University Relations Committee Meets

To improve tense relations between Cambridge’s city government, universities and the surrounding neighborhoods, a group of city officials gathered yesterday at the first meeting of the Committee on University Relations before a silent audience of representatives of the city’s higher education community.

The committee seeks to move away from a “crisis mentality,” in which it only responds to imminent and serious problems between universities and the city, according to city consultant Roberta Miller, who facilitated yesterday’s discussion.

“What we’re trying to do is change the behavior of the Council,” Miller said.

According to its charter, the committee will provide information and address long-term planning, cooperative ventures, taxation and payments in lieu of taxes regarding the city’s four universities.

The committee, which was formed in January, had put off its first meeting due to an illness of its chair, City Councillor David P. Maher.

Yesterday’s meeting at City Hall was attended by the five councilors who serve on the committee and City Manager Robert W. Healy. Councillor Kenneth E. Reeves ’72, who is not on the committee, also attended. Additionally, representatives of both Harvard and MIT joined a Cambridge neighborhood activist in observing the meeting.

The primary focus of the first meeting was the committee’s organizational structure and purpose.

However, many questions remained unanswered and no actual decisions were reached during the 90-minute session.

The committee tentatively scheduled its next meeting for March 26. Healy and his senior staff, nine city councillors—including Mayor Michael A. Sullivan, who was absent from yesterday’s meeting—should be present.

The committee is requesting that university representatives not attend the meeting later this month.

“It’s not that it’s a secret meeting,” Maher said. “It’s a public meeting. But we would like to have people voice their concerns in an open dialogue.”

—Staff writer Stephanie M. Skier can be reached at skier@fas.harvard.edu.