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Museum Fax Details Disclosed

Assistant Says Stager Prevented Unauthorized Solicitations

By Alessandra M. Galloni

In an interview this week, the assistant to the Semitic Museum director disclosed new details about the transcription of faxed correspondence which has prompted criticism of the museum director's conduct.

Eileen Caves, assistant to Dorot Professor of the Archaeology of Israel Lawrence E. Stager '65, said Stager resorted to copying the fax carbons when he suspected there had been unauthorized fundraising during the previous summer. Stager had announced in the spring of 1992 that there should be no fundraising without his or the Dean of the Faculty's authorization.

Stager read the faxed correspondence without the knowledge of the Semitic Museum staff members who had written or received the material.

Caves said she often replaces the museum's fax cartridge and throws the old one in the waste basket, where it remains until it is emptied the following morning.

She said that one day early this semester, she noticed faxed materials could be read off the carbon if held up to the light. Some of the faxed correspondence, Caves said, looked like solicitations to museum donors which Stager had not seen.

"When I first talked to [Stager] about the carbons, he talked to the general counsel's office and asked them if it was against the law," Caves said Wednesday. The general counsel's office classified the carbon as "abandoned material that was left in a public place" and said it was therefore public information, Caves said.

"It's not like we went and opened their mail," Caves said. "It's not against the law."

Museum staff members have strongly objected to what they saw as an invasion of privacy.

"I can't believe this happened especially in an academic setting," Elizabeth Thyne, the museum's program and development coordinator, said last month. "We are horrified."

Caves acknowledged that reading the carbons may not have been the best course of action.

"He should have requested [the correspondence]," Caves said. "But I don't think he had a hope or prayer of getting it."

Caves said that tensions between the museum staff and the director over the museum's $1 million cumu- lative deficit had severely reduced the chancesfor candid communication between Stager and thestaff. Reading the faxes was the only way to findout about possible unauthorized fundraising, shesaid.

"I wouldn't have done it," Caves added. "But wewere desperate."

Stager could not be reached for comment lastnight.

Caves said the letters she copied from the faxmachine's carbons revealed that several staffmembers had been soliciting funds for the museum,despite the restrictions placed on fundraising.

"[Stager] was trying to stay on top of what wasgoing on," Caves said. "He wanted to try toconsolidate fundraising...and as director heshould have the right of review."

Staff members, who were laid off last month asa result of the advisory committee's report, havewritten several letters to the administration andto the general counsel's office and many say theywill try to pursue the fax privacy matter evenafter they leave Harvard on December 17.

University Attorney Allen A. Ryan Jr. would notcomment yesterday on the legality of transcribingthe faxes

"I wouldn't have done it," Caves added. "But wewere desperate."

Stager could not be reached for comment lastnight.

Caves said the letters she copied from the faxmachine's carbons revealed that several staffmembers had been soliciting funds for the museum,despite the restrictions placed on fundraising.

"[Stager] was trying to stay on top of what wasgoing on," Caves said. "He wanted to try toconsolidate fundraising...and as director heshould have the right of review."

Staff members, who were laid off last month asa result of the advisory committee's report, havewritten several letters to the administration andto the general counsel's office and many say theywill try to pursue the fax privacy matter evenafter they leave Harvard on December 17.

University Attorney Allen A. Ryan Jr. would notcomment yesterday on the legality of transcribingthe faxes

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