Harvard: The Cost of Excellence

The Sun Never Sets on Harvard's Empire

But foreign forays include links with repressive regimes

By John Yemma and Daniel Golden, Globe Staff, 06/01/98

Second of four parts

On a windswept Saturday last fall, as Cambridge streets teemed with demonstrators, Chinese President Jiang Zemin stepped to the podium in Sanders Theatre, smiled thinly and delivered a major foreign policy address to Harvard students, faculty, and administrators.

For an institution accustomed to foreign visitors and global influence, the speech - Jiang's only talk at an American university - still represented an academic coup, evidence of Harvard's extraordinary standing in world affairs.

In China, Harvard is the most widely known and respected university in the world. And Harvard is equally impressed with China. Next week, Harvard's president, Neil Rudenstine, leaves for his second trip to China in three months.

Quoting Winston Churchill, Rudenstine speaks of a bold effort to use the university to create''empires of the mind'' in an ''increasingly internationalized, competitive, and demanding newworld.''

Given the breadth of its involvement in so many different arenas in so many countries - plus thelarge number of Harvard graduates in influential positions in Washington and abroad - theuniversity is now functioning as a seedbed for the global leadership class.

But Harvard itself is being altered by its growing globalism, as its president acknowledges. Theuniversity is making an unprecedented push into international waters, opening a series of researchoffices in Asia, Europe, and Latin America, hosting top-flight Chinese and Russian military andintelligence officers in Cambridge, advising developing nations from Kenya to Vietnam oneconomic reform, and prospecting for faculty and students around the world.

At times, internationalism has blown up in Harvard's face. Critics say Harvard faculty membershave become too cozy with oppressive regimes such as China and Burma, and too easilycorrupted in graft-filled societies like Russia, where last year the Moscow office of the $40million-a-year Harvard Institute for International Development was embroiled in scandal.

And documents obtained by the Globe show that around 1994, the Faculty of Arts and Sciencesreceived $1 million from Nigeria, a military dictatorship, as part of a ''nucleus fund'' for thecurrent fund-raising campaign. Harvard officials said they were unaware of the gift.

But such is the give and take of an international university, says Rudenstine: ''The reality is theworld infringing on the university and the university trying to study the reality of the world. It'sthere. It's crucial.''

It's also controversial. Students last fall howled when Harvard made concessions to Jiang that itwould never make for an American politician. Faculty members critical of China's human rightsrecord say they were excluded from the event. Whether they were or not, bad feelings clearlyremain among the many faculty members involved in east-Asian affairs.

For the question-and-answer session at the end of Jiang's speech, Harvard officials replaced theopen microphone - a tradition at a university where students and faculty are expected to challengethose in authority - with prescreened questions delivered by polite faculty led by Ezra Vogel ofHarvard's Fairbank Center for Asian Research.

''Vogel gave in on various Beijing demands and ended up with a format like Jiang gets in China,''says Ross Terrill, a China scholar long associated with the Fairbank Center and currently teachingat the University of Texas at Austin. ''The Harvard visit cost tens of thousands of dollars to pleaseJiang Zemin, but as an intellectual occasion it was utterly banal.''

Vogel, however, points out that several of the questions had been supplied by Chinese dissidentsand were pointed on the issue of human rights. In the end, Jiang took one question from the floor. Vogel also defends the educational value of the Jiang speech, pointing out that it hassparked dialogue between Chinese and Tibetan students on campus.

''This is what Harvard is about,'' he says.

China's hand in Harvard affairs was not limited to the Sanders Theater speech, however.Beforehand, over a Chinese community e-mail network, pro-Jiang operatives organized amassive turnout of supporters outside the theater, busing them in and providing them withChinese and American flags. Pro-Jiang Chinese far outnumbered anti-Jiang Chinese on thestreets of Cambridge.

In the end, they achieved their goal: impressing the audience back home. ''If ordinary Chinese seepeople protesting against the president, they think these are bad American ways,'' explainedXiaojing Hu, a Harvard PhD candidate in sociology who cheered Jiang's motorcade. ''In Chinawe are still trying to learn that if there is a protest it doesn't mean you are going to overthrow thegovernment.''

