With the entire staff of the University from President Conant down to the lowliest instructor keeping strictly mum, the Cambridge Council's fling for publicity by demanding that Harvard be made a separate and distinct municipality began to die down last night. As a reckoning was made, the following facts had come out of the flareup;
That there is little or no possibility of the enactment of the necessary legislation in the General Court and that the whole matter will die a natural death following the elections; that the Plan E form of government has received a sever blow which has greatly reduced its chances for passage; that the action is constitutionaly possible but from a practical viewpoint impossible; and that Harvard, while making no official comment, regards the whole affair as unfortunate publicity but little more.
A Natural Death
It was definitely assured that until the first of the year nothing more would be done on the Council's resolution. Governor Hurley has called a special session of the Legislature to deal with the hurricane emergency but no action will be taken at this time as the legislators have agreed among themselves to keep the session short and restrict it to legislation directly concerned with the hurricane and flood. A member of the Cambridge Council said that if did reach the Legislature in January the "Harvard City" resolution would not have a prayer of passing.
The unofficial view of the University was much the same. While some officers toyed with novel ideas which had University Hall as City Hall and the President as mayor, in no authoritative sources was the enactment of the necessary legislation given serious thought. Members of the faculty felt the plan was an attempt to cover Plan E and divert public attention. If the Council is representative, Cambridge obviously objects to being dictated to by Harvard professors, and it was felt that the less the professors say, the more chance Plan E has of passage. "The less we answer it, the more dignified our position will be," was the general opinion.
On the political side, Councilmen who were interviewed were inclined to be more moderate. Interest centered on opinions of Michael A. Sullivan and Michael J. Dee, councilmen for Wards 6 and 7, in which most of the University property lies. Dee, who is running for sheriff of middle sex County, refused to say anything, but Sullivan followed the idea that Harvard was no credit to Cambridge as he said:
"Landis Should Have Kept Out"
The city of Cambridge would be much better off if the total area covered by Harvard had two-family homes on it instead." Sullivan also expressed the general opinion of other members of the Council when he declared that "if Dean Landis had kept out of Plan E the thing would have a much better chance to pass." It is no secret that Landis' branding of the Councilmen as a "bunch of cheap politicians" bitterly antagonized that group, and had a little to do with the introduction of the resolution. It was pointed out in City Hall that the Council's charge that Landis had paid ten cents for each name on the petition was justified, since the Plan E committee had used professional signature gatherers paid at that rate.
On the legal side, the constitutionality of separating Harvard from Cambridge was slightly hazy. In a statement to the CRIMSON immediately after the meeting Tuesday night, Law Professor McLaughlin expressed the opinion that the Legislature could alter the bounds of municipalities even without the consent of the district's inhabitants. The office of Massachusetts Attorney General Dever is looking into the case, and in general supported the view of Professor McLaughlin. Dever referred the CRIMSON to the case of the Commonwealth vs. Plaisted, where a decision handed down by Chief Justice Morton quoted a statement of Chief Justice Chapman in 1871.
"There can be no doubt," Chapman said, "that the power to create, change and destroy municipal corporations is in the legislature." However, in the statues of Massachusetts there is a law with regard to the General Court's power over municipalities which declares that the "consent ... of a majority of the inhabitants of such town" is necessary.
Harvard Does Pay Taxes
In the files of the City Assessor and Auditor there is, however, a direct contradiction to Councilman Toomey's resolution regarding taxes. Toomey declared "that Harvard University has consistently refused to make any payment for such services (police, fire and health protection) or to the contribute to the city of Cambridge in any manner...."
Under a special agreement concluded in 1928, Harvard annually pays taxes to the City on legally tax-exempt property, amounting in 1931 to $21,816.01 and in 1937 to $7,667.00. On all land acquired after July 1, 1928 which was entitled to legal tax-exemption Harvard, by the agreement, pays annually a sum equivalent to the tax on the unimproved property at the time of purchase.
A second clause in the agreement provides that for property tentatively acquired by the University on July 1, 1928, but still in litigation on that date, Harvard would pay a portion of the tax decreasing 10 per cent annually. The occasion of this agreement was the acquisition by the University of large pieces of land for the new Houses, and it is to run until 1948. In City Hall yesterday Councilman Toomey was seen running around, cigar in mouth and a copy of the 1928 agreement he completely disregarded in the resolution in his hand.
Press Had Field Day
On the lighter side, the Boston press took the resolution exactly as the Council hoped it would--as a big news story. It was played up all day, with most of the papers discussing what "Harvard City" would do as a municipality, what "Harvard City" would do as a municipality, what officers it would have, and what area the "city" would include.
In a letter to the CRIMSON, Edwin M. Lerner '41 carries the matter to the ridiculous as he urges "cutting a channel from the Charles River around the University property, the river to be patrolled by members of the Naval R.O.T.C. in wherries.
"A dean could proclaim himself dictator," Lerner writes, "and his loyal adherents would wear red shirts to classes. A notice of secession would be sent to the Governor of the Common wealth."
The idea of secession was carried further by a group calling themselves "the Harvard Secessionist Society" which claimed 400 members pledged to the support of Toomey's proposal.
"The name University City," says a bulletin issued by the Society, "has been unanimously selected." The society claims, numerous advantages accruing to the University by such a split, such as school children no longer using the Yard and cutting off traffic on the Larz Anderson Bridge.
"Although the Society is somewhat embarrassed at Mr. Toomey's ill-advised choice of examples," the bulletin admits, "prompted no doubt by what has been maliciously branded as his desire for personal publicity, it nevertheless feels that if he will but be patient, we can supply him with any needed arguments.