Something’s Not Right Here

One of our essential contributors at is a student at Harvard University, which is an accomplishment that I deeply admire. Knowing that he and others like him are out there makes me hopeful about the future every day. My observation here is not about the institution, but about the people who desire to enhance the already excellent position of the school. is reporting that Harvard Business School has received a new gift of $50 million from a company in India. Read the news bulletin here.

Last week, Harvard University announced a gift of $10 million for a new humanities center. Read the news in the Harvard Crimson here.

Both gifts are associated with persons who have ties to the school.

The overall value of the University’s endowment at the end of the fiscal year [2009]was $26.0 billion.

From the Harvard news office, here is the report on the status of Harvard’s endowment as of June 30, 2009.

This type of private giving is happening in a state that scrapes the bottom nationally when it comes to funding public higher education—community colleges, now the renamed state universities, and its University of Massachusetts. Why don’t these affluent people with Massachusetts’ connections consider contributing to the public system with students in Boston, Salem, Lowell, Amherst, Worcester, Bridgewater, and other communities? All combined, their endowments are miniscule compared to the $26 billion in Harvard’s hands.

These are staggering amounts of money. Just once, I’d like to read that the President of Harvard, upon learning that some titan of industry wishes to donate $50 million to Harvard, convinced the donor to support a new three-way partnership with Harvard, Bunker Hill Community College, and UMass Boston to launch an innovative academic program for the benefit of Massachusetts students.

It’s troubling to me to read about these enormous gifts to well-heeled institutions, and it reminds me of the growing gap between the most affluent in society and those persons and families who are struggling to earn a living.

3 Responses to Something’s Not Right Here

  1. Andrew says:

    There is a positive light to this: both donors are Indian. That’s $60 million that has been moved from India to invest in Massachusetts’ economy. That’s a lot of construction jobs in the near-run and a lot of staff positions once those buildings are constructed.

  2. PaulM says:

    I agree that getting the money into the state is helpful. And the radiating effects of the spending will be positive.

  3. bk says:

    You really think that someone would trust our state officials to manage a large donation in an equitable way? Nah. It would be sliced up by the different agencies to benefit most anyone except the students