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Cambridge in the 70s


By Robert Decherd

Harvard released a 24-page report outlining its responsibilities in the Cambridge community Wednesday. The report is the outgrowth of a nine-month study by the Office of Government and Community Affairs, and under the surface of some high-blown rhetoric, it has several interesting things to say about Harvard's new motion of itself as the city's dominant institution.

Actually, the rhetorical lapsers in the report are scarce: Its foreword holds that Harvard's responsibility "is based upon moral commitment, enlightened self interest and the knowledge that today urban institutions neither can nor should live in isolation from their surrounding communities." A lofty notion, but not as vital to a Cambridge working man as the pledges which follow.

In the body of the report. Harvard vows not to purchase residential property in Cambridge beyond set boundaries until a long-range study detailing its needs for 1980 is completed in June 1974. Moreover, it freezes the graduate student population and guarantees compensatory new housing for increases in the number of undergraduates.

The report assigns Harvard's future role in community housing to the auspices of the Cambridge Corporation--an independent organization operating from a $600,000 joint grant from Harvard and MIT. It says the Cambridge Corporation is "the vital element in Cambridge housing" and it assumes a hands-off policy as the sole developer of housing projects. This policy does not, however, preclude Harvard's assistance in subsidizing housing projects.

Perhaps the most intriguing statement in the report is that Harvard "wants to divest itself of residential property not essential to its own needs, stipulating that purchasers must be present tenants or others interested in owner-occupancy."

Also, the report says that it examination of a given property "does not show good reasons for continued ownership. Harvard will sell." The Cambridge Corporation, again, will act as an adviser in selling decisions.

The Daly Report (after Charles U. Daly, vice-president for Government and Community Affairs) also generalizes about Harvard's determination to increase community medical service available throughout the city. It reveals that the Federal Reserve Bank is currently studying ways to spread ways to spread the burden of Harvard's enormous tax exemptions more equitably, while protecting the principle of tax exemptions for Massachusetts educational institutions. It promises greater access to Harvard facilities for Cambridge residents, increased efforts to employ minority personnel from the surrounding community, and further efforts to provide day care facilities in University buildings.

All in all, the Daly report reflects a willingness on the part of the Bok administration to meet problems head on, and to seek fair solutions to them. This aggressiveness in turn represents a marked shift from the last five years of the administration of President Emeritus Nathan M. Pusey '28. Because the shift is so dramatic, restatements of Harvard's position must be general and cautious in tone.

This generality is evident throughout the Daly Report, and it forces a wait-and-see approach to the report's central contentions. For example, the report notes in bold types: "Caution: the University is not sure at this time if the properties for sale will number one or as many as 30 or 40, so planning details of any sale would be premature pending completion of the (1974) basic study."

Thus, while the report makes noble vows about selling property for which there is "no good reason for continued ownership," it puts off until 19"4 the first sale and makes no specific delineation of what are "good reasons for continued ownership."

For the most part, the report tries to specify Harvard's exact position on particular issues. The problem lies in the fact that most of the issues are still diffused, and Harvard is falling back to a role of "co-planner". It doesn't want to make too many initiatives for fear of being accused of pressure politics. This is at once a frustrating and a convenient role, depending on intent. Assuming for the moment that Harvard's intentions are the best--and there can be no doubt that Bok and Daly have brought the University a long was from 1969--it will be at least 1974 before Cambridge knows whether Harvard will make good on the pledges embodies in the Daly report.

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