Talk:Harvard University

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Former good article nominee Harvard University was a Social sciences and society good articles nominee, but did not meet the good article criteria at the time. There are suggestions below for improving the article. Once these issues have been addressed, the article can be renominated. Editors may also seek a reassessment of the decision if they believe there was a mistake.
Article milestones
Date Process Result
August 27, 2011 Good article nominee Not listed
September 1, 2010 Good article nominee Not listed
Current status: Former good article nominee


Edit warring over including honorary degrees in the Notable People/Alumni section?[edit]

Why? What are the arguments for inclusion? X4n6 (talk) 07:27, 22 February 2017 (UTC)

  • I think there are two unrelated questions being conflated here: (1) Should someone be listed here as an alum if they received an honorary degree from H but were never actually a student there? I think not. (2) If we are listing someone as an alum for other reasons (see: Bill Gates), should we list all of their H degrees or should we hide the honorary ones? I think we should list all of them, since that's how such a person would most likely be included in any actual official alumni listing from H (for example this one). —David Eppstein (talk) 23:23, 22 February 2017 (UTC)
(1) Agree.
(2) Agree (and you're correct about the alumni listings).
Kind of like I said here [1]. EEng 23:32, 22 February 2017 (UTC)
1) sounds right to me: an alumn* is a former student or graduate [2]. For 2), I agree that honorary degrees should be listed for completeness, but wouldn't it make sense to label them with "(Hon)"? Leaving it off, despite being standard in Harvard external and internal listings, seems misleading. FourViolas (talk) 23:49, 22 February 2017 (UTC)
Yes, or we could link to Legum_Doctor#United_States, or both. EEng 01:47, 23 February 2017 (UTC) "Hey, have you seen my Harvard degree, hon?" "In your cufflink drawer, Bill!"
  • My concern is based primarily upon consistency. While I agree that an honorary degree does not make one an alum and said so here, I also think:
1) If we're going to include honorary degrees, then we should either include them for all the folks in that section who are recipients - or not at all. For example, why isn't JFK's LLD '56 listed? Or Sirleaf's LLD '11? Or John Quincy Adams' LLD in 1822? Or FDR's LLD in 1929? Or even Teddy Roosevelt's honorary A.M. in 1919? They're all listed, they're all alums and they all received honorary H degrees. So why is only Gates' listed? Again, it should be all or none. And if it's all, does that muddy the waters and confuse the reader with so many honorary degrees?
2) Also, regarding both Gates and Zuckerberg, obviously, neither are graduates. As such, we already have the article: List of Harvard University non-graduate alumni. They're both listed there, joining the ranks of people like Ben Franklin, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Matt Damon, Robert Frost, Buckminster Fuller, Benjamin Netanyahu, Cole Porter, Eugene O'Neill and many others. So why are Gates and Zuckerberg even listed here? And if they remain, why are they the only 2 non-grad alums listed? Especially since some of those folks have honorary H degrees too: like RBG, Ben Franklin, Frost and many others. But yet that article makes no effort to list their honorary degrees there either.
Of course, I realize this section in the article is not comprehensive. I also realize consistency from article to article is a virtually impossible ask on this project. But certainly, we're all kind of sticklers for demanding consistency within a single article. So, it appears the options are as follows: we either remove the honorary degree from Gates, or add it to every other listed subject who is a recipient. Or we even remove Gates and Zuckerberg altogether, since they're already noted in the non-degree alum article. Or just expand the section here to include more prominent non-degree alums. With or without their H honoraries. But whatever we ultimately decide to do, I just ask that we be consistent. And the problem with the current edit is that it clearly isn't. X4n6 (talk) 11:53, 23 February 2017 (UTC)
Honoraries other than Gates' aren't listed probably because no one thought about it. Seems like you'd be a good person to add them. EEng 12:13, 23 February 2017 (UTC)

Noting the comment from FourViolas, please do not 'label them with "(Hon)"' as it is inconsistent with standard practice and potentially confusing with Honours degrees. Such degrees should be listed as "Hon LLD, 2007" or "LLD (h.c.), 2007" (with or without wikilinks), in line with the information at honorary degree. EdChem (talk) 12:57, 23 February 2017 (UTC)

