PBHA's Pyrrhic Victory
* Compromise is a loss for student autonomy but a welcome end to a long struggle
Finally, an end to an old battle. This past week, the Phillips Brooks House Association Board of Trustees voted to accept a compromise relationship with the University. The Board, which includes students, administrators, alumni and community members, is now the officially recognized and permanent governing body of the community service organization. While the executive director, who will be selected by a committee of the Board, will report to the Board on most matters, Assistant Dean for Public Service Judith H. Kidd will have exclusive authority over issues of safety and finance. While we anticipate a renewed focus on community service, we are disappointed that the price was the potential autonomy of a well-run student organization.
Last Wednesday's agreement concludes the three-year drama that has sapped the vitality of PBHA and has created unnecessary tension between the student organization and the University structure that is purported to support it. (PBHA's chief operating officer resigned this past spring, reportedly due to the wasted energy of University haggling.) With no administrative in-fighting to contend with, the student leadership of PBHA, backed by a willing Administration, should have a chance to concentrate solely on community service. And community service, despite the sarcastic grumblings of some Harvard faculty members, is the essential mission of PBHA.
But at what price community service? It is disheartening to see the University limiting student autonomy in favor of more administrative bureaucracy. Although the compromise is a far cry from the independence that the Association once wanted and that would have done credit to PBHA's work, it does grant the student members of the Board a powerful voice in the decisions made. Given the tendencies of our Administration, we should count our blessings.