Chinese media dubbed Jiang's speech a triumph. Chinese tourists now trek to Sanders Theater,which they have taken to calling ''Jiang Zemin Speech Hall.''

Harvard name goes far in China

Although the United States and China have patched together their relationship since the dark daysof the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, it remains controversial - as President Clinton's trip toBeijing later this month shows. The Harvard-Beijing relationship, meanwhile, is downright cozy.

When he visited China in March, Harvard's president was received by Jiang in the CommunistParty leadership compound of Zhongnanhai. Chinese television and newspapers gave the visitprominent coverage. A Rudenstine lecture at Beijing University was jam-packed. The audiencewas eager to hear him, Rudenstine says, ''not because they know me, but they know Harvard andthey know the United States.''

Harvard is called ''Ha Fo'' in China - literally ''laughing Buddha'' - and Chinese scholars say it isone of the most widely recognized American names in their country. As the oldest university inthe United States, with Adamses, Roosevelts, and Kennedys among its alumni, Harvard hasalways had an advantage in international affairs. Today, foreign students are commonplace onAmerican campuses and most big universities are strong in international studies, but none rivalsHarvard for its extensive hands-on involvement in the day-to-day affairs of other countries. Itsname recognition and global clout elicit envy from other universities and make world leaderswant it in their corner.

Harvard professors, led by economist Jeffrey Sachs, have played roles in the remaking of adozen economies - from Bolivia to Poland, Mongolia to Russia. Harvard alumni sit in cabinetmeetings in Seoul and Singapore. A ''Harvard speech,'' a ''Harvard adviser,'' a ''Harvard study''confer credibility from Rangoon to Rabat - so much so that the university has begun to crackdown on tenuously connected academics who appropriate the name in order to boost theirstanding in the United States and abroad. In the spring, Harvard announced new rules forattaching its name to a report or project.

''Everywhere you look in the world, you find somebody with a Harvard connection,'' says JohnGalvin, dean of Tufts University's Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and former supremeallied commander of NATO. ''That happens with Harvard and no place else.''

Harvard's business school is so well known and so keen to exploit its academic advantage in theFar East that in September it will open an Asian-Pacific research center in Hong Kong, the firstof at least six that will be opened around the globe in the next few years. Centers in Latin Americaand Europe will be up and running by the end of next year. The centers will serve Harvardbusiness school researchers and act as a regional base for executive education.

More than a quarter of the Harvard Business School's student population is international, andmore than half of its 100 alumni clubs are located overseas. The Harvard Business Review hassubscribers in 187 countries. ''In most of the world, Harvard Business School is what'swell-known about Harvard,'' says John McArthur, former dean of the business school.

In the past few years, Harvard has developed a new tool to win friends and influence abroad: anarray of executive programs for working professionals, especially at the business school and theJohn F. Kennedy School of Government.

Executive education programs are short, intensive courses - usually lasting two to nine weeks -taught by Harvard faculty using the case-study method and capped with the ceremonialpresentation of a Harvard certificate. A few weeks of attending Harvard seminars is all it takes tomake a military officer in Ukraine or a deputy finance minister in Malaysia into a ''Harvard product.'' Executive programs have helped the university forge extensive ties with ruling elitesaround the world, especially in Russia and China.

''Our stakes in those two systems are so great that we will do anything to get a front-lineconversation with key people,'' says Peter Zimmerman, who runs executive education programsfor 2,200 people a year at the Kennedy School.

In the past six years, virtually all senior Russian military officers have become Harvard products,says Galvin, who has participated in the program and taken the Russians on daylong tours ofWakefield, the suburb north of Boston billed as an average American community. In the pastyear, more than 100 senior Chinese civil servants - including several dozen colonels andintelligence officers - have gone through a similar program funded by Hong Kong businesswoman Nina Kung.

Scholars program came at the `perfect time'

It was in May of 1996 that Kung, a petite woman who wears her hair in pigtails, arrivedunbidden in Harvard Yard. She had what Robert D. Blackwill, who runs the Russia and Chinaprograms for the Kennedy School, describes as ''an idea about Harvard helping interactionbetween American and Chinese elites.'' Rudenstine's office immediately referred her to Joseph S.Nye, dean of the Kennedy School. Kung walked over to the Kennedy School and laid out her plan.

