Endowment, tuition, enrollment, Simplex:
an interview with President Paul E. Gray
By Daniel Crean
The Tech conducted an interview with President Paul E. Gray '54 on Monday, Feb. 4. Gray discussed issues on MIT's endowment, Course VI overenrollment, tuition, the Simplex development, and MIT's relationship with Cambridge.
Q: Do you see the relative balance between research and education at MIT changing over the next few years?
A: I don't forsee any change in the near future, in the next ten years, in the balance between education and research ... I don't foresee any serious concerns or sense of imbalance in the present balance, and therefore don't see any natural problems or forces that are likely to change that balance very much. It seems to me that the balance between education and research ... taking the Institute as a whole, is about right. Now, there's a broad range which would constitute "about right," but I don't think it is in serious difficulty in either direction -- too much research vis-'a-vis education or too little.
... I think that the discussions of education and research -- discussions which tend to regard those activities as independent, unrelated or separable are probably a little misleading because research, after all, is the matrix into which graduate education, at least, fits. ... Without this research environment there would not be graduate education of the kind that we believe is appropriate. In fact, without this research environment there would not be a large and important element of undergraduate education. I'm thinking of the UROP program which involves more than half the students term after term. Without the research undertaking here, there would not be the kind of constant infusion of new ideas of the changing nature of science and technology as it's reflected in the curriculum. So these are not separate activities. They're integrated, related activities ...
Q: How about absolute levels? Do you see MIT growing, remaining at current size, or shrinking?
A: Growth at MIT stopped in the late 1960s. I think we'll stay stable. I think our present size is close to optimal in terms of the physical resources at MIT, and we do not have the capacity, neither in terms of land nor in terms of the necessary capital, to expand very much, even if we wanted to. Our present size, roughly 9000 students -- more or less equally divided between graduates and undergraduates -- has been at that level for the better part of a decade, following a long period in which undergraduate populations were relatively stable and graduate programs were steadily growing... If you look back at the period from World War II to the present -- the undergraduate population over that period was probably never less than 3500 and closer to 4000 over that whole time, only now up in a range 4400, 4500. The graduate population was 1000 at the end of the war, 2000 in 1960, passed through 3000 in the 1960s, and has tailed off to 4000, 4500 now in this last ten years. I think that's likely to be quite stable.
Q: You mentioned MIT's capital base. I always hear about you and others saying the endowment is too small; you'd like it to be a lot larger. But isn't MIT's endowment one of the biggest in the country?
A: "Compared to what?" is the question. I mean it is a question of relativity. In absolute terms, MIT's endowment is certainly among the top ten in the United States in size. Ahead of us are the University of Texas, Harvard, Yale, four or five other institutions. We're somewhere between number five and number ten in absolute size. That by itself is not a sufficient measure.
If you compare us with the other institutions we regard as our peers, the ones that we compete with for students, compete with for faculty, or compete with for research support, then per student or per faculty member, per unit operating budget, we are lower than all those institutions in the size of the endowment.
One measure which I looked at fairly recently illustrates this. If you take the ratio of the captial value of the endowment to the size of the annual operating budget. Now that's an apples and oranges relationship -- capital dollars in the numerator and annual expenditure dollars in the denominator. But if you apply it consistently, it gives you some relative index which is the same for all the places you apply it to. That ratio is 3-1 for Harvard, which is the highest in the nation. That ratio is in the neighborhood of 1.5-1 to 2-1 for the rest of the Ivy League. For MIT it is just under 1-1. We are the smallest of that set of institutions. Stanford is somewhere in the neighborhood of 1.5-1. Now you say, okay, that's unfair because you include the Lincoln Laboratory in the denominator and that's a big piece of MIT which is not closely related to educational programs supported by the endowment. Take it out. That still only raises the ratio to about 1.2 to 1, still lower than anyone else from among the Ivy League plus MIT and Stanford. So it's that kind of relationship that leads me to say that the endowment is too small.
