News

The New Gen Ed Lottery System, Explained

News

Armed Individuals Sighted in Harvard Square Arraigned

News

Harvard Students Form Coalition Supporting Slave Photo Lawsuit's Demands

News

Police Apprehend Armed Man and Woman in Central Square

News

107 Faculty Called for Review of Tenure Procedures in Letter to Dean Gay

Come Join Us at the Table

GUEST COMMENTARY

By Vin Pan

Very recently, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 and Theda Skocpol, chair of the committee on Public Service released a statement titled "Harvard's Commitment to Voluntary Public Service" in an attempt to alleviate what they say are unnecessary fears among student volunteers and people in the Cambridge and Boston communities. The statement ran on this page last week and made an appearance in dining halls last Thursday night.

Although some of the assurances regarding continued support levels are quite comforting, particularly as undergraduate leadership attempts to find meaningful solutions to long-standing historical and structural tensions between Phillips Brooks House Assocation, Inc. (PBHA) and the University, the release is at best incomplete and misleading, and at worst manipulative and deceptive.

Essentially, in the last two years, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) has engaged in a lengthy process to fire the two most prominent, successful and senior public service administrators as retribution for their continued allegiance to the quality and integrity of public service programs rather than to the administrative and fiscal needs of the College and University administration.

Beyond the moral disgrace of covering up this "firing" as a "restructuring," the actions highlight the untenable and problematic relationship whereas PBHA, Inc. is supported by a staff which is controlled by Harvard's administration and therefore unable to advocate openly and honestly on PBHA's behalf.

In August 1994, FAS issued a report regarding public service at the College co-authored by Nancy Maull, administrative dean, and Professor Lewis, prior to his appointment as the dean of the College. The main thrust of the report was that there was "confusion" between the "divide" in public service staff between the Phillips Brooks House (PBH) and the Office of Public Service Programs (OPS). It recommended that the two Director positions at both offices be eliminated and that a new "Assistant Dean of Public Service and Director of Phillips Brooks House" position be created, while making a commitment to maintain current staffing.

Yet in reality, the two offices were working already quite closely and efficiently and were not duplicating efforts or systems. The staff at the OPS consisted of only two individuals, compared to PBH's 10, and it was not a separate parallel structure. In fact, the Mather Housing and Neighborhood Development (HAND) program, which was larger than all of the other of the house-based programs combined, joined PBHA to ensure that duplication would not occur. In addition, although the report supposedly sought to address the "divide" between PBH and non-PBH structures, the review failed to consult any students involved in HAND, CityStep, or FUP as to what effect these changes might have on their programs.

Those most knowledgeable about public service--the undergraduate leadership, staff, alum, and advisory board members--made a simple suggestion: rename either the Director of PBH position or the Director of OPS position to include the assistant dean title, thus elevating either of the two current individuals to supervise the other.

The move towards increased administrative unity could continue, especially if the third floor of the physical Phillips Brooks House, which had been seized by the FAS for their own office space, could be once again used for public service to house the individuals and programs formerly at OPS. In this manner, a lengthy and time-consuming search process would not be necessary--and the individuals who had increased volunteer involvement from 200 to 2,000 would not be forced to reapply for their jobs.

These suggestions were made known to all members of the administration--including members of the faculty via the distribution of letters at a full faculty meeting. However, members of the administration publicly insisted that a search process was absolutely necessary and had to be commenced.

The only concession that the administration was willing to make was to address the transition from old to new structures. They promised that the new assistant dean would be working by July 1995 and have the opportunity not only to observe the operations of the PBHA summer programs, but also to assess the existing structures until July 1996. This promise has been broken as the new dean is arriving six months late, having no substantive knowledge of our summer programming, and the two senior positions will be eliminated at the end of the month when the new dean arrives.

In terms of the search process itself, we have numerous grievances. All seven of the professors suggested by PBHA to serve on the search committee were denied--including individuals such as Agee Professor of Public Service Robert Coles and Adams House Master and HAND advisor Robert Kiely. The recommendation of Anne Peretz, chair of the PBHA advisory board, that Cambridge City Councillor Frank H. Duehay '55 represent the advisory board on the search committee was also denied.

Instead, a committee was appointed consisting mainly of administrators who did not have public service as their first priority and had no expertise in the area of public service. This was reflected by the disgraceful attendance records of some members. One further recommendation, that the position of "Director of Phillips Brooks House" be eliminated from the description of the new "Assistant Dean for Public Service"--given that there already existed a Director of PBH and that the new Assistant Dean might not see fit to eliminate that position--was also denied.

Dean Lewis' final choice for the new position betrayed the recommendations of those involved in public service--including both undergraduates who served on the search committee, all six undergraduate public service leaders and all three public service leaders and all three public service staff members who, as a group, interviewed the finalists.

