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Benefits Deficit Raises Anxiety and Questions

The recent revelation that the University benefits program is suffering from a $52 million deficit has raised anxiety--and questions.

The University benefits program provides health care and pension plans for University employees. Four years ago. the benefits program had s solid reserve; now it is in a spiral of debt that appears will not end without serious reform of the benefits system.

A committee has been formed under Provost Jerry R. Green several months ago to make the necessary reform--which in this case most likely means cuts. And these cuts will come in a very sensitive area, the benefits that many employees and their families rely on.

Given the gravity of the financial shortfall, Green's task force must move with speed. Yet given the gravity of the cuts to be made, the task force must engage in serious consultation with the affected groups namely Harvard employees.

The task force has formed several advisory groups to help them but many are still nervous "This looks like a process that a small group of top-level highly paid administrators are trying to control very tightly," said Bill Jaeger, the director of the Harvard Union of Clerical and Technical Workers."

When the decisions on how to trim the benefits program are finally made, it is proper and essential that top-level administrators make them. but these administrators owe it to Harvard's workers to take their concerns seriously. Whether they will do so remains to be seen. The advisory groups in place could either be a tool for substantive consultation, or a facade for a closed process.

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