Q: This month's Technology Review cites MIT Corporation Chairman David S. Saxon '41 as saying he thinks the endowment is half the size it should be. It's around $600 million right now. As far as I can see, the only way to increase the endowment is by donations. But in this year's President Report, you say "Even when annual gifts reach close to $50 million, as they did this past year ... they cannot address the chronic and fundamental need for a larger endowment." So even if gifts were to double to $100 million a year, it would still take a long time to increase the endowment to the levels you guys want. So is there any hope for the endowment?
A: Well, a doubling of the flow of annual gifts is the sort of change it would take, yes, to make a difference. The other thing that would help in making a difference is raising endowment to a higher priority in our requests for support. If you look back over the last ten years, we have tended to ask more frequently for money in support of programs -- expendable funds -- or for money in support of facilities, mostly buildings, and not for endowment. And I think that if we feel it's important to build a capital base at the Institute and increase the endowment then we must, in every case that we possibly can, ask for support for the endowment. And I think we must also raise the level of giving by at least a factor of two, maybe more. And even if we do all that, it's still going to be five years before it begins to make a substantial difference and it's going to be ten years of that kind of activity before you come close to doubling the present endowment.
This is not a short-term undertaking. This is an effort which would, if we go into this, and I say "if," but I don't mean "if" I mean "when" because it seems to me quite certain that we will, in the next two to three years, undertake a major new capital fundraising effort with the focus on endowment. When we do that, we have to do it with the understanding that we're embarking on a program that is going to take us five to ten years to accomplish what we want to do.
Q: I suppose that if you look at it one way the endowment is too small to support everything MIT wants to do. But couldn't you look at it another way and say, "Well, MIT is just overextended; we're doing too much."?
A: ... There are a variety of ways you can look at the problem. One is that we need to raise more capital. The other is that we need to be less ambitious about what we're doing and cut down on activities. I think we need to, and I don't mean this in any episodic way, I mean there's kind of a continuous process. We have to look critically at what we're up to. We have to be prepared to turn down, to reduce the size of, or, in some cases, to shut off activities which seem not of high enough quality or not directly related to our central purpose.
We are not a general university, but a specialized one. We have a strong focus on science and technology, and that ought to be reflected in what we do. In the last three years ... we extracted from operating budgets something on the order of $12 million, mostly in the administrative areas, the support areas. Associated with that savings of $12 million were perhaps 300 jobs -- people whose jobs ended. Some of them got rehired in some other position. Some of them retired. Some of them were terminated. It was a substantial and painful effort. We have not made anything like that degree of reduction in the academic programs at the Institute.
Why not? Well, one reason is that you don't find that many soft spots. You don't find very many areas that are evidently weak, that are obvious candidates for cost-cutting. Secondly, you have in an academic institution, some policies and some long-held traditional practices which make it very difficult to do that. For example, the practice of tenure in the ranks of the faculty. That means that unless you are prepared to shut down a department and say to all the faculty in that department, "We're now going to break our commitment to you in terms of tenure and you're going to have to leave."
The time constants in which you can change the nature of a department in terms of either size or direction are rather long. They aren't five years or ten years. They're 30 years because people get tenure at about age 35 and then have tenure until about age 70. And two-thirds of the faculty are tenured at the present time. So that imposes a substantial sea anchor, a substantial drag on the rate at which you can change the structure of the place academically unless you're prepared to do it by abolishing departments, by ending certain disciplines, and that we have not felt desirable to do, both because we don't see the evident soft spots and because of the kind of turmoil that goes along with doing that in the institution, the uproar it produces. I'm not at all sure it would be worth it.
Q: Undergraduate enrollment is now heavily oriented toward engineering. Do you think there will be cuts in the some of the social sciences, say Economics and Political Science?
A: You have to ask those questions in a context which includes the graduate as well as the undergraduate activities, which reflects the research programs as well. Now it is true that undergraduate majors in some of the departments of the School of Humanities and Social Scienses have decreased a lot in the past ten years. That's particularly the case in Political Science and also, although not quite as dramatically, in Economics. So the number of majors has decreased in each of those areas and you could ask the question: "Could you do with a smaller department or no department at all in each of those areas?"
