the Good Work Project, which identifies individuals and institutions exemplifying the meaning of positive work that encompasses three characteristics: excellence, engaging, and ethical.“My first work, and I make no apologies for it, was about intelligences, and a lot of the work on Good Work is about the kind of human being you are,” Gardner said. “The true implication, whether it’s here in this School or the rest of the University or anywhere in the world, [is that we] really need to focus on that … you have a world where [some] people are good people but don’t use their minds well, [and other] people use their minds in ways which are not worthy of human beings.”last_img read more

Interfaculty Initiative in Health Policy awards Cordeiro Health Policy Summer Research Grants

first_imgThe Interfaculty Initiative in Health Policy has announced the 2010 recipients of the Cordeiro Health Policy Summer Research Grants. Rising seniors pursuing a secondary field in health policy are eligible for the grants, which allow students to get a head start on their senior theses or research projects related to health policy.The nine recipients, including their field of study and thesis/research project title, are listed below:Madeleine Ballard, social studies, “Songs of Survival: Evaluating the Role of Jeliw in HIV/AIDS Prevention in Mali”Eric “Ricky” Hanzich, government, “In His Honor, Without His Proposals: The Impact of Senator Edward M. Kennedy’s Absence from the Health Care Reform Debate of 2009-2010”Christine Kaufmann, history and science, “Farm Security Administration’s Medical Care Programs as a Component of New Deal Health Care Reforms”Katherine Kim, human evolutionary biology, “A Phylogenetic Comparative Analysis and Modeling of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in Primates”Phoebe Kuo, molecular and cellular biology, “Evaluating the Frequency and Necessity of Emergency Transfer of Hand Patients”Sarah Maxwell, social anthropology, “Senegalese Immigrants in America: Health and Social Consequences of Immigration” Abigail Schiff, molecular and cellular biology, “Cardiovascular Outcomes as a Marker of Inequality in the Chilean Health System”Michelle Seslar, sociology, “Social Factors Contributing to Poor Treatment Adherence in Diabetes Patients”Jonathan Warsh, government, “Cancer Politics: Interest Groups, Media, Public Opinion and the National Cancer Institute”last_img read more

New SEAS effort to focus on grad education in applied computational science

first_imgThe Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) announced a commitment to foster graduate training and research in applied computational science, infusing the SEAS curriculum with new courses and student research opportunities that will focus on the use of computation to power discovery and innovation.The aim of the new effort is to expand Harvard’s educational capacity in applied computational science, a growing field that brings together mathematical models, algorithms, systems innovations, computational techniques, and statistical tools.“From understanding the dynamics of bloodflow to visualizing complex data to tethering low-cost hardware together to create virtual supercomputers, applied computation is at the core of science and engineering,” says Cherry A. Murray, dean of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Sciences and John A. and Elizabeth S. Armstrong Professor of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “We owe it to our students to ensure that SEAS is at the forefront of this exciting field.”Taking advantage of the highly interdisciplinary nature of SEAS and its intellectual connections to departments and schools throughout Harvard, faculty members will enhance existing courses and develop new ones. The courses will be available to Harvard graduate students across the sciences.Efthimios Kaxiras, John Hasbrouck Van Vleck Professor of Pure and Applied Physics, will serve as the director, effective September 1, of a newly created SEAS-based Institute for Applied Computational Science and be responsible for academic oversight. Kaxiras, an expert in materials physics, has long used sophisticated computation techniques to spur advances in biomedical applications.Rather than establishing a new academic or administrative unit, the institute will play a coordinating and capacity-building role, engaging with faculty from all SEAS academic areas.last_img read more

