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Harvard Explains Film Cancellation, Fears Tax-Status


Representatives from local theatres, House film societies and Harvard faculty yesterday shed new light on the cancellation of the University Film Societies summer series last Wednesday.

The series was cancelled by the University Council because it "obviously violates the guidelines" set by the Harvard Film Studies Council, Marshall Cohen, dean of the Summer School said last week. Representatives from some of the student film societies formed the Harvard Film Studies Council to work out a solution for problems created by the competition between various film societies and with the local theatres.

A major consideration has been the endangering of Harvard's tax-exempt status. Massachusetts law exempts buildings used solely for educational purposes from the property tax rolls. James A. Sharaf '59, Attorney in the Office of the General Counsel, said that he had told representatives of the Summer School and the University Film Society there may be "risks to the University," if film societies "show films on University property simply to provide entertainment."

Some of the student societies on campus last year showed commercial films similar to those running in local theaters, while the rest continued to run more esoteric or historical films. In May, the Film Studies Council drafted a set of Ground Rules, delimiting student operations to "films of a more educational or experimental nature." Several of the commercial societies helped draft the guidelines, but two societies showing the most commercial films--the Quincy Cinema Guild and Films across the River--did not participate.

University officials have not decided whether they will enforce the guidelines next fall. "At the moment it is an informal agreement. We have to get everybody back together in the fall to reconsider and fir it." Archie Epps, dean of Students said yesterday.

Ellen P. Weiss, instructor in Hum 197, the course in film analysis, describe the Film Studies Council, which must be approved by the CHUL before it becomes binding, as "in the process of ratification" and said that the series "had been cancelled in hopes of preserving the spirit of the agreements."

Weiss brought the agreement to the attention of the Summer School Administration, which decided last Wednesday to follow the agreement and cancel the summer series of popular films

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