Two other responsibilities have to be considered. One is the undergraduate teaching activity. All of the departments in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences have a substantial undergraduate teaching responsibility which may be related to, but is not connected in a one-to-one way with majors, because of the Humanitites, Arts, and Social Sciences requirement. So, if you look at the undergraduate teaching activities in those departments you will find much less change than you might expect by looking at the number of majors alone.
Secondly, those departments continue with active graduate programs. The Department of Economics, which was rated this last ranking of graduate programs a year or two ago as the strongest economics department in the country, has all the graduate students it wants. And a large part of its activity is associated with graduate instruction. That is not quite as dramatically the case, but is also true for Political Science. The Department of Linguisitics and Philosophy really doesn't have an undergraduate major, no undergraduate major in Linguisticswhat does this mean?cj is is supposed to be: ... doesn't have an undergraduate major in Linguistics, but it also ..., but it also is the strongest department in the country in Linguistics in the graduate program. So you have to appraise the role of those activities in a context which includes all of their undertakings: undergraduate majors, if they have them, undergraduate instruction, more broadly, graduate instruction and research activities.
Q: But what about other departments? For instance, I always hear how Civil Engineering was once a popular major and Civil Engineering now has a lot of professors but it isn't a popular major anymore.
A: Now you're talking about an engineering department. The point I was making about the Humanities and Social Sciences was that a lot of their undergraduate instruction has nothing to do with the number of majors they have. That is not true for Civil Engineering, where if the number of majors goes down, their undergraduate teaching activity goes down more or less in proportion. Now they offer a course, course 1.00 I guess it is, in computation, which gives them some substantial undergraduate teaching which is not related to the number of majors. Course III, Materials Science and Engineering, offers 3.091 which has a large and relatively stable base of enrollment, and that gives them a substantial teaching activity which is not related to the number of majors.
But with some exceptions ... in the engineering departments, majors and undergraduate teaching load are more closely related. And yes, you're quite right, that if the enrollment in Civil Engineering continues to decline or stays low, that is going to have to be reflected in some change in the size of that department with respect to the rest of the Institute. The same is true in Nuclear Engineering. Ocean Engineering has always had a vanishingly small undergraduate enrollment. There was one year, three or four years ago, when everybody was in shock because there were only two sophomores in Ocean Engineering.
A question arises. Obviously it would make sense to cut out the undergraduate program. If you look at that in detail, as we have done, it's not so obvious because the department does have a large graduate program. It does have a large research program. And the question is what would be saved if you cut out the undergraduate program. The question devolves down to a question of how many required undergraduate subjects are there which the department teaches which they would not otherwise teach if they didn't have a major. And the answer is a literal handful. It's five or six courses. It might amount to one or two full-time equivalent faculty or teaching staff out of a department with a total teaching staff of 40 or so. It's a relativley minor perturbation.
Q: The faculty approved a plan to handle overenrollment in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. It hasn't been instigated. Do you think it will be instigated?
A: I really hope not. The discussions over a period of a year in the faculty, which eventually led to the adoption last fall of the contingency plan, were motivated by the concern which originated in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and got shared everywhere pretty soon. It was a concern that unless we did something about the steady growth in majors in that department we were soon going to have crises of a couple of kinds. Last year there were 380 sophomores. The previous year there had been 340 [to] 350. Everything the department knew about prediction, based on what things had done in the past, suggested there were going to be 420 to 430 this fall, and we were approaching the point where the department was going to have half the sophomore class. That creates obvious problems for the department. It also creates problems for all the other departments who see their undergraduate enrollment dry up.
