There's a lengthy article in Boston Magazine about how Harvard has been hemmoraging money (the endowment has lost $11 billion, bringing it down to 2005's mere $25 bill, due in no small part to Harvard Management Company, which one alum privy to the details of the school's balance sheet told the author, "took the university right to the edge of the abyss...Meaning, you're out of cash. That...is the definition of insolvency.") Very few insiders would speak on or off the record, as Harvard is attempting to downplay the perception that its people are soiling themselves in fear, but one brave fool soul did offer this absolutely harrowing take:
While the failed presidency of Lawrence Summers generated more headlines, this quiet crisis is actually a greater threat to Harvard. The university has been so rich for so long that most of its denizens can't remember a time when money was a concern. While Harvard officials are doing their public-face best to downplay the problem, the numbers don't lie, and this economic crunch will leave the school a profoundly changed place. Harvard will have to become smaller and academically more modest, and as it does it will chafe at having grand plans without the resources to fund them. For the first time in decades, it will worry about merely paying its bills. The university will have to decide: If it is no longer so rich that it doesn't have to make choices, what does it really value? What are its priorities? It won't be a comfortable debate.
"We are in trouble," says one Crimson professor. In the aftermath of deep and damaging cuts, "there is a real chance that Harvard will no longer be considered the best there is."
This is also good:
Further squeezing Harvard was a transaction Summers had pushed it into in 2004, when he successfully argued that the university should engage in a multibillion-dollar interest rate swap with Goldman Sachs and other large banks. Under the terms of the deal, Harvard would pay Goldman a long-term fixed rate while Goldman paid Harvard the Federal Reserve rate. The main goal was to lock in a low rate for future debt, and if the Fed had raised rates, Harvard would have made hundreds of millions. But when the Fed slashed rates to historic lows to try to goose stalled credit markets, the deal turned equally sour for Harvard: By last November, the value of the swaps had fallen to negative $570 million.
Drew Gilpin Faust and the Incredible Shrinking Harvard [Boston Magazine via The Atlantic]