Jan 3rd 2002 | From Economist.com | Backgrounders
Founded in 1636, Harvard University is America’s oldest academic institution, arguably still its best, and certainly its richest. Until 1963 (when Nathan Pusey was president), only men could get Harvard degrees, so women were educated at nearby Radcliffe College (founded in 1879). Radcliffe merged with Harvard in 1999?a development no doubt galling to defenders of Harvard’s manliness.
The university’s influence spreads far beyond Cambridge, Massachusetts. Harvard ties, for instance, helped glue the Clinton administration to New Labour in Britain. But influence also brings scrutiny. In 1997, Harvard’s Institute for International Development came under fire after two of its experts were accused of improprieties in the investment advice they gave the Russian government. Harvard is also plagued by accusations of grade inflation (which one conservative professor attributes partly to affirmative action). The university’s latest controversy is a very public falling-out between Harvard’s new president, Larry Summers, and Cornel West, a prominent professor of African-American studies.

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