Education scholar Gerald Lesser, 84

first_imgGerald Lesser, Charles Bigelow Professor of Education and Developmental Psychology Emeritus at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), died on Sept. 23 at the age of 84.Lesser is perhaps most well-known as one of the scholars who, during his time at HGSE, developed the curriculum for the acclaimed PBS series “Sesame Street,” a show unparalleled in the history of television. Throughout his 30 years at HGSE, he continued to work on “Sesame Street” where he served as chairman of the Children’s Television Workshop’s board of advisers from 1969 through 1996. Lesser was determined to ensure the show’s value as a learning experience, establishing a strong culture of assessment and writing the 1974 book, “Children and Television: Lessons from Sesame Street.”“As a young assistant professor, I assigned Gerry Lesser’s work to my students because it illustrated the power of applied developmental science,” said Dean Kathleen McCartney, the Gerald S. Lesser Professor in Early Childhood Development. “The first time I met Gerry Lesser, he joked that he was sorry to have saddled me with the name ‘Lesser Professor’; he also told me how proud he was that the dean of the School was serving in a chair that honored him. But I am the one who is proud to carry his name along with mine.”To read the full obituary, visit HGSE’s website.last_img read more

Helping women help themselves

first_imgWhen Victoria Budson was a college sophomore, her parents asked her what she planned to do with her life.“I want to lead social movements,” she told them. Slightly baffled, her father — one of several Harvard graduates in the family — responded, “Well, are you going to go to the Business School or the Law School?”“Back in the ’80s, saying you wanted to have a career in feminism was something of an unknown,” Budson recalled one recent morning from her office in the Taubman Building. Little did Budson or her parents know that her passion for women’s equality would in fact lead her to Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), where she has served as executive director of the Women and Public Policy Program (WAPPP) for the past 15 years.By helping HKS faculty to craft policies and programs to help bring about gender equality in American politics and abroad, Budson has stayed true to her original cause. She even earned that parent-assuaging Harvard degree: In 2003, she became the first HKS employee to graduate from the School’s midcareer master in public administration program while working full time.“The work I do here is about closing gaps,” Budson said. “People make laws out of their life experience. If women aren’t represented, the most basic needs of women’s lives won’t be translated into good policy.”Budson, who grew up in Wellesley Hills, Mass., left home to attend Haverford College but developed back problems that forced her to return to her hometown. During her two-year recovery from spinal fusion surgery, she enrolled at Wellesley College, a change that led her to new thinking.“I don’t think one can ever understand how to build equality if one has never been someplace where one is put first,” she said of her time at the women’s school. Even the college’s gym was a revelation. “I’d never been in a sports facility before in my life where the women’s locker rooms weren’t an addition.”After graduating in 1993, Budson embarked on a career in politics. She soon became the first woman chair of the Young Democrats of Massachusetts and was elected to Wellesley’s town meeting.In 1996, she met Joseph Nye, then the new dean of the Kennedy School, who mentioned that HKS hoped to start a women’s center. “I felt that I knew just what should be done,” she said. Nye agreed, and hired her to be the first executive director of WAPPP.At the time, the HKS faculty had one woman. When Budson called an introductory meeting with the School’s female students, the group could fit comfortably in a single function room.“I sat with these women — who were at a school of government, who thought enough of themselves to have applied to a school like Harvard, and who were successful enough to be admitted — and I said, ‘How many of you are interested in running for public office?’” Budson recalled. “I got one hand.”Convinced the School could do more to help produce elected women leaders, Budson started From Harvard Square to the Oval Office, a program that trains 50 female students each year. The program hosts workshops with top political consultants on everything from media appearances to fundraising strategies, supports summer political internships, and gives its graduates a support network to tap into down the road.“We help people go from having the idea to run, to having the skills and confidence and actually envisioning themselves as political leaders,” she said.Outside Harvard, Budson remains active in state politics and women’s issues. This past summer, she was elected chair of the Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women, after being appointed by Gov. Deval Patrick.  The commission, an independent state agency, works to advance equality for women in all areas of life.“My work here at Harvard is incredibly important, but [it] won’t feed women who are hungry or shelter women who don’t have homes,” she said, although hopefully it will lead to policies that leave fewer women hungry or homeless in the future. The research and ideas coming out of WAPPP will improve systems over time, but Budson insists that women must get involved now, no matter how imperfect the political process.“Structural change will take a really long time,” she said. “I can’t wait that long.”last_img read more

