Gift Policy at Harvard

Should a school return a gift years after accepting it?

When asked for the gift policy, [University spokesperson Jonathan L.] Swain offered a statement instead.

“The gift policy is designed to ensure that no gift to Harvard will provide a donor with real or perceived influence over the structure, process, content, or results of research, curriculum or other academic activities,” Swain wrote. “In accepting gifts, Harvard retains full control over the administration of the funds which are then administered for the purposes agreed to in the terms of the gift.”

It is unclear what specific guidelines the policy includes, but Swain listed the types of donations Harvard does not take.

“Harvard will not accept gifts with terms that would require involvement by the donor or a third party in directing the use or administration of the gifts, including decisions regarding admissions, financial aid awards, hiring, faculty appointments, or research topics,” Swain added. “Direct donor involvement in the administration of a gift is prohibited. Donors may not have special access to the results of research funded by a gift.”

The Ethics of Harvard Fundraising, The Harvard Crimson

Art museums are facing a similar quandary.

To what degree are cultural institutions responsible for vetting every dollar they receive? Can financially strapped arts organizations be picky about a patron’s source of wealth, and if so, where should they draw the line? At a donor who engages in unlawful or unethical behavior? Or whose conduct is at odds with the institution’s goals?

The issue stretches back to the days of Andrew Carnegie, Henry Clay Frick and the Rockefellers, cultural philanthropists whose sources of income were characterized at some point as monopolistic, or anti-union or harmful to the environment.

Gifts Tied to Opioid Sales Invite a Question: Should Museums Vet Donors?, The New York Times

Vincent van Gogh’s “Snow-Covered Field” at the Harvard Art Museums.
Twitter @HarvardAlumni

Post by Marcelino Pantoja