To the Editors of the Crimson:
An article you published on March 16 may have led some readers to believe that Harvard Real Estate, Inc. played only a minor role in the assault and battery" charges made against me recently by one of their workmen. The facts tell a different story.
1. Immediately after the incident the workmen complained to the police only that I had "violated his personal space." Assault and battery was invented later in the day, presumably after he had consulted with his superiors at HRE. (I called police after the workman, wielding a 2-by-4, threatened to hit me. It was the impression of witnesses that the workman made the comment about his "space" to try to explain his threat.)
2. Two days after the incident I received a two-page letter from HRE's attorney, Mr. Daniel Polvere, writing, he said, for "Harvard Real Estate, Inc., managing agent for President [sic] and Fellows of Harvard College, your landlord." Mr. Polvere threatened to evict me and my family from our apartment, accused me of assaulting and battering" the workman, and accused me of placing debris on my stairway (and presumably on my head, where some debris happened to fall as I was leaving my building) "to fabricate the appearance that debris was falling on the steps or was being left there." (He forgot, for some reason, to mention the latter claim in court.) He also made a rather expansive threat: "We must advise you that any further conduct by you which interferes with legitimate interests of Harvard will not be tolerated."
3. Mr. Polvere represented the workman in court. As you correctly reported, his fees were paid for by Harvard Real Estate, Inc.
4. Mr. Polvere and the workman came to the court with six other people: the three other workmen who were at the scene (which makes sense), and two administrators and an office worker employed by Harvard Real Estate, Inc.--Ms. Lorraine Wade, her secretary, and Mr. David Zewinski.
5. The assault and battery charge was the basis of some fancy legal maneuvering, implying that there was little substance to the charge itself and that it was merely a means to an end. Polvere offered the following "deal": the workman would drop his charge if a) I would drop my charge against him, b) I would apologize for my alleged wrongdoing, c) I would promise not to talk to the press. (Are these concerns of the workman or of HRE?)
As I made a matter of public record at the hearing, it's clear to me that the "assault and battery" was fabricated by Harvard Real Estate, Inc. to intimidate me and to keep me from continuing to assert my rights as a tenant. This is not the first time that HRE has tried to bully a tenant into keeping quiet.
I am flattered, in a way, by the claim that I could somehow put a club-wielding workman, in the presence of three of his friends, in fear of bodily harm. I won't embarrass myself here with too strenuous a denial. I will note only that when I told John Marquand about the charge, he laughed himself half way across the Yard.
As a loyal alumnus, I am ashamed that the University is associated with an organization as corrupt and heavy-handed as Harvard Real Estate, Inc. HRE has not only intimidated thousands of Cambridge residents, including several city council members and the last mayor (consider Francis Duehay's letter of 7/15/81 to President Bok), it has embarrassed or angered hundreds of area alumni and faculty and other members of the Harvard community. It is a blight on the University, which, I hope, will soon disappear. Robert Epstein, Ph.D. '81