Getting down to business

first_imgWhen new members of Congress head to the capital next month, a stagnant economy and stubborn unemployment numbers will be top priorities. But as two Harvard Business School (HBS) professors warned a group of incoming congressional freshmen on Thursday, it would be a big mistake to separate those concerns from the broader and increasingly urgent issue of America’s waning competitiveness in the global world of business.“Our problem is not so much what we’ve done but what we haven’t done,” Michael E. Porter, the Bishop William Lawrence University Professor, told the group of 47 gathered at Harvard Kennedy School for a crash course in major policy issues. “Other countries are very serious about driving improvements in competitiveness. … Part of our problem is that we’re just not moving fast enough.”The presentation by Porter and Jan W. Rivkin, co-directors of the HBS-led U.S. Competitiveness Project, was one of more than a dozen organized by the Institute of Politics (IOP) for the Bipartisan Program for Newly Elected Members of Congress, which for 40 years has shepherded 20 classes of freshmen through its boot camp for policymakers. This year, 37 Democrats and 10 Republicans descended on Harvard for the four-day program, their schedules packed with everything from foreign-policy discussions to workshops on building relationships in Washington to a Fenway Park outing.The talk, moderated by the IOP fellow and Fortune columnist Nina Easton, was also an opportunity for Porter and Rivkin to spread the word of the Competitiveness Project’s findings beyond its usual audience of business leaders. HBS launched the initiative last year to promote research on American competitiveness and to raise awareness of the issue in the business, academic, and policymaking communities.Many of the project’s findings were based on a global survey of 10,000 HBS alumni, published in Harvard Business Review in March. Porter and Rivkin found that although the United States still maintains some crucial strengths in the eyes of business leaders — top-notch universities, a culture that fosters entrepreneurship and innovation — the country is no longer seen as the go-to location for companies looking to build up business.And contrary to popular belief, companies aren’t always shipping jobs overseas to pursue cheap labor. The availability of skilled workers was often cited as a reason to relocate outside the United States.Porter was quick to stress that competitiveness means more than allowing business to prosper. To be competitive, companies must be able to compete in international markets while helping to maintain and raise Americans’ living standards — not by lowering them.“Republicans are traditionally worried about the company part; Democrats are traditionally worried about the worker part,” Porter said. “But those two things are inextricably tied.”If lawmakers focus purely on job creation rather than the broader issue of competitiveness, “you tend to create jobs where it’s easy to create jobs,” said Rivkin, the Bruce V. Rauner Professor of Business Administration. Infrastructure jobs and service-sector jobs in industries such as health care and retail aren’t enough to keep the U.S. economy robust in the long term, he said. Research and development or manufacturing jobs, on the other hand, can help increase America’s overall productivity and keep the country competitive in a global economy.“Jobs are the outcome of a competitive economy,” Rivkin said. “If we try to solve the jobs problem separately we tend to do things that are not very sensible, rather than deal with the underlying fundamentals.”So what should lawmakers do first? According to Porter and Rivkin, a sustainable federal budget would go a long way toward creating a perception of a stable environment for business. They also advised easing immigration restrictions on the highly skilled foreign workers — many trained at American universities — companies need. Simplifying America’s notoriously byzantine corporate tax code and regulatory processes would also make the United States a more attractive place to do business, they added.“Business leaders have pursued their own self-interest very narrowly and have been very effective” in making the tax code more complicated, Rivkin said, acknowledging the paradox created by the slow buildup of tax loopholes for which corporations themselves lobbied.Competitiveness is a complex problem with deep roots, Rivkin and Porter said. But even signaling bipartisan agreement to tackle the issue would help restore Americans’ faith in Congress. Business leaders in particular have little confidence in Washington: In the HBS survey, the American political system was ranked the worst factor in the U.S. business environment.“I believe a little bit of progress would signal to so many people that we can make headway on these problems,” Rivkin said.Echoing his partner, Porter urged the freshmen to help change the relationship between business and government leaders.“If we have those two sides at war, everybody loses,” Porter said.It was a tall order, but at least one congressman came away heartened.“We’ve heard a lot of doom and gloom over the last couple of days,” said Tom Rice, a Republican from South Carolina. “You came in here with solutions, which is a wonderful prospect.”In describing the orientation, Joseph Kennedy III, D-Mass., said, “It’s one of the great opportunities that you have … where you get to learn from national experts about the fiscal realities — long-term, short-term — what can be done to get our economy moving again and on a bipartisan basis.”Visit the Harvard Kennedy School website to listen to podcasts of what other incoming freshman members of the 113th Congress have to say.last_img read more

