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Harvard's Expansion Leaves Local Residents in its Dust

In 1636 the New World’s first college had about 400 pounds in its coffers. Today, this college, Harvard University, has an endowment of nearly $20 billion (a figure larger than the GDP of more than 50% of the world’s nations) and an annual operating budget of nearly $2 billion. Very impressive numbers, and ones that will no doubt help Harvard live and grow into perpetuity.

Grow into perpetuity? What does this mean for a not-for-profit, educational institution like Harvard? Does it mean student knowledge will continue to increase forever (minus inflationary adjustments) and eventually a Harvard education will be free for all? A great outlook, but one that is starkly contrasted by some Cambridge residents who view Harvard’s perpetual growth as nothing short of evil.

As it turns out, the growth of Harvard is a sensitive topic among local residents. What some may see as the development of a great institution, many Cambridge residents see as the encroachment of an ominous giant in their community. That debate aside, one very obvious derivative of Harvard’s perpetual growth is physical expansion.

Our beloved Spangler was momentous, but HBS and Harvard at large have a lot more bricks and mortar on order. The most visible projects at HBS are One Western Avenue and Hawes Hall. And before the dust settles on those projects, we may see the start of one of Harvard’s most significant developments in years-the Riverfront Museums project-on the

June 4, 2001
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