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GSD Students, Faculty Urge Reform of Priorities To Make Design More Relevant to Urban Needs

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A statement distributed at Saturday's ground-breaking exercises for George Gund Hall, the new Graduate School of Design headquarters, called for a "reordering of priorities" to relate architectural education more closely with the nation's urban needs.

Nearly 90 students, staff, and Faculty members of the School signed the petition, which urged the GSD to recruit more economically-deprived students and teachers, and to end what the paper called "the traditional exclusion of black construction workers."

The position paper stressed the "primary" role of designers and planners in helping to solve the nation's urban problems. It charged, "our professions are largely irrelevant to the crisis of poverty and racial injustice."

Recruiting students and teachers from poor communities should be the first step, the petition said, "Probably no single step would do more over the short run to change the scope and direction of architecture and planning education," it said. It added that one-third of the $6 million earmarked for Gund Hall could have provided an annual scholarship fund of nearly $150,000 a year.

The paper also charged that racism persists in Harvard hiring practices. It pointed to the incongruity of "white only" or token integration employment practices with "construction of a building dedicated to solving our urban problems."

In addition, the position paper voiced objections to the design and the designer of the new building. "In many ways the building as proposed does not even conform to the basic requirements of a decent environment," it charged. The paper called the design "a monument to the high-handed system of Harvard decision-making."

President Pusey and the Corporation selected John H. Andrews a 1958 Design School honors graduate to designGund Hall despite a unanimous GSD faculty recommendation to hold a competition for the building's design.

The statement said, "The new building...helps to foster the illusion that our basic problems are caused by inadequate physical facilities, and not by more fundamental issues."

The students were barred from speaking at the proceedings by President Pusey, who they said called their request for microphone time "impolitic." They circulated the position paper before the exercises and at the site reception afterwards.

An open meeting sponsored by the GSD Student Senate will be held Wednesday evening in the Great Space in Robinson Hall to discuss the hiring of black and other minority group workers for the project. Acting dean Maurice D. Kilbridge will attend.

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