Erwin Hiebert, 93, dies

first_imgFrom his first days in grade school until the last year of his life, Erwin Hiebert was deeply dedicated to scholarship. He was passionate about science, not only in regards to his own research, but he was also keenly fascinated with how philosophers and scientists before him conducted their work. That love of science and wonder were at the center of Hiebert’s long teaching career, the last 40-plus years spent at Harvard. Hiebert, professor of the history of science emeritus, died on Nov. 28, at the age of 93.Hiebert came to Harvard in 1970 as a professor of the history of science, becoming a professor emeritus in 1989. Throughout the years he was known as an active and prolific scholar and teacher whose students became well-known academics in the field.Hiebert received an M.A. in chemistry and physics at the University of Kansas in 1943. He enjoyed a long, illustrious teaching and research career, beginning with his first teaching post in 1952 at San Francisco State College. He went on to teach as a Fulbright lecturer at the Max-Planck-Institut für Physik in Göttingen, Germany. The following year, Hiebert made a brief stop at Harvard as an instructor in the history of science, before moving to the Department of History of Science at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, serving as chairman from 1960 to 1965. Hiebert permanently returned to the Department of History of Science at Harvard in 1970. He was chairman of the department from 1977 to 1984 while also serving as a visiting lecturer and scholar at universities across the country and the globe.Though he reached emeritus status 1989, Hiebert continued to devote most of his time to his own research and writing. He would journey from Belmont, where he settled his family in 1970, to Harvard nearly every day for many years after his retirement to work in his much-loved study in Widener Library.Hiebertwas a member ofmany organizations, including the Académie Internationale d’Histoire des Sciences, and he was a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He was the author of three books: “The Impact of Atomic Energy,” “Historical Roots of the Principle of Conservation of Energy,” and “The Conception of Thermodynamics in the Scientific Thought of Mach and Planck,” in addition to numerous articles. His research and teaching focused on the 19th- and 20th-century history and philosophy of science. At his death he was completing a publication on the implications of the science of acoustics for music composition and instrument construction.Professor Hiebert was preceded in death in September 2012 by his wife of 69 years, Elfrieda Franz Hiebert, and is survived by his three children: Catherine Hiebert Kerst of Silver Spring, Md.; Margaret Hiebert Beissinger and husband Mark Beissinger of Princeton, N.J.; and Thomas Nels Hiebert and wife Lenore Voth Hiebert of Fresno, Calif.A memorial service for Hiebert will be held at Memorial Church in Harvard Yard on Feb. 17 at 2 p.m.Contributions can be made in Hiebert’s memory to the Mennonite Central Committee Global Family Program Supporting Education, 21 S. 12th St., P.O. Box 500, Akron, PA, 17501, or at https://donate.mcc.org/registry/Elfrieda-and-Erwin-Hiebert.last_img read more

