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HSA: How Spotless Is the Linen?

NEWS ANALYSIS

By Samuel Z. Goldhaber

Michael L. Ryan '72, president of Harvard Student Agencies, will be taking a leave of absence this semester to continue working as President of HSA on a full-time basis. He said that his term of office ends May 31 and that he will not run for re-election.

Under a special arrangement, Ryan will receive more than $1600 in extra pay to supplement his current $30 per week salary.

Ryan will draw his additional salary by taking one-fourth of the paycheck of Andrew W. Nelson, the full-time adult general manager of HSA. The University, through the committee on Financial Aid, pays half of Nelson's salary. Thus the Financial Aid committee will be paying half of Ryan's supplemental income.

Nelson has been seriously ill during the past four months. He is now back at work full-time and said, "Michael has responded above and beyond the call of duty."

Nelson's annual salary is almost $20,000. R. Jerrold Gibson '51, director of student employment, explained why the University contributes about $10,000 yearly to the HSA adult general manager's salary.

"We are trying to provide student wages for people on financial aid. If there wasn't any University involvement, there's some question about whether HSA could use the Harvard name. We'd have no leverage to get these students jobs," Gibson said. He added that the $10,000 contribution to Nelson's salary is supposed to work with a multiplier effect, and eventually generate jobs paying many tens of thousands of dollars.

Critics of Harvard Student Agencies have argued that HSA is an inefficient conglomeration of student businesses which hides behind the shield of a Harvard-enforced monopoly while it enjoys the luxuries and benefits of the Harvard name.

During the past four years, HSA has been characterized as a secretive organization where a few managers, some of them not on scholarship, receive a disproportionate share of the profits. Preliminary investigation has indicated that these charges may be substantive.

HSA, legally a non-profit agency, was founded in 1957 and is now made up of 13 or so individual divisions: birthday cakes, blotters, catering, charter flights, Europe by car, guided tours, linen, moving, painting, publishing, refrigerators, rings and union news.

Overseeing these operations is a Board of Directors with 21 members: seven members of the business community, seven University administrators and seven students. The president of HSA, currently Ryan, is elected from these seven students.

Ryan, Gibson and Nelson, in a 90-minute interview last week, conceded that non-scholarship students take in between one-quarter and one-third of the wages and salaries.

"I periodically check the payrolls against the scholarship lists," Gibson said. "This is both an informal and a regular process. It's a running compromise between, keeping the jobs open, keeping the scholarship kids in, and keeping the agencies viable."

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