Education Benefits Mark Allston Talk

As Harvard gears up to start construction of its much-anticipated science complex in Allston this fall, University officials met with area residents Monday night to discuss the educational benefits Harvard might provide to the neighborhood in the coming years.

Monday’s meeting came two weeks after members of the Harvard Allston Task Force—a Mayor-appointed group of 17 community residents—distributed a community benefits matrix that proposed benefits in several categories—ranging from education to green space—that the University could offer as it expands its presence in Allston.

The proposals that have drawn the most interest from neighborhood residents are suggestions that Harvard offer full scholarships to the College to neighborhood children and that the University fund a private, charter, or magnet school in the area.

Harvard’s Director of Community Relations for Boston Kevin A. McCluskey ’76 told the task force that the University’s Allston planners have been engaging “with a number of our colleagues internally to share with them the ideas that you put forward in the community matrix and ask them about how they think their work will contribute to the realization of many of those goals.”

Before construction can begin this fall, Harvard must complete a “cooperation agreement,” a legally binding contract with the City of Boston that outlines benefits that the University will provide to the area.

Keith J. Collar '86, the executive director of research, innovation, and outreach at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education (GSE), and Senior Lecturer on Molecular and Cellular Biology Robert Lue told Allston residents on Monday about outreach programs that the University already has in place in the New England area and the rest of the country.

Collar told residents about principal and teacher internship programs and a reading program that the GSE has in place at Amigos Elementary School in Cambridge, in addition to other programs.

Lue—who is one of the five lecturers for the popular fall course Life Sciences 1a—emphasized the University’s commitment to providing science education to area students.

“We have a moral imperative to create partnerships with the public to really bring science to everyone in a way that’s open, in a way that’s transparent, in a way that’s meaningful,” Lue said to the crowd of 90.

After Lue outlined the current outreach programs that Harvard provides to the local area—including seminars with local high school teachers, faculty lectures, and student field trips to Harvard’s science labs—task force member Bruce Houghton said he wished the University had come to the meeting with concrete plans instead of ideas.

“This community is standing here with open arms, asking you to rush in and make some proposals,” Houghton said at the meeting.

But McCluskey said that the University wanted to make sure that whatever programs they institute will be long-lasting.

“Given the fact that we want to establish something that creates a new model for engagement with the community, we’re trying to be as thoughtful as we can,” he said. “We want this to be something that has substance and will be in place for a good long while.”

—Staff writer Laura A. Moore can be reached at lamoore@fas.harvard.edu.