Giving back because of what Harvard gave them

first_imgFrom lifelong relationships to memories of the Houses, there are innumerable reasons alumni choose to support Harvard. Every year, more than 30,000 alumni give back in celebration of reunions, as volunteers, or through annual gifts, and they aren’t shy about sharing why.At the recent Volunteer Voices event in New York, nearly 100 honored alumni celebrated why Harvard connections are so important to them. Their sentiment ranged from the humorous to the heartfelt. “I’ll always love Harvard because it gave so much to me,” read a handwritten sign held by Ken Swan ’56.Many focused on the people they met while students. Former Weld roommates Christina Shelby ’04 and Georgia Shutzer ’04 posed together and held matching signs proclaiming, “It’s where I met my best friends.” Harvard College Fund Co-Chair Nicholas Sakellariadis ’73 and his wife, Julie ’78, held signs pointing to each other: “It’s where I met her (him).”Others emphasized their gratitude for the opportunities Harvard gave them. Erika Hamden ’06 proudly held a sign that said, “It turned me into an astrophysicist!” Deborah Elitzur ’96 wrote, “Harvard has opened up new worlds for me, offered me new perspectives, and is allowing me to fulfill my dreams.”Some pointed to more intangible experiences in the Houses. Eve Rosenbaum ’12 and Shannon Cleary ’12 were wistful for Marshmallow Mateys and the times when “HUDS made my meals.” For Kevin Chan ’07, it was about the place he called home: “Lowell House is the best House.”This affection and loyalty was evident in signs like that of Sadie Sanchez ’98, who wrote that she gives to Harvard because “I want to pay it forward.”This attitude is common among reunion volunteers, who this year have taken on more than 5,000 peer solicitations and are helping to close in on an ambitious goal of raising $50 million in immediate-use funds by June 30. These efforts give Harvard the resources to fuel remarkable innovation, maintain mission-critical financial aid, and inspire new initiatives in teaching and learning.Jamie Harmon ’93 was motivated to volunteer as co-chair of his 20th reunion because of the impact that Harvard had on him and his peers. “I learned so much from my roommates and classmates. It was exciting to be around such talented, smart people,” he said.“Harvard takes bright young minds and turbocharges them,” he said. “The College raises students’ sights and shows them that they can do anything.”Jane Hatch ’88, who serves as participation co-chair of her 25th reunion, volunteers because she feels a personal responsibility to make sure Harvard remains affordable to all. “Without financial aid,” she said, “there was no way I could have come to Harvard.”For both Harmon and Hatch, returning to Harvard is one of their favorite ways to connect with the College. Hatch is grateful for the circle of women with whom she remains very close. “I’ve also made new friends with classmates that I didn’t know then,” she said.When Harmon comes to Cambridge, he never fails to visit Harvard Yard. “It’s one of the places where I feel most comfortable,” he said.To view the “Giving Back” stories slide show.last_img read more

A union scotched?