With $3.3 billion in assets, Kung is one of the richest women in the world. She has high-levelcontacts in Beijing and has cultivated ties with President Clinton. She also has become mixed upin the Clinton campaign fund-raising imbroglio. Republicans in Congress questioned a $50,000donation she made to Clinton's birthplace foundation in Hope, Ark.

With Kung contributing $7 million, a Kung scholars program quickly took shape at the KennedySchool and won ''startlingly rapid'' approval from top brass of the People's Liberation Army, saysBlackwill. By January 1997, the first Chinese were arriving in Cambridge.

''We are not dealing with twenty-somethings here. These are senior Chinese military officers andcivil servants,'' says Blackwill. ''They are very serious people. They do nothing casually.''

The program came along at what Blackwill says was ''the perfect time'' - after the 1996 Taiwanmissile crisis, a time of US-China brinksmanship that caused military and political leaders in bothnations to look urgently for ways to improve relations. It is now the largest program of academicinteraction with Chinese elites in the world. It is not without critics, however, among themprofessors and students who question whether it makes sense for Harvard to accommodateChinese military and intelligence operatives.

''Some of the Russian generals are Neanderthals, but it is probably a good thing for them to have the experience. I think the China program is subject to more questions,'' says Marshall Goldman,associate director of Harvard's Davis Center for Russia Studies. ''Almost all the Chinese are intelligence people.''

When students at the Kennedy School tried to organize a protest resolution over Jiang's visit lastfall, they ran into stiff resistance from Kung scholars and other Chinese government officials inresidence at the school.

''I find it hard to believe that those Chinese scholars all acted all on their own,'' says NaheedNenshi, a Canadian masters student at the school who was caught up in the debate. ''We all sawthe e-mails from Chinese agents saying `Come out, there will be flags and lunch.' I'm sure thiswas organized.''

And when Nenshi and other students invited Chinese dissident Wei Jengsheng to speak at theschool, they ran into more opposition - this time from administrators. A Kennedy School facultymember, Nenshi says, told him the school did not want to be seen ''taking the side of dissidents.''After students threatened to make that comment public, the school relented.

When Wei spoke on May 6, he praised the anti-Jiang protests at Harvard for helping put pressureon Beijing to lighten up on political prisoners. He criticized Americans who, in their zeal to winfriends in Beijing, ''lack a sense of urgency'' about human rights. Wei pointed out that in China,where he was still imprisoned until last November, only ''the welcoming part'' of the Jiang visit toCambridge played on Chinese TV - a point not lost on other dissidents.

''It would be nice to think that exposing Chinese officials to the western system will change themforever,'' says Lobsang Sangay, a Harvard law student who is active in the free-Tibet movement.''But I fear they learn the jargon of human rights and use it against human rights.''

Think tank is victim of `hostile takeover'

They could also learn from Harvard about academic infighting. This summer, Harvard maintenance workers will set up ladders in the lobby of One Eliot Place, which opens onto the courtyard of the Kennedy School complex, and begin scraping the letters HIID off the portal. One Eliot is now owned by the Kennedy School. Workers at the Harvard Institute for International Development will be scattered around Harvard Square - above Tweeter Etc. on Mt. Auburn Street, in the old Architects Collaborative building on Story Street.

HIID's headquarters was lost in what insiders describe as a ''hostile takeover'' engineered by Nye,dean of the Kennedy School, on behalf of an administration worried about the loosely supervisedactivities of the influential think tank.

Former HIID director Dwight Perkins, who ran the institute for 15 years, is more circumspect.He talks of a compromise between a Kennedy School takeover and an ''informal relationship.''Whatever the case, HIID real estate, money, and key personnel are now under Nye's umbrella.HIID will remain in Harvard Square, but in a much less visible form.

HIID is an odd duck, even at a school that prides itself on its autonomous ''tubs.'' It is, in effect, aglobal consulting service operated by Harvard since the 1960s. Harvard faculty - mostlyeconomists and social scientists - work for HIID, which subcontracts with organizations such asthe US Agency for International Development, the World Bank, and the United Nations. Theinstitute runs projects in 60 countries - from a feasibility study for a 25-mile bridge in Argentinato a reform plan for the Bank of Zambia.