Agreed. As there are several different types of honorary degrees, the degree should be specified. But also, there are several possible options for fixing this. I'm just looking for consensus. Should non-grad alums even be listed here? Should the section be expanded to include more? Should everyone's honorary be included or should no one's? Should there even be a separate new article on honorary H degrees? Dozens of other schools like Florida, Binghamton, Hofstra, NYU, Canterbury all have their honorary degree recipients as the subject of separate articles. I think it's another glaring omission that H, of all places, doesn't. But again, I'm looking for consensus. So I'd prefer to wait for others to weigh in; so we can determine the approach that most people will be comfortable with. X4n6 (talk) 13:02, 23 February 2017 (UTC)

Former name "New College"?[edit]

We're having a bit of a disagreement over the question of whether a "former name" for HU was "New College" [3]. As much as I respect the Boston Globe, its general news articles aren't appropriate sources for historical events of 400 years ago. All such early formal Harvard history is definitively documented in scholarly works, and if something like this can't be cited to a source of that quality, then it doesn't belong.

For example, I've just done a google search (sorry, library closes early on Fridays) of Morison's Three Centuries of Harvard, and the one and only reference to a "new college" I find in it is, "he had been chosen master of the new College" (capitalization as shown). Meanwhile, in Morison's The Founding of Harvard College we find: "Though not a direct copy of any particular European institution, the new college was comparable to ..." ; "this was a serious handicap for a new college in the New World" ; and "work was pushed on the new college building as fast as money could be procured" (all capitalization as shown). Morison gives, however, numerous references to New College, Oxford and I believe this is somehow the source of the confusion. (The only entry in Morison's indices resembling anything like New College is New College, Oxford.)

I feel I must ask, of those who want the idea of "New College" as a former name to remain in the article, that they offer an appropriate source of the kind discussed in WP:Identifying_reliable_sources_(history). Thoughts? EEng 04:49, 25 February 2017 (UTC) P.S. There's also the related question of whether Harvard College is a "former name" of Harvard University, but let's take one thing at a time.

Followup: OK, I took an hour to look into this definitively. None of the following list New College in their indices (other than New College, Oxford – see above) nor mention anything about New College as any kind of name for what was later Harvard College.

  • Quincy, Josiah, 1772-1864. The history of Harvard University / by Josiah Quincy. Boston : Crosby, Nichols, Lee & Co., 1860.
  • Pier, Arthur Stanwood, 1874-1966. The story of Harvard, by Arthur Stanwood Pier; with illustrations by Vernon Howe Bailey. Boston, Little, Brown, and Company, 1913.
  • Thayer, William Roscoe, 1859-1923. An historical sketch of Harvard university, from its foundation to May, 1890. Cambridge, 1890.
  • Peirce, Benjamin, 1778-1831. A history of Harvard University : from its foundation, in the year 1636, to the period of the American revolution / by the late Benjamin Peirce. Cambridge : Brown, Shattuck, and Company, 1833.
  • Wagner, Charles Abraham, 1899- Harvard ; four centuries and freedoms. New York, Dutton [c1950]
  • Gardiner, J. H. (John Hays), 1863-1913. Harvard, by John Hays Gardiner. New York, Oxford university press, American branch; [etc., etc.] 1914.
  • Foster, Margery Somers. "Out of smalle beginings..." an economic history of Harvard College in the Puritan period (1636 to 1712) Cambridge, Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1962.
  • Glimpses of the Harvard past / Bernard Bailyn ... [et al.]. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1986.
  • Bentinck-Smith, William, 1914- ed. The Harvard book : selections from three centuries / edited by William Bentinck-Smith. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1960.
  • Batchelder, Samuel Francis, 1870-1927. Bits of Harvard history / by Samuel F. Batchelder. Cambridge [Mass.] : Harvard university press, 1924.
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot, 1887-1976. The founding of Harvard College / by Samuel Eliot Morison ; [with a new foreword by Hugh Hawkins]. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, c1995.
  • Schlesinger, Andrew. Veritas : Harvard College and the American experience / Andrew Schlesinger. Chicago : I.R. Dee, 2005.
  • Morison, Samuel Eliot, 1887-1976. Three centuries of Harvard, 1636-1936. Cambridge, Mass., The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1965

(Morison's two works, BTW, are considered the definitive works on Harvard history.) EEng 02:33, 27 February 2017 (UTC)