first_imgA “yes” from Scotland’s voters on Thursday would split the country from the United Kingdom, ending a sometimes-prickly partnership that began in 1707.Leading the pro-independence movement is the Scottish National Party (SNP), which holds the majority of seats in Scotland’s Parliament. The party has pushed for a national referendum since 2007, with SNP leader Alex Salmond calling it a “once-in-a-generation” opportunity for full self-determination. While the Scottish government controls many key arenas, including education, health, transportation, and agriculture, the British Parliament runs policymaking around other vital matters such as energy, national security, foreign policy, immigration, and taxation. The U.K.’s political and financial establishments, including England’s three largest political parties and Prime Minister David Cameron, strongly oppose secession. The Royal Bank of Scotland and the Lloyds Banking Group recently announced plans to relocate their operations to England should voters approve independence. The banks reportedly fear damage to their credit ratings and customer flight as a result of fiscal, legal, and regulatory instability. Even Queen Elizabeth, who rarely opines publicly on political matters, said she hopes voters “will think very carefully” before deciding to leave the U.K.The divisive issue has prompted the record registration of 4.3 million, or 97 percent of Scotland’s eligible voters. New polling suggests a statistical dead heat.Niall Ferguson, the Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History at the Faculty of Arts and Sciences and a native of Glasgow, spoke with the Gazette about the referendum and what’s at stake for Scotland and the U.K. if the secession campaign succeeds.GAZETTE: What’s driving this vote and why is it happening now?FERGUSON: Well, the idea of an independent Scotland has, of course, historical precedents, but you have to go back before 1707 or even before 1603 if you want to find a truly independent Scotland. It was a more or less dead idea right down until the 1960s. The Scottish National Party came into existence in the 1930s, but it had virtually no support until there were, I suppose, the first signs of Scotland’s economic decline as the engine room of the British Empire in the ’60s and ’70s. In 1979, there was a referendum on devolution that would have given more power to Scotland, self-governing power, within the United Kingdom. That was defeated. In the 1990s, under Tony Blair’s government, there was another referendum on devolution and that was successful and so a Scottish Parliament was restored for the first time since 1707. And then, the question of course came up again: “If we can have our own parliament, why can’t we go the whole way?” It was the decision of the current U.K. prime minister, David Cameron, to offer Scotland’s residents a referendum on independence, yes or no, after the Scottish National Party won political power in Scotland. That’s the background to all of this.In the end, what you’re seeing is a last-minute surge in support for a yes to independence which has only really looked like it could win in the last two or three weeks. For most of the campaign, polls had the noes ahead by roughly 10 points and then, suddenly, this gap evaporated and the big question is “Why did that happen?” Because clearly that seems like a very dramatic and sudden change in the public mood.GAZETTE: What’s your sense as to why?FERGUSON: I think it’s very simple. I think the no campaign has been very poorly run and the yes campaign has been very well run. The no campaign was entrusted to the Scottish Labour leadership because David Cameron felt — despite being the son of a Scotsman — that his English accent would be grist to the Nationalists’ mill, so the Labour leadership in Scotland took over the no campaign and essentially ran it like a very dull economics seminar, explaining ad nauseam that if Scotland voted yes, there would be confusion about what currency it should have and it would cause fiscal problems, etc. And it was just a very negative argument. Meanwhile, the SNP’s yes campaign was positive, upbeat. The Scottish National Party told and continues to tell a story of only upside to independence. They entirely conceal from the public the economic risks, which are huge. So we’ve really seen a kind of campaign-driven swing in which “don’t knows,” young voters, and habitual nonvoters have been successfully mobilized by the yes campaign vision of a Brave New Scotland separating itself from Tory-dominated England and becoming a kind of Scandinavian utopia.GAZETTE: What are some of the political, economic, and national security implications if Scotland breaks away?FERGUSON: There will be a rush of money out of Scotland because of the uncertainties about the currency, the distribution of the U.K. national debt, the negotiations about oil revenues. All of these things will make businesses very nervous about being based in Edinburgh, especially the big banks. Indeed, they’ve already made it clear that they will move their bases to London. So there will be an immediate economic impact on Scotland. I should think there will be a recession, and there will be a significant increase in unemployment. There probably will also be some negative economic effects for the U.K. as a whole because the political implications are so unclear. So that’s part one.Part two, the politics: If it’s yes, it’s hard to believe that David Cameron can survive as prime minister. He might just conceivably fight off a leadership challenge, but I think it’s going to be difficult because this is going to look like his mistake. The confusion that will ensue, even if he stays on, will be immense because you’ll be witnessing one of the biggest divorce negotiations in political history. Three hundred-plus