The new Harvard academic office building planned for construction together with the Kennedy Library will not be an international studies center as originally intended by the University administration.
The rationale for raising 60 per cent of the funds which are still earmarked by Harvard for constructing its facility was centralization of the University's diverse regional study centers. But now it appears that most of the Government and Economics Departments along with the Center for International Affairs (CFIA) will be at the Charles River site--without any unifying academic purpose for the building.
A recent survey of key faculty and administrators by The Crimson shows that the proposed movement of the CFIA from Divinity Ave. to the Kennedy complex would in fact physically split international studies at Harvard leaving the Middle Eastern, Russia. West European and East Asian Centers located northeast of the Yard.
But the administration insists on moving the CFIA to maintain a pretense of an international flavor in the proposed building.
The survey also shows that the Economics and Government Departments are unenthusiastic about moving to the proposed river site, and will go mainly because they are being told to do so by the administration.
What emerges is a picture of University expansion, adding 2.2 acres of prime land near the Square, without any present compelling reason for the proposed construction.
The full story starts in 1965 when the Massachusetts legislature gave the federal government land for building a Kennedy Library complex. Architect I.M. Pei developed a plan dividing the 12.2 acre Charles River site--now occupied by the Bennett-Eliot MBTA Yards--into four sections--5.3 acres for the Kennedy museum, archives, plaza and Institute of Politics; 3 acres for related facilities; 1.7 acres for street improvements; and 2.2 acres for Harvard construction.
However, none of the construction under this plan can begin until the federal government completes an Environmental Impact Statement on the effect of the Library on the Harvard Square area.
Harvard is entitled to its 2.2 acres thanks to an agreement reached between the Kennedy family and the University in the mid-sixties. In exchange for the gift of land, Harvard promised to erect an academic building on the site in conjunction with the rest of the complex which will be funded by the Kennedy Corporation.
If the environmental statement is favorable and construction gets the go-ahead, Harvard will spend over $10 million to purchase the land and build its academic facility. Yet little has been said about Harvard's plans for its building.
The media has described Harvard's facility as the Kennedy School of Government, a convenient label because of the Kennedy name. In reality few faculty members belong exclusively to this school, but are members of the Economic and Government Departments with joint appointments to the School of Government.
To support their position advocates of the new building have downplayed expansion and stressed both a need for centralizing the Government and Economics Department and the benefit of having faculty concerned with international affairs in the same place.
However, the primary impetus for this building comes from University administrators who see the Harvard portion of the Kennedy Library site as the last chance for significant University expansion in a tightening Cambridge land market.
In deciding which departments would be at the river site, academic priorities such as creating a center for the study of international problems and other faculty concerns are being sacrificed by the administration.
The University politics behind plans for the new building are complex. The architects have not yet presented Harvard with the interior designs for the academic facility, but the issues and faculty sentiment have already begun to crystallize.
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