THE UNIVERSITY's announcement that it will not consider selling part of its Black Rock Forest to Consolidated Edison "unless we were under genuine threat of having it taken by eminent domain" merits both praise and condemnation.
By its action, Harvard has acknowledged the serious environmental issues and issues of responsibility to benefactors raised by a possible sale of the land for Con Ed's controversial power project.
At the same time, however, Harvard has implicitly told Con Ed that when all the other battles are through, it will most likely raise its white flag at the drop of a summons.
For not being hustled into a sale by Con Ed's premature announcements of optimism and success on the courtroom battlefront, the University warrants praise. But one can only continue to wonder what its reaction will be if and when the utility's real position reaches that already claimed in its public relations drivel.
Barring unforeseen environmental advances, the problems of the power project's ecological effects and the sale's impact upon donors will remain when the final court case is decided. Barring an unforeseen change of heart, Consolidated Edison will still want its white elephant project on the Hudson River. And the University, in the end, will have to decide whether or not to co-operate.
It appears likely that it will decide to knuckle under to the powers of eminent domain, rather than endure a time and money-consuming court battle, but in its latest statement the administration leaves this question--like so many other--without a definite answer.
By deciding not to decide whether to sell part of its Black Rock Forest to Con Ed, Harvard has placed itself in the uncomfortable position of standing in the middle and supporting both ends. It cannot remain there much longer.