PBH, Harvard at Odds Over Volunteer Program

The Phillips Brooks House (PBH) Association the College's 800 members students service organization, is engaged in a heated dispute with Harvard administrators over a new College program that PBH fears may interfere with its efforts.

PBH officials said yesterday that Harvard's new Public Service Program a University funded program that College officials plan to unveil tomorrow could undermine its own attempts to spark similar public service activity among undergraduates.

They also charged that John B. Fox Jr. dean of the College broke a film pledge made last year to coordinate the Harvard program's efforts with those of PBH.

Harvard's program developed by a panel of College officials after President Bok voiced concern last year over the level of public service activity among undergraduates would enlist students to help meet "community needs" through a series of House based groups. Each House would apparently be responsible for dispatching undergraduate volunteers to different Cambridge or Boston communities.

"Why didn't they (College Officials) look at existing volunteers programs such as (those at PBH) and augment them instead" Ellyn J. Kestnbaum '83 president of PBH said yesterday she added that she doubts whether Harvard's fledgling program can succeed without cooperating with PBH.


But Fox denied yesterday that he had ever promised PBH that the College's public service program would be coordinated with PBH. He voiced confidence that the two programs can succeed separately.

Fox, who chaired the six man committee appointed by Bok that fashioned Harvard's program explained that he could not believe that providing more opportunities for students to engage in public service activities should undermine the major agency involved in these activities already.

And Ann M. Wacker Fox's choice to head the program said recently that she also sees no problems resulting from the programs over lap. "We are recruiters and conscience raisers," she said of Harvard's project.

But PBH's Kestnbaum expressed fear that the students the College program attracts will not develop a long-term commitment to public service in the Cambridge area, and that the new initiative could raise community expectations and then fail to fulfill them.

By contrast, she said, PBH's efforts have been consistently sustained. The group which supports itself financially assists children refugees inmates in addition to people who are mentally or physically handicapped.

"PBH has the staff to nurture a relationship with the Community by preparing the workers and following up to make sure that the community is happy with the program," Kestnbaum said.

Fox, however, said Harvard's project which apparently would seek to help similarly disadvantaged groups would actually benefit from the flexibility it allows participants. He said the College program would allow students to devote as little as one or two hours a week in Cambridge neighborhoods.

Because the College program would employee two people Wacker and Wayne Meisel--Kestnbaum said she doubts the program could effectively reach out into Cambridge communities.

Meisel, however stressed that the two groups have similar goals and that he and Wacker will seek to coordinate efforts informally with PBH. The advantage of the Harvard set up he said is that it might induce students reluctant to become heavily involved in PBH to do community work.

"The ideals are basically the same love for your neighbor humanity brotherhood," he added.

Harvard's program is being subsidized by a special discretionary fund at Bok's disposal after which time it is expected to become either self supporting or to disperse. The project is receiving $2000 in University funds this year. The office of Career Services and Off Campus Learning will work with the project to enlist the help of students taking leaves of absence.

Bok first voiced interest in a public service project last fall, when he unexpectedly told a meeting of House masters that he was concerned about self centered behavior by undergraduates and in particular with insensitive behavior on campus