"College of Newtowne" or "New College" is the general name that was used for the institution that what was eventually renamed Harvard in 1639. I think the point the other editors are making is that the college was referred to by this name for 3 years prior to being called Harvard. Unless you can prove the school was referred to as "Harvard" from 1636 until 1639 (which is not possible), the edit should stand as it is. I also agree with former name of "Harvard College" because the institution of Harvard University was called Harvard College until it was restyled as Harvard University. That does seem to be the convention with other universities on Wikipedia. RabidMelon 22:34, 28 February 2017 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by RabidMelon (talkcontribs)
Harvard Colledge plaque, Harvard University - IMG 8970.JPG
"College of Newtowne" or "New College" is the general name that was used... the college was referred to by this name for 3 years prior to being called Harvard. – None of the sources above indicate anything like that, and it's telling that the Act of the General Court adopting Harvard's name [4] reads: "It is ordered that the colledge formerly ordered to bee built at Cambridge shalbee called Harvard College" – no mention of any "College of Newtowne" or "New College". That's blatant OR of course, but it starkly illustrates what the authoritative secondary sources above already make clear by omission: that the school didn't have any particular name at first.
Against this, do you have any sources for the new college being named New College, or College of Newtowne? To be a "former name" it needs to be an actual name, not a reference akin to "The house at the bend in the river." EEng 23:17, 28 February 2017 (UTC)
In the sources you provided "the College" is referred to as a distinct institution and a proper noun. I would agree to changing "New College" to "College at Newtowne" as this is how it is referred to by the General Court in 1637. *I mistakingly referred to it as "College of Newtowne" in my previous post - this was not intentional. RabidMelon 01:47, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
Sorry, where does the General Court refer to the "College at Newtowne"? But in any event, we need an appropriate secondary source saying, "The school was at first named X" or "The name of the school was changed from X to Harvard College". EEng 01:58, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
"For the College;* The Governour Mr. Winthrop, the Deputy Mr. Dudley, the Treasurer Mr. Bel∣lingham, Mr. Humphry, Mr. Herlackendon, Mr. Stoughton, Mr. Cotton, Mr. Wilson, Mr. Damport, Mr. Wells, Mr. Shepherd, Mr. Peters; these or the greater Part of them, whereof Mr. Winthrop, Mr. Dudley or Mr. Bellingham, to be always one; to TAKE ORDER for a College at Newtown." I'm not sure a source is needed explicitly stating the school was "named X first". The fact that Harvard made a contribution and the school was from then on was known as "Harvard College" is self-explanatory. The question is here - what was the school called prior to Harvard's donation and what was it called prior to being called Harvard University. At least that's how I see it. RabidMelon 02:17, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
Let me clarify - a primary source stating - the school was "named X first" is not needed. There are several secondary sources as we have discussed already with reference to the renaming of Harvard College. RabidMelon 02:20, 1 March 2017 (UTC) — Preceding unsigned comment added by RabidMelon (talkcontribs)

──────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────────── Specifying that certain gentlemen are to "TAKE ORDER for a College at Newtown" doesn't mean that the school was named "the College at Newtown" – as I keep repeating, that's just a way of referring to a thing that had no name. (As you'll notice, most nouns, proper or common, were capitalized, so the capital C means nothing.) And yes, we need a source (secondary -- don't know why you say primary) explicitly saying that the school had some early name you want to list as a "former name". Where is it? EEng 02:41, 1 March 2017 (UTC)

"Where is it?" It's already in place and from the Boston Globe. Your central argument is that the literature you have provided doesn't make reference to New College. Further, you are depending on your own interpretation of the Act of General Council when a selection of credible sources have come to a different conclusion regarding the naming. In effect, you are making an argument from authority without the authority to appeal to. Whether or not you decide on New College or College at Newtowne is totally secondary to me. I'm still not sure why you deny Harvard College is previous name for what would become the institution of Harvard University. This is the standard for all colleges that became restyled as universities. Once again - see Yale and Columbia. PrincetonNeuroscientist (talk) 03:46, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
Suppose we repeat the source above using modern capitalization: "to take order for a college at Newtown" instead of "to TAKE ORDER for a College at Newtown". Do you see the problem? The article "a" clearly means that "college" here is used in its sense as a normal English noun, not as part of a name. It's like you might still today refer to the same place as "a college in Cambridge". A source is needed that makes clear that this was the actual name of the entity, not just a phrase that people called it because it didn't yet have a name. —David Eppstein (talk) 04:15, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
Precisely (though I regret introducing primary sources into the discussion). EEng 04:45, 1 March 2017 (UTC)
(edit conflict)
Princeton, Please read my original post:
  • For the moment I suggest we keep the discussion to only the "New College"/"College at Newtown", question, since it's proving difficult enough on its own.
  • Again from my OP: source reliability is judged in context, for the claim being made. The Globe is an outstanding paper, but its offhand comment in passing cannot be taken as reliable for an historic event from 400 years ago, especially when comprehensive and authoritative works on the subject contradict it. See WP:SOURCE.
  • I'm not in any way relying on the Acts of the General Court. I simply used its text to illustrate what Morison and all other authoritative sources show by omission, that there's nothing anywhere referring to "New College" as the name of the school at any time.
  • Yale and Columbia have zero to do with this.
Now once again I ask: what competent, secondary source says that Harvard was ever named "New College" or "the College at Newtown". EEng 04:38, 1 March 2017 (UTC)