The institute has 55 resident advisers in the field and sends 200 consultants abroad a year. Someare straight from Harvard Yard, others rarely see Cambridge. Most of HIID's work earns highpraise. But in such a far-flung operation, something occasionally goes wrong.

Last year, things went horribly wrong in Russia, where HIID had been managing a $57 millionUSAID project on economic reform. Following an audit, the agency accused the two main HIIDofficers in Moscow - Harvard economics professor Andrei Shleifer and legal expert JonathanHay - of letting their staff provide services for investment projects run by Shleifer's wife andHay's girlfriend.

USAID alleged that Shleifer and Hay had ''gained influence'' over the Russian capital markets thatthey were helping to set up and had sought ''personal gain.'' Neither would comment for thisarticle, but the scandal revealed a wide circle of loosely monitored operations in Moscow withtenuous Harvard affiliations and tied to a clan-like power structure run by former deputy primeminister Anatoly Chubais, a leading Russian reformer.

Along with a Russian counterpart, Hay had ''ultimate control over the entire privatization effort inRussia,'' Veniamin Sokolov, head of the Russian government's auditing agency, the Chamber ofAccounts, said last week in an interview with the Globe. ''This route to privatization led to a disaster for Russia.''

And it was the Harvard name that opened doors for Hay.

''Here were people saying they were connected with Harvard. In this part of the world, that putstars in people's eyes,'' says Janine Wedel, a research professor at George Washington Universitywho raised early questions about the HIID Moscow operation.

Shleifer and Hay were dismissed from their HIID jobs and the Moscow office was shut downafter USAID canceled the final $14 million of its contract.

''The Russia thing was a big deal for us,'' says HIID head Sachs, an economist intimately involved in Russian economic reform. ''Russia was damaging to HIID's name because it was a high-profile event. It caused us all to take a breath.''

At the same time, HIID was being criticized by human rights advocates because one of itsprogram officers, former Massachusetts state Representative Thomas Vallely, was working on aUN project in Burma at a time when the free-Burma lobby wanted to further isolate the militaryregime in Rangoon. Vallely, an outspoken advocate of ''constructive engagement'' with Burma,was already running a successful program in Vietnam. He acknowledges he wanted to ''grow theVietnam program'' by extending it to Burma.

But Burma is different from Vietnam, say human rights activists. In 1990, Burmese generalsrefused to yield power to democratically elected forces led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.Burmese peasants are subjected to forced labor.

Vallely was attacked by free-Burma advocates after he publicly called Suu Kyi's position onsanctions ''wrong'' and spoke supportively of the ruling junta. Back at HIID, staff membersmoved to bar Vallely from operating in Burma under HIID auspices. Last year, after what oneofficial called ''a shootout at the O.K. Corral,'' all HIID work on Burma was transferred toeconomist Robert Rotberg.

''HIID will not work with the present government of Burma in any way, shape, and form,'' saysRotberg.

Maureen Aung-Thwin, director of the Burma Project for the Open Society Institute, a NewYork-based human rights group that was critical of Vallely, says ''HIID is wise not to go intoBurma under the present conditions. Being involved in the country now would tarnish its imagewhile burnishing the junta's.''

Vallely and colleague David Dapice are still involved in Burma, but say they are working on theirown time for the UN Development Agency. Though Dapice and Vallely have offices side-by-side at HIID's Mt. Auburn Street office, a recent report they produced on Burma waspublished on Tufts University letterhead, where Dapice is a professor of economics.

''I put my foot in the water with Burma,'' says Vallely. ''The water was (expletive) cold, OK? Ithurt me so that I don't want to put my foot in the water again.''

Agency has its wings clipped

There are rarely real casualties in academic warfare - not by the standards of broader society,where disputes can cost real jobs and real lives. Shleifer remains a tenured professor at Harvard.He is back from Moscow, has an office in the Littauer Building and is teaching economics. Andthough Vallely got burned on Burma, he is still running a widely praised program in Vietnam.

