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Knowles Taciturn on Benefits Report

FAS Dean May Back Faculty Members' Recommendations

By Jonathan A. Lewin

Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles refused yesterday to take a stand on the recent report of the Faculty Standing Committee on Benefits, but it seemed likely from the dean's comments in an interview that he will advise the Corporation to approve the committee's recommendations.

Knowles commissioned the committee's report last fall after faculty members expressed outrage over changes to fringe benefits which resulted from a report by the University Task Force on Benefits.

Professor of Sociology Peter V. Marsden, who chairs the standing benefits committee, said the committee's report calls for the Corporation to rescind a one percent reduction in pension contributions and delay the implementation date of the cap on retirement benefits by one year.

Knowles praised the committee's work, but was careful not to endorse its recommendations.

"The committee, after an extreme amount of work over the past two months, delivered on the appointed day--March 21--a very thoughtful and analytical report which was immediately sent to the members of the Corporation," Knowles said yesterday.

The Corporation, the more powerful of Harvard's two governing boards, must now decide whether to accept the committee's recommendations.

"The Corporation is going to have to deliberate on the report," Knowles said.

The dean acknowledged that he could endorse, criticize or make no judgment on the recommendations.

Knowles stressed several times that he is handling the issue carefully.

"How blunt you are, to whom, when depends on your character," he said.

But Knowles hinted that he does, in fact, support the report's position.

"If I thought it were a poor argument, would I have said it was thoughtful and analytical?" Knowles said. "I am relatively sparing with my praise."

Due to differing financial concerns, Knowles's loyalty to the Faculty and the University, normally at one, is split on this issue.

Knowles, who is appointed by and reports to President Neil L. Rudenstine, acknowledged that the University's interests are on his mind.

"I want the best solution both for the individual members of this community and the institution of a whole; that balance needs to be very carefully thought through," Knowles said.

"I am very concerned that a proper course be found," he added.

With at least several professors visibly upset about changes in their benefits, Knowles must consider his actions very carefully indeed.

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