For Better and Worse, Public Service Grabs the Spotlight

Nero won't be removed, Coles challenges the administration, and PBH questions restructuring report.

It was a tough week for those involved in public service at Harvard.

First, the cabinet of Harvard's distinguished public service organization, Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA), considered the fate of its secretary.

Next, Dr. Robert Coles '50, a popular professor and best-selling author, said he would leave Harvard if the University does not back a faculty public service initiative he is proposing.

Finally, public service officials sharply criticized a new report that recommended the consolidation of the College's two major service programs.

Driving Debacle

PBHA ultimately voted not to remove Harvetta E. Nero '96 as the secretary of its board of directors, for alleged violations of the association's vehicles policy.

While driving PBHA vans, Nero was involved in three accidents in three days this July. After the accidents, Kenneth G. Smith, assistant director of Phillips Brooks House, told Nero not to drive except in "emergency situations."

The PBHA board of directors voted at an August 10 meeting to ask Nero to resign because Smith alleged that she drove after he ordered her to desist. Smith and PBHA President John B. King '96-'95 also accused Nero of authorizing uncertified counselors to drive campers in PBHA vans, a charge she denied.

Nero said last week that she decided in her capacity as the director of Academy Homes Summer Youth Enrichment Program that it was her responsibility to obtain first-aid kits prior to a sleepover with her campers, ages 7 to 13. Nero said she drove the van in order to pick up the kits, and was then careful to inform Smith about it.

At a four-hour cabinet meeting Thursday night, association members said tensions were high as board members accused King and each other of repeated vehicles violations and deliberate power-plays.

Some cabinet members faulted Nero for shifting the debate from the association vehicles policy to personal issues. "I think that in those kind of remarks that in those kind of remarks that she's making, she's trying to bring down as many people as possible. Especially John King, since he's the president," said James White '95, a cabinet member and the summer director of the Cambridge Youth Enrichment Program at Jefferson Park.

But other members said Nero was being made the scapegoat for the association's many accidents this summer. Ilyana G. Tavera '96, a volunteer at Nero's program who hopes to succeed Nero as director next summer, called the proceedings against Nero a "witch hunt."

"This aii started because of personal things, in my opinion," Tavera said following Thursday's meeting.

The removal attempt followed a summer during which PBHA drivers were involved in an incredible 24 accidents in association vans. In 12 of the accidents, the student drivers were at fault, said Gene Koo '97, the PBHA vehicles coordinator.