But HIID has had its wings clipped. Harvey Fineberg, the Harvard provost to whom HIIDreports, acknowledges that university officials had been ''concerned about'' HIID for some time.Though he and other university officials characterize what has happened with HIID as coincidence, insiders see it differently.

''It was a hostile takeover,'' says Vallely.

Last fall, Nye, the Kennedy School dean, told Harvard's top administrators that he had anunnamed donor who wanted to give him the money to purchase HIID headquarters for theand in Harvard's arcane ''every tub on its own bottom'' system, the Kennedy School was forced tobuy the building from the administration.

Nye borrowed against the donor's promise and bought the building for an undisclosed amount.Sachs and other HIID people could remain on the top three floors, but not as HIID. They wouldbe part of a new operation called the Center for International Development. Sachs, who will headthe center, calls it a joint venture between HIID and the Kennedy School. HIID is contributing$10 million - half its reserves - to endow the center, a significant amount for an institute thatoperates without an endowment.

The center will be ''within the Kennedy School,'' says Nye, who will be the Harvard officer incharge. The tie to the Kennedy School will make the center ''woven more into the academicfabric'' of Harvard than HIID has been, says Fineberg.

Nye's squeeze play on HIID shows how ascendent the Kennedy School is at Harvard. Theuniversity has an archipelago of world-class foreign affairs operations - the Fairbank Center forAsian Research, the Davis Center for Russian Studies, the Weatherhead Center for InternationalAffairs, the Gunzberg Center for European Studies, the David Rockefeller Center for LatinAmerican Studies. But the rising power in foreign affairs is clearly the Kennedy School.

Long associated with domestic policy - temporary home to out-of-work politicians ranging fromformer Massachusetts governor Michael S. Dukakis to former Wyoming senator Alan Simpson- the Kennedy School has been pushing aggressively into the international arena under theleadership of the even-tempered Nye, a former assistant secretary of defense.

Nye has long been world-minded. In 1990, when he was associate dean in the Faculty of Artsand Sciences, Nye wrote an influential report for former president Derek Bok on how Harvardshould internationalize itself. Though the Kennedy School already had groups conductinginternational security studies, Nye has moved it much further in an international direction and isnow ''showcasing the international component,'' says Kay King, director of the Association ofProfessional Schools of International Affairs.

Thirty-six percent of the student body is now international, up from 28 percent five years ago.Fifty percent of the new cases written for the school's case-study program now deal withinternational issues or have international protagonists. Since Kennedy School cases are used atmore than 500 other colleges and universities around the world, the new international push issignificant.

Besides the programs for Russian and Chinese ruling elites and assorted fellowships forKennedy School has usurped the role of Radcliffe, Harvard's sister college, by developing two internationally oriented programs involving women in public policy.

In May, the Kennedy School held a summit of eight women world leaders, including formerPakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto, former Turkish prime minister Tansu Ciller, formerPolish prime minister Hanna Suchocka, and former Nicaraguan president Violeta de Chamorro.And Swanee Hunt, former US ambassador to Austria, is running a program on women andpublic policy that focuses on women at lower tiers of government.

''I want to be the place that trains women for leadership positions around the world,'' says Nye.

Nye's strategy has been to broaden the scope of his school - moving it from its traditional liberalDemocratic base and decreasing its domestic-policy focus while boosting academic courses thatemphasize the private sector and non-profit organizations. These are elements of the ''soft power''- economic and cultural influence as opposed to military muscle - that he believes the UnitedStates must learn to wield in the post-Cold War world.

Nye recognizes that there will be controversy along the way, but says that is the price of globalclout. Not many of those Saudi, Nigerian, Chinese, and Burmese officials who come into contactwith Harvard, for instance, will leave as Jeffersonian democrats, but their exposure to Westernideas is beneficial, he says. The powerful and corrupt need to understand democracy and humanrights at least as much as the good and the just do.

''There is always a risk that somebody you have is not going to be perfect, but what is thealternative?'' Nye asks. ''If you insist on clean hands you are not going to get anything done.''

Globe correspondent Ted Plafker contributed to this story from Beijing.