Students Rally at Medical School Against Harvard's Housing Policy
More than 100 students, faculty, workers, and tenants of Harvard-owned apartment buildings held a rally yesterday at the Medical School to demonstrate against University housing policies.
They presented a list of demands to Stephen J. Miller, associate dean for Urban Affairs, picketed briefly, and then went on a walking tour of Harvard-owned housing in the area.
The demonstrators charged that University-owned buildings were being allowed to deteriorate, and that rents for unoccupied apartments were being raised to discourage people from moving into the neighborhood.
They demanded the replacement of Harvard's present rental agency, Hunneman Realty, by another agent of the tenants' own choosing; a rent freeze at the level of last January 1; and immediate repair of all safety hazards.
Dr. Jonathan R. Beckwith, professor of Bacteriology and Immunology and head of the team which last month succeeded in isolating a single gene, was the first to address the rally. "I'm here because I believe that Harvard is trying to force people out of their homes, using the worst taxies of a slumlord," he said.
Miller said after the rally that the University makes no money on its real estate around the Med School. The value of the land increases every year without a proportional increase in rent, he said, so Harvard is actually engaged in "de facto subsidization" of the housing.
He confirmed that a number of hospitals, notably the Affiliated Hospitals complex, "have plans" for the land on which the housing now stands. He added that although the University has declined to lease the land to the hospitals through the government by eminent domain, it has also been "reluctant" to fill currently vacant housing.
Harvard cannot afford to renovate, he said, "Yes, maintenance has been-what do I want to say-lousy."
Some of the demonstrators said that, during a recent rainstorm, leaking water dripped onto electric wires and caused a fire in a building at 52 Francis St. which houses 7 adults and 11 children.
They added that in another building, at 17 Kempton St., the realtor continually failed to repair a defective boiler, and one woman was without heat for three months this fall.
Other demonstrators said that a tenant had complained to Hunneman about some missing planks in her back porch. Several days later, her porch and eight other porches were ripped off the building by repair men.