years of political union can’t get unraveled with a quickie divorce in Reno. This is going to take years to figure out. And while that’s being done, Scotland and England, not to mention Wales and Northern Ireland, will be in limbo politically. There will be a general election next year, probably, in which Scottish voters will get to vote, but how on earth a government will be able to be formed based on Scottish M.P.s when Scotland’s just voted to become independent, God only knows. In fact, you can imagine a situation in which the Labour Party won, but only would have a majority with its Scottish M.P.s. I think that would prompt really quite significant protest in England. So you have the potential for political uncertainty stretching on into next year.And then of course, as people in the rest of the U.K. figure out what a Scottish yes means, we’ll have the Welsh arguing that they should be next, and more importantly, I think, the English saying, “What the hell?” There’s going to be a good deal of bitterness about what’s happened. The majority of English voters favor Scotland staying in the union. There’s no appetite for independence south of the border. But I think if Scotland votes yes, the English will be like the wronged spouse in a divorce case and they’ll be pretty unaccommodating in the negotiations that then ensue.GAZETTE: Is it clear that Scotland would be welcomed into the European Union and if it is, what stature is it likely to have?FERGUSON: Scotland’s nationalists claim they can stay in the European Union, but actually they will not be able to do that. They’ll have to apply to become members if they secede from the U.K., which is of course a member. If you’ve ever been to Iceland, you’ll know the answer to that question. They’ll essentially be a somewhat bigger version of Iceland. The same applies to membership of NATO; this will be a new state that will have to do a lot of things from scratch. There will not be a great deal of enthusiasm because for those countries that have separatist regional movements like Spain, Italy, and Belgium, the precedent will obviously be a very disturbing one, and I would imagine that in Spain in particular — where the Catalonian and Basque separatist movements have been a problem for many years for the government of Madrid — the likely attitude may even be “get lost.”GAZETTE: What do you think about the argument that Scotland hasn’t received its fair share from the U.K. politically or economically and that going it alone will preserve or improve the quality of life for more people?FERGUSON: Well, it’s just complete nonsense. It’s at variance with the truth. The Scots actually have higher per capita public spending than the English by a substantial amount. Resources have been flowing to Scotland far more open-handedly than to the north of England for years. And you’ve got to remember, something like 11 prime ministers, including the last two before David Cameron, have themselves been Scots. You could argue, if anything, that Scotland has been overrepresented in the U.K. system. For many years, it had many more M.P.s than its population would have entitled it to in a strictly proportional system. And the Scots have done very well indeed accessing England’s institutions. I was one of those Scots who benefited from studying at Oxford and I’ve spent more of my life in England than I have in Scotland. I’m pretty typical of the kind of beneficiary of the union that Scotland’s been producing since the days of James Boswell. So there’s just a total lack of any evidence in the Scottish National Party’s claim that somehow Scotland’s been disadvantaged. The very opposite is true. To try to turn Scotland’s history into some version of Ireland’s is, I think, completely a travesty. Scotland was not colonized by the English; Scotland entered a union of equals. Indeed, in 1603 it was a Scottish king who took over the English throne. This idea that somehow the Scots are the last victims of English colonialism is preposterous; it’s completely without a foundation in reality.GAZETTE: Who stands to benefit from independence and who is likely to be hurt by it?FERGUSON: The great Scottish economist Adam Smith warned that it’s the people with ideas for radical constitutional change that are usually the people who would benefit most from them. And the self-aggrandizement of the Scottish National Party’s leadership will be the first consequence of this referendum if the result is yes. The losers will be those they persuaded to vote for them because the kind of people who will be hit hardest economically are probably the working-class voters who are defecting from the Labour Party to vote yes. Because if there is — as I’m sure there will be — a big economic shock in the wake of a yes vote, jobs will be lost, house prices will fall, incomes will be reduced, and the brunt will be borne by ordinary people, many of whom have been lured into the yes camp with completely mendacious promises. And that’s one of the sad things about this — the failure of the no campaign successfully to nail the economic lies in the yes campaign.GAZETTE: What are the most pressing issues the Scottish government would need to address right away if the independence campaign succeeds?FERGUSON: Well first, what currency are you going to use, because the yes campaign’s claim that they can carry on using the pound is, in fact, not credible. You can’t vote for independence and then say, “Can we keep the monetary union, please?” In fact, political separation with monetary union is a recipe for trouble. And England can just say no, and I think that’s what will happen. So the Scottish government, if it wins this referendum, will pretty quickly have to come up with its own currency, which will be interesting. How do you finance this Scottish state without transfers from