Is Report The End Or Just a Beginning?
At the end of the letter Vice President and General Counsel Margaret H. Marshall sent to the University's nearly 100 security guards last week is a statement, presented as fact, which is really more of a dim hope.
"This report," Marshall writes, "brings to a close a difficult chapter in the history of the security guard unit at Harvard."
While Marshall may wish the controversy over alleged discrimination in the unit would go away, it won't. Marshall refused to discuss the cases of different guards in an interview Friday.
Even with her finding that discrimination doesn't exist in the unit, the following months and years promise to be just as contentious as the past year has been.
That's because the war of the words that has been raging between different factions of the security guard department has simply shifted to the courts and state agencies.
"I'm disappointed, but that doesn't mean the war doesn't go on," said Howard Reid, one of 11 former or current employees to publicly charge unequal treatment in the unit. "This battle was lost. But that doesn't mean I'm going to stop doing what's right."
A former guard, Juan Figueroa, and a current guard, Pierre R. Voss, have filed complaints against Harvard with the Massachusetts Commission against Discrimination.
A third guard, a Russian citizen who has asked that his name not be used, will likely drop his complaint with the commission and file suit against the University in Middlesex County Superior Court, his lawyer, Richard Spicer, said yesterday. Stephen G. McCombe, who is blamed in Marshall's report for contributing to a false perception of discrimination in the guard unit, is also likely to file some sort of legal action soon, Spicer said.
With their acceptance of the report, Marshall and President Neil L. Rudenstine, who has backed the general counsel, have raised the stakes and each has taken a significant professional risk. What was once an internal matter in the police department is now a major University-wide issue. If Harvard loses in court, Marshall and Rudenstine will bear the brunt of the blame.
Spicer, who represents four guards, yesterday said he had not received a copy of the report and could not comment on its substance. But he noted that, because it was ordered and paid for by Harvard, it is far from an objective document.
"This is a report generated by Harvard for Harvard," Spicer said. "Anyone who generates a report by themselves for themselves will reflect a subjective point of view."
Still, Marshall's report, which reads at times like a legal brief, is likely to appear again--in court. The guards are already mounting a defense against the report. And it is likely that the University may use the testimony the guards gave in interviews against them, though a Harvard lawyer indicated yesterday that a decision on that had not been made.
"It's a difficult question to answer and I'd rather not answer it at this point," said University Attorney Allan A. Ryan Jr., who is handling the Figueroa case for Harvard.
Whatever the decision, the guards have vowed to fight their cases until they win what they believe to be justice. This chapter of controversy in the guard unit, it seems, may have only just begun.