So it was to deal with that apparently unchanging rate of growth, that the contingency plan was put in place. Now it was just that, it was a contingency plan. The Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid was charged by the faculty with looking from time to time at what was happening in Course VI and deciding whether or not it was necessary to put in place that contingency plan. Now the first look they took was this fall, after the faculty voted it in. And this fall the enrollment, instead of growing to 430 or 420, dropped to 350, the first time it had turned down in ten years. If it drops again next year, and there are some other things being done which might encourage that, then I would guess that the Committee on Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid would say, "No, we're not going to put that contingency plan into effect now either."
The department would like to see enrollment drop down to something in the neighborhood of 270 [to] 280. And if we're making reasonable progress towards that, although it will take us some years to get there, I don't think the faculty committee will put that contingency plan into place. Nobody wants to do it.
Q: Do you think the so-called long-term solutions to Course VI overenrollment are going to help?
A: I don't know. What led to the decrease this year? I don't know. There are lots of hypotheses about what did it. There will be at least two new programs in place next fall, one in Physics and one in Mathematics, which are intended to be attractive to students who might otherwise go into Course VI. Will that lead to a further decline? I hope so, but I don't know. We will see next fall whether the enrollments in Physics and Mathematics are up and whether they're up because of students who are interested in those options. I think the net effect of all the jaw-boning that's been done on this subject for the past two years has been to produce some change. Whether it alone will produce enough change to solve this problem, I don't know. I earnestly hope so, but I don't know.
Q: A lot of departments have temporary fluctuations in enrollment, but I remember you saying that all indications were that the Electrical Engineering and Computer Science problem was a long-term thing.
A: In the larger context of society, in the context of supply and demand for human resources in engineering, I believe that the forces that are driving undergraduate enrollments in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science are here to stay, through the end of this century, maybe beyond. I think they represent quite fundamentally the changes in the character of engineering work -- the ubiquity of microprocessors. The effect of cheap, reliable computation on the way engineering is done, on products on a whole variety of things, is quite fundamental, I think. It is creating, has created, will continue to create more of a demand for people with skills in these areas than the educational system of the United States is going to be able to provide. At least in the next ten years, it simply is incapable of expanding beyond its current size. And there are fundamental reasons for that. They have to do with the number of doctoral students coming out of the graduate school and where they are going for employment. It has to do with open faculty positions in the aggregate. So I think that problem is an intractable problem. It is imbedded in the society, and it's going to be with us for a long time. That does not necessarily mean that MIT will continue to slide toward a greater imbalance in EECS.
Q: What do you think next year's tuition will be?
A: Ask me in two weeks and I can probably give you a better answer. I have not looked at any of the data that we will look at before we make that decision. Let me talk a little about what the considerations are, and then I'll give you a guess about range.
The tuition at a place like MIT is driven by a set of costs which are related not very directly to the central measures of inflation. Not very directly to the consumer price index. Either the consumer price index or the GNP deflator are tied to somebody's definition of a household's marketbasket of goods and services. The consumer price index is a measure of the average family in average circumstances and how much their cost of living changes. The forces that drive costs at a university are generally not very directly related to the things that enter into the consumer price index which is influenced by mortgage costs and housing costs and food costs and clothing costs and all that, health care and so on.
Education is by nature a labor-intensive business. Two-thirds of the MIT budget goes to salaries and wages and employee benefits. It goes to people. The other third, a large portion of it, goes into materials and supplies, including instrumentation and equipment and books, all of which have been inflating at a rate much greater than either the GNP deflator or the consumer price index. Instrumentation costs have been increasing faster and so have equipment costs and library costs. The library costs are a very special question. The other increases in costs are associated with the fact that instrumentation is itself being infected by the revolution in computation. It's becoming more sophisticated, capable of collecting data more quickly, more accurately, becoming more capable in a way. But at the same time the costs are going up faster than inflation generally is going up.
... The cost of the things we buy goes up faster than the generally perceived inflation rate. The costs of the people we employ, the wage costs of the people we employ has to go up somewhat faster than the inflation rate because salaries in society in general go up faster than the inflation rate. And the difference between those two numbers is related in the economist's view of the world to productivity changes. Now there aren't so many productivity changes that can be identified in a university because we do things the way we've always done them: an instructor in front of a class in a lecture hall or a TA sitting down with her students or whatever. It's harder to get productivity changes.