south of the border? You seem to assume you’re going to have all the revenues from the North Sea oil fields, but why? The oil may be located closer to Scotland than England, but it’s collectively owned by the U.K. So there are going to be questions about apportioning oil revenues, questions about apportioning shares of the national debt of the United Kingdom, questions about the defense assets located in Scotland, including the Trident nuclear missiles at the Faslane Naval Base. The list is a long one.GAZETTE: How would an independent Scotland affect Westminster and specifically Cameron, who very publicly has urged voters to stay united?FERGUSON: I think it’s going to be pretty difficult for him to survive as prime minister if it’s a yes. Because this was an initiative he didn’t need to take. He could have simply declined the idea of a referendum and the Scottish National Party wasn’t in a position to insist on one, so I think it’s hard for him to survive this.GAZETTE: Why did he agree to it if it was so risky?FERGUSON: The thought process was that the independence option would be defeated and that would be the end of that. There was complete confidence until about January that the referendum would go against independence. Very few people back at the beginning of this gamble considered very seriously the possibility of defeat. So it’s hard for him to explain this away. I think the other interesting consequence to consider is the even bigger blow for the Labour Party, which has depended for years on Scottish members of Parliament for its strength. And so people are going to be saying, “Whose fault was that?” — because, after all, it was Labour leaders who ran the campaign. So they’re in trouble, too. And then you have the spectacle of the U.K. Independence Party, which is mostly an English party, saying, “Well you see, this whole thing illustrates fundamental Conservative weakness” and that then means that potentially the anti-European elements in U.K. politics will gain. Ultimately, remember, there’s the possibility of another referendum down the road on U.K. membership of the European Union. Some people think a yes vote in Scotland might increase the chances of such a referendum happening and the result being in favor of leaving. Then you get into some pretty wild scenarios.GAZETTE: Which way do you think the voting will go, and why?FERGUSON: Any expert on British politics will tell you it should be a narrow no win in the end, because in referendums typically people pull back from change in the final days of a race, risk aversion kicks in, people don’t necessarily vote in the polling booths the way they say they’ll vote to pollsters. So, for a whole bunch of reasons, people will tell you it’s going to be no. I wish I had such faith in opinion polls and I wish I did not feel that the momentum of the yes campaign has become hard, if not impossible, to stop. Right now this thing is statistically too close to call. And so it will be decided by a relatively small number of people. And I think that’s why, if you’re looking at the final days of the campaign, the people on the fence or undecided or apathetic seem to me more likely to break for yes because the atmosphere in Scotland, where I just was, is palpably pro-independence. Although it’s 50-50 in the polls, you wouldn’t know it to do a public debate or to walk down the street. Yes is dominant; no is almost silent — partly because the campaign’s been badly run and also because there’s a certain amount of intimidation going on. It could still be narrowly yes, in which case we’re going to wake up on Friday to a very changed Europe, not just a changed Britain.GAZETTE: In an essay in The Sunday Times, you said that if yes prevails, your first act will be to apply for U.S. citizenship. Why is that?FERGUSON: I have lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years and I’ve hesitated to become a U.S. citizen because of a sense of loyalty to the country where I was born and raised, which was extremely good to me; because of a sense of loyalty to my parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. Great Britain was a term devised by a Scotsman, James VI of Scotland, when he became James I of England. It’s a term that connotes the union of Scotland and England and I have loyalty to that union. I don’t have any feelings of loyalty to a U.K. without Scotland and I don’t have any feelings of loyalty to whatever little country Alex Salmond, the SNP leader, thinks he’s creating. So my homeland will kind of die if it’s a yes vote; it won’t really exist anymore, at which point I think I can square applying for U.S. citizenship with my conscience.I think independence would be a disaster for the U.K., a disaster for Europe, a disaster for the West. The unraveling of the United Kingdom is a major problem given that the United Kingdom has been the staunchest ally of the United States since 1917. And, since ultimately the United Kingdom stands for a certain set of values that need to be upheld in Europe, anything that weakens the U.K., as this clearly would, has negative implications for the things that we all, I hope, hold dear: individual freedom, the whole idea of representative government, the concept of the free market. These are ideas that were born in many ways in Scotland in the Enlightenment in the 18th century and they’ve been hugely successful in their incarnation here in North America. They’ve been pretty successful in the U.K., as well. That’s why I really feel a no vote is to be preferred. This is not really about what passport I will carry in future. It’s about something much, much bigger than the question of whether or not Scotland should be an independent state. It’s about the ultimate stability of the Enlightenment’s achievements.This interview has been edited for length.last_img read more