Gown Meets Town in Elections
Several Harvard Affiliates Seek City Office
Harvard affiliates seeking places on the City Council and School Committee today said they hope to bring a balanced perspective to town-gown relations.
City Council candidate Jonathan S. Myers, a 1984 graduate of the Extension School, said the major Harvard-related issue facing the council is development. He said he supports zoning changes to keep Harvard from encroaching on the community.
"Harvard Square is threatened by the development of five to six new buildings in the area of the Harvard Square post office," said City Council incumbent Francis H. Duehay '55, a member of the liberal Cambridge Civic Association (CCA).
"One of the major problems of Harvard is it tends to take over neighborhoods," said Noah M. Berger '89, campaign manager for Council incumbent David E. Sullivan and one of several Harvard students involved in city campaigns.
Although some students are active in city politics, candidates and undergraduate campaign workers said they wish more of their classmates would join them.
Cambridge "is a community in which [students] spend four years. They should know something about it," said Ann Marie Leshkowich '89, campaign manager for School Committee incumbent Frances H. Cooper.
Councilor Saundra M. Graham said she owed the first few of her eight City Council terms to Harvard students' help. Graham entered local politics in 1970 when she led a group of neighbors in disrupting Harvard's commencement exercises to demand housing from the University.
Graham said she won many students' sympathy with her demonstration, and that they helped her win a Council seat for the first time in 1971. Students got the right to vote in 1972--with the help of David E. Sullivan, then a Harvard law student. The following year, Graham said she owed her re-election to these new voters.
Now, Graham said, she is disappointed that students in Cambridge "don't feel it's their local politics and they don't want to get involved."
About 2000 Harvard undergraduates are registered voters in Cambridge, including a quarter of the freshman class, which registered here this year.
"It'll be interesting to see what role the students play," said Myers. He said it was hard to tell whether all the students registered will actually vote in the city election, but he has canvassed dormitories in the hope that they will. David E. Sullivan has also visited dorm rooms to seek student support, Berger said.
Among the issues in the School Committee race is the role local universities should play in Cambridge schools, and how to make the best use of the Cambridge Partnership, a two-year-old affiliation of local businesses, including Harvard, formed to help improve the Cambridge schools.
Challenger Donna Brescia, a member of the liberal Cambridge Civic Association, said Harvard ought to contribute more to local public education because its quality "determines who can afford to both live here and send their children to school."
"Many people at Harvard don't realize that Cambridge remains a poor city. Not all the Cambridge people share in the wealth of knowledge and resources that the University has," said CCA School Committee candidate Richard Griffin '51.
And Independent School Committee candidate James J. Rafferty said the University should take some responsibility for "making sure our students' performance is matching our city's heritage."
But School Committee candidate Larry Weinstein, who was a preceptor in Expository Writing at Harvard for 8 years, disagreed. "I must say, for all the criticism certaim elected officials mete out to Harvard, Harvard has done more and more for schools," he said, citing University efforts such as Citystep, Phillips Brooks House tutoring, and educational programs at the Museum of Comparative Zoology.