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Persistent Creditors Speak Up

By George K. Sweetnam

Massachusetts Fair Share is providing very persistent in its efforts to keep the issue to Harvard's payments to the City of Boston before the public.

More than a year ago, the citizen action group asked President Bok to meet with it and, discuss its demands. This fall, it sent him a similar, letter, calling on Harvard to increase its current payments of more than $2 million to a total of more than $5 million.

Although University-owned property is legally tax-exempt, the group asserts that Harvard should boost its payment to compensate for the city services on which it draws.

The group's latest letter, mailed Tuesday, goes even further than the first two. It asks that Bok attend a public meeting in early December to discuss Harvard's payments.

Although Bok has consistently referred the group to Robin Schmidt, vice president for government and community affairs, group members have indicated that they will keep trying to see Bok.

Their letter states, "We feel that the issue is important enough, and the interest in it significant enough, that we would like to invite you and the members of the Corporation to a public meeting."

This week, the group opened a whole new line of attack. With the aid of Boston City Council President Joseph M. Tierney, Fair Share put a resolution on the council's agenda asking Harvard to boost its payment to the level the citizens' group has suggested.

From an election-season point of view, Boston city councilors have everything to gain by supporting a resolution that asserts, somewhat ungrammatically, "The spiralling property, tax rate of the City of Boston puts undue hardship on city taxpayers, compounding their payments to the city by their indirect subsidization of tax-exempt institutions."

The council will probably pass the resolution next week, but Harvard officials need not be very worried. The resolution will be a formal request, not a binding rule.

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