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Alumni Form Group to Fight Union Changes

Hope to Preserve Historic Great Hall

By Jay S. Kimmelman

A group of more than 40 alumni, concerned by plans to divide the Harvard Freshman Union's Great Hall, have established a "Committee to Save the Great Hall of the Harvard Freshman Union."

Committee members' concerns are based on the planned renovations to the 1901 building, which was designed the firm McKim, Mead and White.

The plan for a new humanities center includes subdividing the Great Hall--or current main dining hall--into three main spaces and placing a reconfigured ceiling on the three spaces.

Construction is slated to begin on February 5, Capital Projects Manager Elizabeth L. Randall said yesterday.

According to committee member H.A. Crosby Forbes '50, the committee is made up of alumni, members of the University community and friends of Harvard.

The committee will "go to President [Neil L.] Rudenstine and explain to him that there is a growing sense amongst alumni that the irreversible damage to the Union is short-sighted and would be a loss both to Harvard and the Nation," Forbes said.

"Hopefully the University will realize that these people are giving good counsel and advice, feeling that the administration should seriously consider going back to the original plan to preserve the hall and relocate offices in other spaces," Forbes said.

The committee, chaired by weed Roosevelt '64 (great-grandson of Theodore Roosevelt, who donated the antler chandeliers which illuminate the Great Hall), was formed late last month.

"We would like to see the character of the hall preserved," Roosevelt said. "We understand that the University needs to put together the Humanities department. That's not a problem."

Roosevelt said he believes renovations to Memorial Hall have distracted alumni from the issue of the Great Hall.

"We believe that alumni have been focusing on Memorial Hall and not realizing that there will be substantial changes to the Union, and it will be irreversibly be destroyed," he said.

Forbes said the committee's first step is to inform the alumni and other concerned individuals, including architectural historians, of the plans to subdivide the Great Hall. A press release is scheduled to be sent out later this week.

In conjunction with the release, historians, Douglas Shand-Tucci '72, author of Built in Bostore, Margaret H. Floyd, author of a book on Harvard architectural history; and Leland M. Roth, professor of architectural history at the University of Oregon, are drafting a letter to Rudenstine asking him to halt the construction on the Union until there can be further discussion over the plans, Shand-Tucci said.

In the wake of the demolition of Carey Cage last November, Shand-Tucci said he hopes that Rudenstine will pay personal attention to the proposed changes to the Great Hall rather than leaving decisions to administrators.

"It is his moral responsibility as president of the University. He is a man noted for his interest in humanities, architecture and history," he said.

Rudenstine's office said yesterday that the president was out of the country and could not comment.

Among the members of the committee is Cambridge City Councillor Francis H. Duchay '55. Duchay said he joined the committee as "an expression of my opinion."

"I would hope that this leads to a change. If not, at least the opinions of the alumni will be known," he said.

Philip J. Parsons, director of planning for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) said that objections to the plan stem from confusion over the specific details of the project. Parsons said he thinks that critics are confused by an article published in the Boston Globe which gave an incomplete account of the plans.

According to Parsons, once critics see what is actually going to be done to the Union, they will be "happy about the plans."

Parsons said the committees formation may actually help to improve understanding of the project.

"There will always be some people who would like the place to stay exactly how it was, other will see it as a very carefully thought out process," he added.

In spite of the group's formation, it is unclear whether there still remains enough time to halt the planned construction.

At last month's Faculty meeting, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Jeremy R. Knowles indicated in response to a query that he did not expect the project to be stopped

Forbes said the committee's first step is to inform the alumni and other concerned individuals, including architectural historians, of the plans to subdivide the Great Hall. A press release is scheduled to be sent out later this week.

In conjunction with the release, historians, Douglas Shand-Tucci '72, author of Built in Bostore, Margaret H. Floyd, author of a book on Harvard architectural history; and Leland M. Roth, professor of architectural history at the University of Oregon, are drafting a letter to Rudenstine asking him to halt the construction on the Union until there can be further discussion over the plans, Shand-Tucci said.

In the wake of the demolition of Carey Cage last November, Shand-Tucci said he hopes that Rudenstine will pay personal attention to the proposed changes to the Great Hall rather than leaving decisions to administrators.

"It is his moral responsibility as president of the University. He is a man noted for his interest in humanities, architecture and history," he said.

Rudenstine's office said yesterday that the president was out of the country and could not comment.

Among the members of the committee is Cambridge City Councillor Francis H. Duchay '55. Duchay said he joined the committee as "an expression of my opinion."

"I would hope that this leads to a change. If not, at least the opinions of the alumni will be known," he said.

Philip J. Parsons, director of planning for the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) said that objections to the plan stem from confusion over the specific details of the project. Parsons said he thinks that critics are confused by an article published in the Boston Globe which gave an incomplete account of the plans.

According to Parsons, once critics see what is actually going to be done to the Union, they will be "happy about the plans."

Parsons said the committees formation may actually help to improve understanding of the project.

"There will always be some people who would like the place to stay exactly how it was, other will see it as a very carefully thought out process," he added.

In spite of the group's formation, it is unclear whether there still remains enough time to halt the planned construction.

At last month's Faculty meeting, Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Jeremy R. Knowles indicated in response to a query that he did not expect the project to be stopped

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