Council Ponders Benefits Change

Chair of FAS Standing Committee Issues Interim Report on Task Force

The chair of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Benefits Standing Committee yesterday told the Faculty Council that the committee's preliminary work indicates that many of last year's decisions regarding faculty and staff benefits resulted from purely financial considerations, according to Secretary to the Faculty Council John B. Fox '59.

The committee has set the April 3 meeting of the Corporation, the more powerful of the University's two governing boards, as a deadline for making proposals, Fox said.

Contracted last night, Professor of Sociology Peter V. Marsden, committee chair, refused to comment on his presentation.

"The nature of the presentation was an interim report, and I would really be reluctant to say anything beyond what the secretary said," Marsden said.

Fox said the committee's work during the first three weeks has been focused on understanding the basis for the decisions on benefits changes, which are being phased in over this year.

"They're trying to understand the logic behind the recommendations," Fox said. "So far they're coming to the conclusion these were almost entirely financial concerns. There were no legal requirements, no policy requirements."

If the preliminary conclusions are validated bythe rest of the committee's research this spring,the findings would be "quite significant," Foxsaid.

"If it is the case these decisions arefinancial in nature, then the next step is, 'Wasthe decision to reduce faculty pensions the bestpossible response?" Fox said.

But the committee is not close to finalconclusions or making any recommendations, councilmembers said last night.

"The impression I got that it's at a verypreliminary stage," said Adams UniversityProfessor John K. Shearman. "I don't think thatthe committee has started to do anything except toclear the ground and ask for advice."

"They're working extremely hard [and] makingimpressive progress," said Associate Professor ofGerman Peter J. Burgard. "This was a preliminaryprogress report. There are no concrete findings."

In other council business, Coolidge Professorof History and Professor of Economics David S.Landes repeated many of the charges he made atTuesday's faculty meeting.

At that meeting, Landes said that FAS is taxedby the University's central administration withoutbeing adequately represented.

"The central administration has needs," Landessaid Tuesday. "They take, and we, the faculties,[get] what is left."

Yesterday he further explained his allegationsand gave more examples of financial problemsbetween the central administration and FAS, Foxsaid.

The Faculty Council served mostly as a soundingboard for Landes' complaints. The group did nottake any action.

"I was glad to have it all out in the open,"Shearman said. "I'm sure there will be otherdiscussions of it."

Both Tuesday and yesterday, Landes focused onthe controversy surrounding the Medical Area TotalEnergy Plant (MATEP) in the early 1970s.

The plant was designed to replace the medicalarea's obsolete heating system. The plant, whichis still in operation today, uses diesel enginesto provide the teaching hospitals and HarvardMedical School (HMS) with heat, air conditioningand electricity.

While the plant was being constructed,Brookline residents complained about thepossibility of environmental damage resulting fromthe facility and demanded regulation legislation.

The regulation forced changes in plant designmid-way through construction, costing theUniversity hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"The Faculty of Arts and Sciences paid for halfof that. We paid for something we did not need norbenefit from," Landes told the Faculty yesterday."It was the biggest violation in Harvard historyof the motto that every tub should stand on itsown bottom."

Jonathan A. Lewin contributed to thereporting of this story.