One month after Kevin A. McCluskey ’76 stepped down from his post as senior director of community relations for Harvard, the position has yet to be filled, leaving a gap in communication between Allston residents and the University.
Harvard is in the midst of finalizing plans for developing its properties in Allston, three months after the Harvard Allston Work Team submitted its recommendations for moving forward in the neighborhood.
University officials say that a broad network led by three primary liaisons—Kevin Casey, Annie Tomasini, and Mary-Helen Black, all from Harvard Public Affairs and Communications—has taken up McCluskey’s former duties.
They say they have listened to Allston residents and helped incorporate their suggestions into the University’s plans for future development in the neighborhood.
Casey, the University’s associate vice president for public affairs and communications, said that during summer Task Force meetings he told residents that they could contact him and other Harvard officials to voice their concerns.
“We view [McCluskey’s] role as an important one in our organization, which we want to take real care in [filling],” said Casey. “In the meantime we want to keep the transition smooth with the people that folks have been used to working with at City Hall, in the community, and in our elected delegation.”
Officials highlighted workforce training programs and monthly coffee hours in the Allston Education Portal as resources designed to connect with residents.
But Allston residents say these initiatives are not enough.
They complain that direct communication with Harvard has never existed, even before McCluskey’s departure, and they criticize the University for not working side-by-side with community members.
“The real question is, will Harvard ever decide that it wants to work with the community in a joint decision process?” said Harvard Allston Task Force member Brent Whelan ’73. He said that no community members were part of the Harvard Allston Work Team.
“So far Harvard seems to believe that the very last thing they need is the voice of community members in the decision making process,” he added.
Whelan said that the Task Force has long wanted to speak directly with University Executive Vice President Katherine N. Lapp, who, he said, has been inaccessible.
Lapp headed the work team—a 14-person group commissioned by University President Drew G. Faust comprising Harvard faculty, deans, and alumni—which dissolved after recommendations were released in June and is currently heading future developments in Allston.
With Harvard saying it is committed to reinvigorating Allston, residents say they want to be a part of the decision-making process.
“We’ve wanted to have some kind of voice with the Work Team, but Harvard never really gave us any access whatsoever,” Whelan said.
Task force member Harry E. Mattison echoed Whelan’s frustrations.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been able to reach the University,” Mattison said. “In the past, they’ve sent people to sit in the same room and act like they’re listening.”
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