Student leaders of the House and Neighborhood Development program (HAND) expressed concern for the fate of their programs if the Office of Public Service (OPS), which over sees HAND, is not kept operational for the rest of the school veal.
The University's ongoing reorganization of the public service structure at Harvard, most notably the appointment of Judith H. Kidd as the new assistant dean for public service, has made the late of OPS unclear.
Currently, there is no formal employment agreement extending beyond December between the University and Gail I. Epstein, the current director of OPS. Negotiations are ongoing.
"I think that a lot of things that could have happened in the past have been prevented by the OPS and their oversight," said Lynn M. Itagaki '96, a central coordinator of HAND. "The success of the HAND program has been this close association with the staff support. We can't change it in only two weeks [in December]."
"What we're really fighting for right now is time," she added.
John M. Mallers '96, also a central coordinator for HAND, said he is worried about what would happen to programs it both the staff support and student leaders changed at the same time.
"The most important things is having staff support who knows what they're doing and what has to be done to keep things going," Mallers said. "The way we switch coordinators at semester, the only person I can think of who knows what they need to know is Gail Epstem."
"We need to have her as an adviser and to continue on with the same responsibility and authority in order to preserve these things for next semester," he added.
The current tensions between the University and HAND have had detrimental effects on the ability of the program to organize service projects, the students said.
"The students themselves really don't know what's going to happen. They're worried," Itagaki said. "There's a feeling that we can't plan for the future because we don't know what our resources are going to be. I feel concerned because I can't tell them it will be okay."
"You need some sort of fundamental premise on which to base public service. The people who work the most with their programs should know what's best for their programs," Itagaki continued. "If the University is going to take that away from us, in the long run we are going to see the programs disintegrating."
Currently, HAND's funding is provided by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (IAS), but the actual money is disbursed by the OPS, which is where the HAND office is also located.
While leaders said they have been promised both funding and office space, they don't know where they will be able to pick up their money not where then office will be located.
"Through [Epstem's] office, we've always gotten out funding. There's been no mention of where the control of out funds would tall," Malleis said "We know it'd be coming from the IAS We just don't know where it would be disbursed."
Ultimately, students stress that they would like Epstem and her staff to stay because they have the experience and resources that HAND needs.
"It's not as if we are on a crusade because we are going to miss our friend Gail," Mallers said. "On a personal level, we do, but on a very important operational level. I can't foresee how we can continue in the fashion we've been going so far without her there."
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