It is with great concern that we look to the future of public service at Harvard. While the programs are stronger than ever, the apparent restructuring of the Philips Brooks House Association (PBHA) under the guise of a search for an Assistant Dean threatens the very foundations of PBHA.
The 80-plus programs of PBHA, which include over 1,700 students serving more than 10,000 clients in greater Boston, are at the forefront of University-based public service. PBHA is cited by Eli Segal, chief executive officer of the Corporation for National Service, and others as a model for the nation. The programs are offered repeatedly by University public relations and development officials as testimony to Harvard's commitment to its neighboring communities.
Despite this success for the past 10 years, PBHA has been subject to intensive review, scrutiny and interrogation by committees and administrators, most recently by the Maull-Lewis Committee on the Structure of Harvard College. Although some of the recommendations of the Maull-Lewis report were positive, and in particular we support the efforts to permanently fund the Philips Brooks House (PBH) staff, many other aspects are problematic. Further, the Committee's lack of attention to and consultation with student leaders, community members and other officials and human service professionals during the review process make us wonder how and why the Committee could make some of its recommendations at all.
As the search proceeds for the new position of Assistant Dean for Public Service and Director of PBH, we feel that our good faith has continually been tested. Specific recommendations from students and staff that the job title not include "Director of PBH" were ignored. The new job title implies that the search is for a person to take the position that we feel is already quite cabaply filled by the current Director of PBH, Greg Johnson '72. Recommendations for the search committee solicited from students and Association Committee (advisory board) members were also ignored. Opinions of inidivudals with extensive national experience in human service work and administrative experience at Harvard were rejected. This seeking of only token input is insulting. It does not bode well for the successful conclusion of the process.
The new job description is almost the same as that of the current Director. We want to believe that this search has not been an effort to restructure individuals out of their jobs. It is disturbing that Johnson might be removed from his post despite his extraordinary contributions to University-based public service, not only at Harvard but also nationwide. That this could happen is an affront to student and community autonomy over the program, which is the soul of PBHA. We fear that the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) is not properly supporting PBHA.
As members of the PBHA family--students, alumni and supporters--we sincerely hope that the search process will conclude in a way that will truly address the needs of PBHA students and community members. If not, and if student and community recommendations are ignored, PBHA, Inc., will take whatever steps are neceaary to ensure that its commitments to the communities served are secure. We hope that all members of the PBHA and Harvard communities express their concerns to FAS and that Harvard will take this opportunity to support public service not just in words, but in deeds. Ali S. A. Asani '77 Professor of the Practice of Indo-Muslim Languages and Culture Valerie Barton '86 PBHA President 1986 Robert Coles '50 Professor of Psychiatry and Medical Humanities Eric D. Dawson '96 PBHA Vice-President 1995 Francis H. Duehay '55 Cambridge City Councillor Andrew J. Ehrilich '96 PBHA Treasurer 1995 Henry Fernandez '89 PBHA Board of Directors 1988 Robert J. Kiely '60 Loker Professor of English John B. King '96-'95 PBHA President 1994 Charles J. Ogletree Jr. Professor of Law Vincent Pan '95-'96 PBHA President 1995 John Womack Jr. '59 Bliss Professor of Latin American History and Economics