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Alums Ask Rudenstine To Alter Union Plans

Group Frustrated by Impending Renovation

By Jay S. Kimmelman

In a last-ditch effort to stave off the impending renovations of the Freshman Union, a group of alums met in Mass. Hall on Monday afternoon with President Neil L. Rudenstine, Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles and Vice President for Development and Alumni Affairs Fred L. Glimp '50.

In the 50-minute meeting, the alums asked the administrators to reconsider their plans to subdivide the Great Hall of the Union into three sections.

The alums, all of whom are members of the Committee to Save the Great Hall of the Harvard Union, said that the meeting was cordial but disappointing.

"My clear impression is that their position is firm," said Tweed Roosevelt '64, the chair of the committee. "They are not willing to delay it."

But the committee members vowed to fight on.

"We are not happy with that and are continuing to pursue our efforts for them to reconsider the plans," he added.

Reached in his office last night, Knowles refused to answer any questions about the meeting. Rudenstine could not be reached for comment.

Administrators have previously defended the subdivision of the Great Hall, scheduled to begin later this month. They have said that the resulting Humanities Center will provide enormous academic benefits to the University.

According to Roosevelt, Rudenstine had clearly been considering the objections raised by the committee in letters and faxes sent to his office over the past few months.

But members of the committee said that they simply agreed to disagree with the administrators.

"We could see their point and they could see our point," committee Secretary H.A. Crosby Forbes '50 said.

According to several alums, Knowles was particularly upset when the alums described the razing of the Union as "irreversible."

"He made the point that someday the Great Hall could be rebuilt," Roosevelt added.

But the alums objected, saying that this month's renovations would leave the Great Hall permanently disfigured.

"If you wreck the roof, cut the room into three pieces, just leaving a small part of it, it seems pretty irreversible to me," Forbes said.

Other topics of discussion included alumni dissatisfaction with the overnight razing of Carey Cage and the criticism of the University's lack of publication concerning both this and the Great Hall.

The alums also showed the administrators a special report presented in 1952 to the Board of Overseers, Harvard's lesser governing board. The report outlined the need to replace Memorial Hall, but that idea was later discarded.

Committee members used the report to remind administrators of Harvard's history of preserving its architectural landmarks.

"Our position is still that this was a fairly well-intentioned but ill-advised approach to the problem," said Roosevelt.

'Black Eye?'

In the wake of the meeting, some of the committee members are criticizing the administration's stance as inflexible.

"I think the Harvard administration will get a black eye. As Harvard alumni across the country and around the world find out, I think there will be hell to pay," said Ormand de Kaye, a member of the committee who did not attend the meeting.

"President Rudenstine will go down as the president who trashed the Great Hall of the Harvard Union," de Kaye said.

Members of the committee said they respect the work that the University has done to preserve its architectural history in the past.

But Forbes said that Rudenstine appeared "distressed that he must preside over this type of program, one which obviously creates problems for him."

"[The University] has invested so much in the project, to reverse course would be something they don't like to think about," Forbes said.

Some members of the committee accused the administration of hiding from the public its true motives for refusing to halt the project.

"They seem to be absolutely intransigent," de Kaye said. "I can't help thinking that there are is a hidden agenda. Possibly there are outside pressures on President Rudenstine."

Forbes agreed.

"There seems to be something about this program that we don't understand the politics of," he said.

The Future

But the alums said they intend to continue the fight nonetheless.

They said they hope to tell their story to the national news media in an effort to inform other Harvard alums and other concerned individuals ignorant of the plans.

The alums will also continue to urge faculty members, alums, undergraduates and others to make their voices heard.

Indeed, Paul A. Spera, national commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, recently faxed a letter to Rudenstine objecting to the demolition of the Spanish-American War memorial in the Great Hall

But the alums objected, saying that this month's renovations would leave the Great Hall permanently disfigured.

"If you wreck the roof, cut the room into three pieces, just leaving a small part of it, it seems pretty irreversible to me," Forbes said.

Other topics of discussion included alumni dissatisfaction with the overnight razing of Carey Cage and the criticism of the University's lack of publication concerning both this and the Great Hall.

The alums also showed the administrators a special report presented in 1952 to the Board of Overseers, Harvard's lesser governing board. The report outlined the need to replace Memorial Hall, but that idea was later discarded.

Committee members used the report to remind administrators of Harvard's history of preserving its architectural landmarks.

"Our position is still that this was a fairly well-intentioned but ill-advised approach to the problem," said Roosevelt.

'Black Eye?'

In the wake of the meeting, some of the committee members are criticizing the administration's stance as inflexible.

"I think the Harvard administration will get a black eye. As Harvard alumni across the country and around the world find out, I think there will be hell to pay," said Ormand de Kaye, a member of the committee who did not attend the meeting.

"President Rudenstine will go down as the president who trashed the Great Hall of the Harvard Union," de Kaye said.

Members of the committee said they respect the work that the University has done to preserve its architectural history in the past.

But Forbes said that Rudenstine appeared "distressed that he must preside over this type of program, one which obviously creates problems for him."

"[The University] has invested so much in the project, to reverse course would be something they don't like to think about," Forbes said.

Some members of the committee accused the administration of hiding from the public its true motives for refusing to halt the project.

"They seem to be absolutely intransigent," de Kaye said. "I can't help thinking that there are is a hidden agenda. Possibly there are outside pressures on President Rudenstine."

Forbes agreed.

"There seems to be something about this program that we don't understand the politics of," he said.

The Future

But the alums said they intend to continue the fight nonetheless.

They said they hope to tell their story to the national news media in an effort to inform other Harvard alums and other concerned individuals ignorant of the plans.

The alums will also continue to urge faculty members, alums, undergraduates and others to make their voices heard.

Indeed, Paul A. Spera, national commander-in-chief of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, recently faxed a letter to Rudenstine objecting to the demolition of the Spanish-American War memorial in the Great Hall

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