Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Finally, the Harvard Campaign!

The Campaign for FAS and SEAS launched over the weekend (the grand launch for the umbrella University campaign happened a few weeks ago). I was busy catching a bit of my 45th reunion and then went off to a family funeral, but the reports suggest that the kickoff was a great success, with terrific speeches by Drew Faust and Mike Smith. (See the reporting in Harvard Magazine, which seems to catch the spirit as well as the facts.) After years of waiting (remember, there was supposed to be a campaign back during the Summers presidency), I am glad that Harvard has become stable enough to go back into capital campaigning. The promise of SEAS expanding and moving to Allston would be worth a campaign in itself. Harvard is finally going to get the engineering disciplines right, embedded in and not in tension with liberal education.

The bottom line of the FAS & SEAS campaign is on the Priorities page. I smiled when I looked at this page because the photo vignette for the "Leading in Learning" priority is from Eliza Grinnell's wonderful images of my CS 20 course. I wrote about this course for Harvard Magazine, which used others of Eliza's photos; this particular image was not used for that story but was part of the same candid shoot she did during one class meeting. 

Here is the original photo, with me lurking in the background in Pierce 301 while the students are doing their active learning! 

I believe that Eliza is also the photographer of the image of some engineering students further down the Priorities page. We in SEAS are really lucky to have the services of such a talented photographer, and that is not all she does.

While I am enthusiastic about the Campaign and am working to help it succeed, I continue to be puzzled by the deterioration of the language Harvard uses when writing about itself. I blogged already about the the Campaign pre-announcement last spring. "President Faust"'s recent statement about fossil fuel divestment is another piece of prose not worthy of us, whatever one may think of the conclusion for which it argues. I put the president's name in quotation marks because, for example, these sentences (with my emphasis added) could not have been written by the real Drew Faust: Generally, as shareholders, I believe we should favor engagement over withdrawal.  In the case of fossil fuel companies, we should think about how we might use our voice not to ostracize such companies but to encourage them to be a positive force both in meeting society’s long-term energy needs while addressing pressing environmental imperatives.

So what audience is Harvard trying to reach by using the peculiarly informal "Like nowhere else" construction in promoting its ambition to represent the very best in teaching and learning? Whoever came up with the motto for the Chili's restaurant chain was apparently aiming for a more literate audience than Harvard's campaign. (Photo taken yesterday in DTW airport.)

There are plenty of Expository Writing preceptors and underemployed English PhDs who could help the university avoid such embarrassments. If Harvard can make itself #1 in social media, it can again master the art of writing clear, elegant, and correct English prose.

1 comment:

  1. From the fifth paragraph...

    "I blogged already about the the Campaign pre-announcement last spring."

    You're right. There are plenty of Expository Writing preceptors and underemployed English PhDs who could help.