In a decision pitting tradition against technological progress, Harvard administrators chose Wednesday to abandon a plan to install a communications satellite on the roof of Massachusetts Hall.
"Our consensus is that the dish, while not visible from a public way, is historically inappropriate to the building as viewed from the Straus Courtyard," Edith C. Groden, a construction project manager at Harvard Real Estate, wrote in a letter to Charles Sullivan, executive director of the Cambridge Historical Commission.
A hearing before the commission on the feasibility of placing the 18- inch satellite dish on the roof of Mass. Hall, home to Harvard's president, provost, and vice presidents, had been scheduled for June I.
According to Joe Wrinn, acting director of the Harvard News Office, administrators are looking for ways to watch breaking news and events featuring alumni.
"We're all looking for efficient ways to monitor communication,:" Wrinn said.
In particular, Wrinn said Vice President of Government, Community and Public Affairs James H. Rowe III '73 wants access to CNN, C-Span and other news networks.
Installing cable television is not a feasible option, Wrinn said, and so administrators looked into satellite possibilities.
But the satellite dish--which was to be placed on the southeast corner of the building's roof--would have altered the building's appearance, wrinn said.
According to Sullivan, Harvard Yard is part of a protected historic district.
"Mass. Hall and the building of the Old Yard are all in the Old Cambridge historic district, which is a district enacted by the City Council to protect the buildings ' exterior appearance," Sullivan said.
"The commission has to find that [modification] are not incongruous," he said.
Local residents committed to preserving the Yard's historic character yesterday praised Harvard's decision.
Sheila G. Cook, a 75-year-old Follen St. resident, said installing a satellite dish in Harvard Yard is inappropriate.
"Why do you have to have a satellite?" she said. :"You do that where there are mountains and you can't get good reception."
She questioned whether administrators even need access to cable television.