What does this all add up to? I think that for the reasons we just described, the forces on this university and indeed on every university tend to drive our costs up at a rate which slightly exceeds the rate of inflation as measured by the consumer price index. Half of our costs are met by tuition. The other half are met by gifts and earnings on the investments, the endowment. And so tuition has to rise at a rate somehwat greater than the rate of inflation.
Q: But shouldn't it average out year after year?
A: No, it shouldn't. It can't. It can't average out overall, unless, I mean it's quite fundamental. Let me go over it again. Wages in the society generally rise faster then inflation. Now this doesn't apply to the period in the late 1970s and early 1980s when everything was out of whack in terms of very high inflation rates and the like. If you look historically over a 20-year period you find that wages rise faster than prices, faster than inflation. The difference is related to improvements in the standard of living. The difference derives in the society at large from improvements in productivity.
Now if wages in the academic sector don't rise faster than the rate of inflation, that means that the salary structure in the academic world gradually is going to slide behind the salary structure elsewhere and the universities are not going to be able to compete for people. That is, we never have been able to pay as much for a PhD in engineering or science as the Bell Laboratories would or RCA would or IBM. There's always been a difference. But if that difference widens, as it did five or six years ago, when the inflation rate was very high, then suddenly it becomes very hard to employ first-class people. So if a place like this is going to continue to be attractive to the ablest people to come in here and teach, then I believe we must maintain some degree of parity with respect to salaries more generally in society. That means that our costs are always going to rise faster than inflation. And that means that tuition is going to rise faster than inflation. Not a lot faster, as it was three years ago, but a point or a point and a half greater than the inflation rate in the steady state.
Q: We keep hearing in the news how the last two years have had the lowest back-to-back inflation rates since the early 1960s. Last year inflation was about three or four percent. So for this year's rise in tuition can we expect, say seven percent at most?
A: I think that's probably a reasonable ballpark. As I just said, CPI is itself not a very good measure of costs. But last year CPI went up ... about four percent. The same is true now, if you look twelve months back, in the neighborhood of four percent. I saw Yale anounced the tuition last week. They went up 6.75 percent. Stanford has gone up something a little over seven percent. I think something in a range of six to seven percent is probably a reasonable ballpark.
Q: So can we say about $11,000?
A: Well, whatever that comes out to be. There are a number of things we want to look at before we do that. We want to look at what the institutions with which we compete with for students are doing.
Q: Is that a consideration?
A: Yeah, I would like not to be every year the highest one. I would like not to be the leader in that parade. You know the difference between the leader and number ten is only a couple hundred bucks, but it would still be nice not to be the leader.
We want to look at the best estimates we can get of what sort of inflation we can expect in the months ahead. One of our problems is that we set our prices six months before the year begins and then we don't change them for a year. The tuition rates we set in February go into effect on July 1 and they remain in effect until July 1, 1986. And there aren't very many activities in this society where you set your prices only once a year and you set them six months before the year starts. So the question is not so much how are our costs increasing right now, but how are costs going to increase in that year between July 1985 and July 1986.
Q: Aren't the costs somewhat predictible? I would think you would at least be able to estimate salaries in advance.
A: There is an element of predicitibilty in it, in the sense that we know what level of salary and wage increases we're going to use for next year. There's one unpredictible element here and that is the roughly one-third of the MIT workforce which is unionized. We bargain with them every other year and we bargain with them this year and that bargaining will occur this summer, after the tuition increase is set. We can't very well predict that, because it is a bargaining process.
