Harry Lewis has had several interesting posts this month over at his blog. In particular, he discusses Harvard Magazine's recent analysis of Harvard's Annual Financial Report, which offers what I find to be a somewhat bleak picture of the last decade, followed by maybe some optimism for the current campaign. Recommended reading for those who care about that sort of thing. Overall, it paints a familiar picture of too many people being far too optimistic about economic conditions up through 2008, allowing and encouraging a grab by the central administration (in the form of a "strategic infrastructure fund") for big-ticket projects that have mostly fallen by the wayside. Other failures include huge increases in debt and the still silly-seeming interest-rate swaps. The end result has been a slow multi-year recovery, which (from my standpoint) seems competently managed (under the new administration), but unsurprisingly difficult -- we've had to give up a lot of opportunities to dig ourselves out of this hole, and outside economic conditions don't make it any easier.
Harvard continues to innovate, grow, and expand, even in this weakened state. I hope that these new financial constraints will mean future plans will be more carefully and reasonably thought out than in the heyday of the early 2000's, even when improved financials offer us a little more breathing room.