Drew Gilpin Faust: Business Week misquoted her, she says, igniting controversy

Historians in the News

Drew Gilpin Faust
President, Harvard University

I have communicated directly with the group of public-university provosts who wrote to BusinessWeek ("Educational Excellence, Without Ivy," Outside Shot, Jan. 14) about views inaccurately attributed to me in "The Dangerous Wealth of the Ivy League" (In Depth, Dec. 10, 2007). But I would like to express to BusinessWeek's broader readership that the mischaracterization of my beliefs through out-of-context quotations and erroneous insinuations has created a serious misimpression of my views.

I have the greatest respect for our public universities and their enormous capacity to advance the progress of science, and I believe that the partnership of public and private universities in both research and education is central to the success of the American system of higher education.

I did not say and emphatically do not believe that our leading public universities, which have been so important for so long to the nation's scientific enterprise, should somehow cede the field to well-endowed private institutions.

At a time of extraordinary scientific promise and declining federal support, public and private universities need to work together to meet the challenges that confront us all.

Those interested in an accurate representation of my views about the interdependence of all of higher education might look at my Oct. 12, 2007, inaugural address, available at www.president.harvard.edu/speeches/faust/071012_installation.html.


[Business Week] Editor's note: Upon review of the tape-recorded conversation between our reporter and President Faust, we believe we reported her comments fairly.

Asked specifically how lesser endowed universities can survive, given the resource advantages of the Ivy Plus schools, President Faust identified the decision of some institutions to "emphasize social science or humanities and have science endeavors that are not as ambitious as those of some of the institutions you've been talking with...." She concluded that "those kinds of balances are one thing," by which we understood her to mean that such balances are one thing the institutions could do to survive.

President Faust did not, however, say such schools would be wise to use that strategy, a word we used (without quotation marks) to characterize her comments. We appreciate her clarification of her remarks.
Read entire article at Drew Faust in a letter to the editor of Business Week (followed by editor's clarification)

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