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Bates president keeps campus engaged in community

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Donald Harward recalls how in 1989, as the new president of Bates College, the local newspaper carried a short item about his appointment - and a big article about how Bates was an aloof, elitist island in economically depressed Lewiston, Maine.

Dr. Harward has been working hard ever since to reverse that sentiment. A key weapon has been one of the college's main assets: its students.

Under Harward, Bates was one of the earliest of hundreds of colleges and universities to have students work for credit on academic projects that also benefit the community.

Bates students have served as education assistants in schools and done statistical background studies for the highway department. One senior's presentation recently persuaded a large national bank to contribute $100,000 toward scholarships for local residents to attend Bates.

Harward says that 15 years after service learning arrived on campuses, institutional self-interest that once was the overriding motivation for many projects is ceding to the idea that intellectual activities and doing good in the community go together.

As president of a small elite college - a $32,000-a-year school that is listed by U.S. News & World Report as among the top 50 liberal-arts colleges - Harward shared his views with the Monitor on a variety of current issues.

Where are town-gown relations headed in the new century?

Within higher education, I think there's a more thoughtful reaction and attention to place, in terms of responsibility to place. That's translated into what I would call, simply: What's the right thing to do? It's not an examination of just what's in our institutional self-interest. And that notion flows from what it means to be an educational institution and to recognize that learning has a moral dimension, an ethic.... While that sounds high-minded, what it really means is that the ethic of education has all to do with seeing the responsibility of the privilege of learning.

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