Members of the PBHA advisory board who had the opportunity to interview the finalists outside of the search committee also disapproved of the decision. In fact, Harvard's public service community was unanimous in finding Judith Kidd to be the least qualified of all the four finalists. However qualified or unqualified the external candidates, it was clear that the internal candidates did not have a chance and were simply passed along to the final stages for political reasons. In fact, the two advisory board members were not even asked to meet with the internal finalists.

Therefore, throughout the entire "restructuring" process, the blatant disregard for the entire public service community provided more evidence to reveal what past leaders and current advisors had already told me: the entire process was little more than an insidious and dishonest move to fire existing public service staff in order to gain control over public service and PBHA.

My purpose in itemizing the numerous affronts to the public service community and its undergraduate leadership over the last two years is not one of vengeance, but of education. An understanding of the underlying machinations behind these affronts is essential if the debate over the future of public service is to be honest.

Lewis and Skocpol claim that the "modest changes being made now should not disrupt any existing public service activity or program," which implies that Professor Coles, Master Kiely, Councillor Duehay, the Mayor of Cambridge Kenneth Reeves '72 and 1,500 to 2,000 undergraduates, were all simply deluded in the outrage they expressed at last Thursday's rally. When an objective viewer begins to consider the experience, knowledge and personal investment of those who are most upset, delusions seem unlikely. Given Lewis and Skocpol's relative inexperience regarding Harvard public service, their evaluation is much harder to believe.

Even my personal experience as PBHA President predates that of Lewis in his post as dean of the College, Skocpol's post as chair of the new FAS committee, and obviously, Kidd in her post as assistant dean. This lack of knowledge and expertise is revealed in their claims that the College has recently stepped up its support for public service.

The opposite is the case. Last year, the College continued its cut backs in funding for student programs, decreasing by 30 percent the funds available from the President's Public Service Fund. In the past several years, the Harvard Insurance office has decreased its subsidies by nearly $50,000. And of course, despite promises to return the area to public service, FAS still occupies the third floor of Phillips Brooks House.

The problem between the College and public service is not between OPS and PBH, but between PBHA, Inc. and the University. The existing irrational structure of PBH operations leaves all the programs and budgets under the control of the students of PBHA, Inc., but leaves the staff accountable to the Dean of the College, who pays their salaries. What this means is that the staff is caught between the demands of the College and PBHA, Inc., which the search process has once again rev are often not the same.

The address this historical problem, the PBHA leadership has tried over the last six months to resolve the problem with a dismissive administration. We have met with the President, the Provost, the Vice-President of Government and Community Affairs, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Dean of the College, the new Assistant Dean of Public Service and the Chair of the FAS Committee on Public Service. However, we found an administration unwilling to take our concerns seriously.

In response, PBHA, Inc. has resolved to employ its own staff and remedy the longstanding tension between PBHA, Inc, and the administration. We have done this in the spirit of student initiative and with the support of prominent community leaders, faculty, alumni and the Boston and Cambridge City Councils.

Last week, the PBHA leadership formally invited representatives from Harvard's public service community, including the administration, to help us arrive at a responsible and agreeable governing structure that would bear responsibility for supervising PBHA's paid staff employees. We have enlisted a professional consultant and legal advisor, and we hope to sit at the table with the administration to reach a mutually agreeable governing board.

If Lewis and Skocpol are committed to the health of student-run community service, as they claim, then they must begin to recognize and listen to the serious demands of the students and communities who are Harvard public service. We call on them to develop with us a workable governing structure that will reflect the needs of the administration and the public service community.

Vin Pan '95-'96 is President of Phillips Brooks House Association, Inc.

The address this historical problem, the PBHA leadership has tried over the last six months to resolve the problem with a dismissive administration. We have met with the President, the Provost, the Vice-President of Government and Community Affairs, the Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, the Dean of the College, the new Assistant Dean of Public Service and the Chair of the FAS Committee on Public Service. However, we found an administration unwilling to take our concerns seriously.

In response, PBHA, Inc. has resolved to employ its own staff and remedy the longstanding tension between PBHA, Inc, and the administration. We have done this in the spirit of student initiative and with the support of prominent community leaders, faculty, alumni and the Boston and Cambridge City Councils.

Last week, the PBHA leadership formally invited representatives from Harvard's public service community, including the administration, to help us arrive at a responsible and agreeable governing structure that would bear responsibility for supervising PBHA's paid staff employees. We have enlisted a professional consultant and legal advisor, and we hope to sit at the table with the administration to reach a mutually agreeable governing board.

If Lewis and Skocpol are committed to the health of student-run community service, as they claim, then they must begin to recognize and listen to the serious demands of the students and communities who are Harvard public service. We call on them to develop with us a workable governing structure that will reflect the needs of the administration and the public service community.

Vin Pan '95-'96 is President of Phillips Brooks House Association, Inc.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags