University and the City Are Discovering How to Live In Peace--Most of the Time

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Nor, understandably, have political outbursts against Harvard disappeared. "Let's get something sraight," city councillor Alfred E. Vellucci once said, "when Harvard's for something, I'm against it." Vellucci has often taken the initiative, proposing that part of Harvard Yard be turned into a parking lot, that the Lampoon be converted into a public lavatory, and that Plympton St. be renamed Cliffie Lane. His suggestions often achieve their only purpose, publicity. But even this reflects the "political capital" that can be made on the names of Harvard and M.I.T.

But the frequency and ferocity of the attacks have declined. Observes one local politician: "At certain rallies, in the heat of local campaigns there are likely to be anti-Harvard groups, they [the political candidates] may make anti-Harvard speeches. But it has to be very limited, and, in my opinion, subterranean. People don't make public blasts that they might make to small groups or a neighborhood gathering."

What has, in fact, evolved from the mixing of the traditional hostility and the more recent growth of contact has been a distinct ambivalence in City-University relationships. Where contact has been made on an individual basis, the hostility has often been put aside. Thus, PBH has been able to make long lists of friends. But where Harvard has emerged as an "Institution," the hostility--or at least much of it--remains. Watching a protest march down Massachusetts Ave. this spring most Cambridge spectators could murmur nothing but disgust. They identified the marchers with Harvard, and clearly they didn't like what was coming from the Square. It is also Harvard, the "institution," that can be bandied around in informal political discussions, and therefore it is in this context that anti-Harvard statements can be most effective.

Greater Interest

Part of the improvement in University-City relations can be attributed to a greater interest by many members of the Harvard community in what's going on in Cambridge. Yet, it would be easy to overestimate this interest (for most Harvard students, one suspects, "Central" is little more than a subway stop on the way to Boston), and it would be easy to ex-exaggerate its importance. Other forces also lie behind the change.

First, over the past three decades, the University has grown enormously. And as it has grown, it has become a larger and larger part of the City's life. Taken together with M.I.T., it has an extensive impact on the City's economy. It employs more people directly; and the people who live and work in the University support even a wider range of business activities. These people, says one politician, are basically loyal to the University. "As what we call the 'University-family' has grown, town-gown relations have correspondingly improved," he explains.

Second, the University has become more accessible since education in general is no longer considered the exclusive privilege of society's upper clause. "Many of the kids going to college now are struggling for an education...Back in the '30's, they were all millionaires," says another City official. Even those who criticize Harvard most would usually jump at the chance to send their children to the College.

And third, the current political style does not encourage anti-University harangues for their own sake. John F. Kennedy is cited as one man who bridged the University-City gap and made it less respectable to criticize one at the expense of the other. "As the educational institutions have grown," observes one long-time official, "politicians have read the hand-writing on the wall: they know that the institutions are becoming generally more influential."

But if these are plausible reasons for the easing of City-University relations, they do not reveal the dimensions of the University's own effort to make things better. In the last decade, Harvard has sought, and to a large extent, achieved a rapprochement with many of the City's politicians.

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There is no "political boss" in Cambridge, and the City's politics resembles a sputtering engine more than a smooth-operating machine. Each politician creates his own core of supporters, and each takes care of his own obligations. As a result, Cambridge politics is personalized politics, which exists on man-to-man contact and the trading of favors.

During the past decade, Harvard has cautiously ventured into the world of City government. It has done so largely through one man, Charles P. Whitlock. As assistant to the President for civic affairs, Whitlock has been Harvard's link to the City's patch-work politics. He attends meetings of the City Council and of many civic and neighborhood organizations. On almost all matters that involve Harvard and the City, he represents the University. But, more importantly, he has carefully cultivated the friendships of political and civic leaders.

When something bothers these men or they need something from Harvard, they go to Whitlock. Last winter, the daughter of one Cambridge City Councillor decided to study in Widener Library; she was asked to leave by library officials because she did not attend the University. In ten minutes, her father was on the phone protesting to Whitlock. When a fire destroyed a Cambridge Church, the congregation wanted to see if one of its pictures would be worth restoring. Church leaders called Mayor Daniel J. Hayes; Hayes called Whitlock, and Whitlock called Seymour Slive, professor of Fine Arts, to ask him to study the painting.

Job Requests

Whitlock receives job requests and pleas for help in getting Cambridge youths into the College or graduate schools. In many of these instances, he acts just like many other people in and out of Cambridge politics: he provides information and directs his friends to the proper place in the Harvard bureaucracy.