Surprise development[edit]

Well, I was about to post a last call for sources for "former names", per above, when‍—‌surprise!‍—‌it obtains that PrincetonN and RabidM are sockpuppets! Shocking! (I would expect such behavior from a Yalie, but Princeton? What is this world coming to?) I'm going to go ahead and remove the "New College" nonsense‍—‌subject to further discussion, of course, with my esteemed fellow editors (esteemed = not sockpuppets, POINTellists).

The development of Harvard College into the modern Harvard College/Harvard University structure is a bit more fraught, however. I'm leaving "Harvard College" in as a "former name" for now (but without any date or even era, because it's just not that simple), but really, what needs to happen is that the lead of this article (HU) needs to explain the relationship to HC; right now it's not even mentioned in the lead. EEng 16:41, 4 March 2017 (UTC)

Can we add John Cochran to the "Notable People" section?[edit]

John M Cochran attended Harvard law and went on to win reality tv show Survivor and become a screenwriter/comedian. He is notable and did attend Harvard.

Exploding-moose (talk) 05:19, 7 April 2017 (UTC)

Absolutely not. The list here in this article has to be for the most notable of the notable, for obvious reasons. There's a Harvard people page for the hoi polloi. EEng 06:37, 7 April 2017 (UTC)

I think you can argue that John Cochran is a notable person. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Exploding-moose (talkcontribs) 06:59, 7 April 2017 (UTC)

Also John Cochran isn't even on that but other page. — Preceding unsigned comment added by Exploding-moose (talkcontribs) 07:01, 7 April 2017 (UTC)

Go ahead and add him to the Harvard people page, but not here. EEng 14:27, 7 April 2017 (UTC)

Academics are important, aren't they?[edit]

Recently, I introduced the word "academics" to the first sentence of the lead: [5], so that it read:

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts, established in 1636, whose academics, history, influence, and wealth have made it one of the world's most prestigious universities.

My reasoning for this is simple, Harvard is prestigious mostly because it has high academic standards and its faculty, staff, students, and alumni have contributed significantly to many academic pursuits. To me, this seems clear, and it deserves placement in the lead sentence along with the other factors of "history, influence, and wealth". EEng reverted inclusion of "academics" twice, asserting that it sounds "off" [6] and that it is unclear whether or not "academics" means "academic pursuits" or "academicians" [7]. I would say it means both in this case. Anyway, simply removing the mention of "academics" hardly seems like an improvement. Perhaps more optimal wording can be found, but I suggest that the notion of "academics" (be it with this word or another) belongs in this sentence. Thank you. Nechemia Iron (talk) 21:01, 14 May 2017 (UTC)

It would be helpful if you provided (many) reliable sources that support your preferred wording. In any case, I doubt that it's true or widely supported since I suspect that most people who think highly of Harvard can name even one academic accomplishment the institution or its faculty and alumni have developed. For many people I think it's famous just because it's already famous with perhaps a small nod in the direction of its selectivity (which, of course, is a largely a function of its fame since it attracts many applicants but cannot admit but a fraction of them). ElKevbo (talk) 21:33, 14 May 2017 (UTC)
Part of the problem with this wording is that academics is largely meaningless when talking about a school or college, since the word pretty much just means "stuff related to a school or college". Is the research what makes it prestigious? The teaching? The product that comes out? The raw material that goes in? Anyway, those things alone can't explain Harvard's unique status, which is why the lead focuses on the other factors which, as ElK points out, are probably more enduringly (if that's a word) at the core of Harvard's prestige. The academics are a given. EEng 22:13, 14 May 2017 (UTC)