For a long period of time the thing that was driving us crazy was energy costs, which you weren't able to predict at all. That is not an issue at the moment. In fact they are declining somewhat. There was a period of time there, early in this decade, when inflation got up there in the double digits and stayed there for more than a year, when we had some very large tuition increases. And an important element in those was catch-up in a sense that we hadn't anticipated eighteen months before how great the tuition rate was going to be and it seriously slipped, so we were doing some catching-up. And that was always hard to explain because people looked and said, "Gee, the inflation rate isn't that high now. Why are you socking me with this big increase?" And you had to say, "Well part of it was because the increase wasn't large enough a year ago."
Q: What about the Simplex land? What will happen to that?
A: I can tell you what our intentions are. That's different than telling you what's going to happen. We own, more or less, 20 acres of land over there. We have entered into an agreement with a company in Cleveland, Forest City Developers, to develop that property, to develop it more mixed use; it's commercial and industrial use. There will be some housing associated with it. It's all tax-paying development. All of that development will benefit the city of Cambridge.
Q: What do you mean by housing? Apartment buildings?
A: Yeah, there will be so-called market housing. There will also be some low-income housing, toward the western edge of it, the portion that's closest to Cambridgeport. We settled on a contract with those folks a little over a year ago; we employ them as developers. And so far nothing has happened. That's not for lack of trying.
The thing that tends to put people off with respect to development of that area is this struggle going back now ten years with a group which calls itself representative of the neighborhood but it's really not -- it represents certainly some opinion over there but it doesn't represent "the neighborhood" -- which would like to see that developed as parks, all low-income susidized housing, blue collar employment. The kind of development they envision is not the kind of development which would ever give us reasonable return on the investment we have in the land.
It's not a kind of development which seems to us to be consonant with the changing character of Cambridge. You're not going turn the clock back to the nineteenth century and make Cambridge a large, blue-collar employer ever again. But as long as that kind of turmoil exists and as long as the City Council and the Zoning Board seem to be prepared to respond to that kind of turmoil, for example, by changing the zoning over there, potential occupants, potential tenants, potential owners tend to be driven away. I find it very ironic that Simplex sits fallow over there, fallow from our point of view, fallow from the City of Cambridge's point of view because it isn't generating much taxes at the moment, while Kendall Square is developing like crazy.
You keep reading about that one of the reasons Kendall Square is developing the way it is is those companies like the proximity to MIT. You look over there, there are three Biotech firms now. And I think the proximity to this place has something to do with bringing that kind of high-tech industry in there and making that a booming development, which is now bringing in substantial new tax revenues to Cambridge.
It's ironic to me that that's happening in Kendall Square right over here and yet we can't get off the dime at Simplex a half a mile away, largely because the climate in the city is so unsupportive. I won't say unsupportive. It is so uncertain. And because it's uncertain, it's hard to get people to commit.
Q: When you say "commercial development," does that mean office buildings, or what?
A: It would be office buildings; it would be light manufacturing, research and development activities, laboratory space.
Q: Does it matter to MIT what goes into Simplex? Is it important to have the companies which go into Simplex associated with MIT?
A: No, I don't think so. My immediate answer to your question is that it's irrelevant. To us it's largely irrelvant. It provides, I suppose, some employment opportunities for MIT students. It provides maybe some consulting opportunities for MIT faculty. Any housing that could develop there we would be most interested in because there's a tremendous unfulfilled desire on the part of MIT folks, particularly faculty, to live closer to this campus, and there's not much opportunity at the moment. But in the first instance, it's irrelevant from the point of view of the kind of industry that's there.
[Much of] the present development of the high-tech industry in Massachusetts ... is [credited] ... to the kind of intellectual, social, and cultural environment which Greater Boston represents. And the universities, not just MIT, but the univerisities generally, are a major component in that.
What do we care about in Simplex? I care enormously about the fact that there is a very large investment there which is not earning any return at the moment. I mean, we started buying that land in the late 1960s. We bought last week a 10,000 square foot piece which was a hole that we needed to fill in. There are a few pieces that we still have to fill in.
I don't know what our aggregate investment is over there. It's somewhere between $10 and $20 million. It's a big number, and it's not earning us a thing at the moment. And if that were fully developed in a way which was consonant with population and develpoment of this city. It could be producing tax revenues for the city. It could be producing a revenue stream for MIT in the range of one-and-a-half to three million dollars a year. Maybe 15 percent return. That's a ballpark number; it may be too high.
But there is a potential revenue stream from the Simplex area, revenues which flow directly into the income on endowment, because it's the endowment which owns that land, which we are losing.what? it makes sense, although it might be unclear-djc Every year that the development is delayed we lose another another year of it irrevocably.
That's why it's important to MIT. I would think it would be important to the city for other reasons.
Q: Somebody told me that the original plan was to develop a hotel there.
A: No. A hotel may be a possibility. There's a hotel about to go up in Kendall Square -- a big Marriot. A hotel is a possibilty for Simplex. That's certainly a possibility.
MIT's interest in Simplex, besides the interest in trying to get some return on that big investment, is to have that area developed in a way which will contribute in a positive manner to the total environment of this end of Cambridge.
Q: Do you think the Cambridge City Council and people in the city are being particularly antagonistic to MIT. For instance, the move a decade ago to limit research on recombitant DNA and the recent Nuclear Free Cambridge referendum? Are they out to get MIT and Harvard?
A: I wouldn't put it as boldly as that. I don't think the City Council is "out to get" MIT and Harvard. But this is a small town, about 100,000 people, not a large geographic area. It contains two major world-class universities, and a couple of other colleges. And there is a kind of natural and understandable paranoia on the part of the citizen and the political leaders of the town about the impact on Cambridge of expansion in those institutions.
Much of that underlies the concern of that one group I mentioned in the Cambridgeport area that has for more than ten years now been making noise about the Simplex development. It is a concern about expansion and changing the character of the community. That same kind of concern you see being expressed more and more recently at Harvard with respect to affiliated housing. The bitter joke, which has some small element of truth in it, is that Harvard and MIT are in a race to see who can get to Central Square first.
Now, the underlying worry drives a lot of the antagonism between mostly the organs of government in Cambridge and the universities. Sometimes this debate gets a little irrational, and sometimes it gets politicized in unfortunate ways. The DNA debate ten years ago was carried on at a level which sometimes was not very rational. The debate that's gone on the past year, focusing on Arthur D. Little and the work they're doing on nerve gas, spills over onto Harvard and MIT. And much of that debate has not been entirely rational in character. No they're not "out to get" Harvard and MIT. They're afraid Harvard and MIT are out to get them in some sense. And it can easily become a polarized and unproductive discussion, which is too bad.
Cambridge is known around the world, not because it's next to Somerville, but because it has Harvard and MIT. The character of this city, the quality of this city would be enormously different if these two insitutions weren't here. There was a study done about ten years ago which tried to document the positive economic impact that Harvard and MIT have on the city, in terms of employment, in terms of payroll, in terms of the expenditures made in the city by students and families of students, the visitors who come here. On any given day you'll find several hundred visitors at MIT who are staying at local hotels and eating in local restaurants.
The impact of all that activity on Cambridge is enormous. We almost never get credit for that. People tend to look at the downside of it, the negative side. They tend to look at MIT and be frightened of it. They say "Gee, you don't know what's going on over there in terms of research. Are they doing things that are likely to injure us. What about Bhopal, India? Is there anything going on at MIT that could be like that?" And it's harder to get credit for the things we do every day that have a beneficial effect on this city. Cambridge is Cambridge, and not Somerville, and I don't mean to make any invidious comparison necessarily. But it is what it is partly because it has these two universities in it. And that often is not recognized, not accounted for.
The Nuclear Free Cambridge issue a year ago was defeated in the end by not a terribly large margin. That was not aimed at MIT; it was aimed at the Draper Laboratories. It would have had its impact on MIT and Harvard, and we were active in speaking against it and trying to get it defeated. And I think its origins were partly political, partly well-intentioned, if misinformed. And, in any case, it would have been a destructive thing and not terribly effective if you're interested in slowing down the arms race.