Harvard Communications Office As Large As Its Physics Department
June 3, 2013
According to The Harvard Crimson's graduation issue, the Harvard Public Affairs and Communications (HPAC) office now employs 59 people—and that figure doesn't even include the communications staffs of Harvard's 12 schools. As Daniel Luzer points out at the Washington Monthly, Harvard's bureaucratic army of message-shapers is now about as large as its physics department. All these administrators need something to do, and, as we've written many times on this blog, superfluous administrators too often keep busy by limiting campus free speech and due process rights.
At Harvard, the president, provost, vice presidents, and top deans have made work for HPAC by invariably having a communications officer present during their press interviews, the Crimson reports. Lower-level Harvard administrators are often advised not to speak with reporters at all and to refer them to HPAC instead. Until 2009, Harvard Medical School even maintained a policy requiring that students coordinate all media interactions through HPAC.
HPAC also publishes the Harvard Gazette, which is known (unsurprisingly, given its publication by Harvard's public affairs division) for conveniently leaving out less favorable stories. Among the Harvard stories not to make the pages of the Gazette: the controversy about secret email searches following the Harvard cheating scandal. Gazette readers would have no idea, either, that Dean Evelynn Hammonds' resignation announcement last week came amidst that same controversy.
This kind of message control was not always the modus operandi at Harvard. As Luzer points out, former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis almost never had a communications officer present during interviews; "He would just, you know, communicate." During Lewis' 1995–2003 tenure, there were under 26 HPAC employees. With more and more administrators on campuses—Luzer reports that the number of college administrators nationwide has increased by an astounding 60 percent from 1993 to 2009—clear and open communication plays second fiddle to other values.