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PBHA, Harvard Agree on Governing Structure

Plan Ends Two-Year Controversy

By Andrew A. Green

Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) and Harvard inked an agreement late Wednesday that will reshape the public service organization's governing structure and end, at least for now, two years of fierce controversy.

The compromise incorporates PBHA's desire to have greater control over its programming by giving it more authority to choose its board of trustees.

The administration also gets its demand for oversight and authority in areas of safety, fiscal integrity and compliance with relevant University and legal requirements.

Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 said this agreement puts an end to the years of wrangling between Harvard and PBHA.

Declaring it an excellent compromise, the dean said last night he was going to "eat an ice cream" to celebrate.

"It's a very happy day," Lewis said. "I'm very pleased that the agreement has been reached, providing a strong foundation for PBHA activity and student involvement and leadership in the public service arena."

PBHA President Andrew J. Ehrlich '96-'97 was somewhat guarded in his assessment of the compromise, calling it "a good first step."

"I think this provides the opportunity to have a functioning board of trustees bringing the constituencies together in a constructive fashion," Ehrlich said. "Obviously the real question is, can make this work? I'm confident we can. I think it eventually comes to that."

PBHA and the administration have been haggling over the organization's structure since 1994, when Lewis co-authored a report calling for significant changes in public service at Harvard.

Lewis' subsequent appointment of Judith H. Kidd as assistant dean of public service led PBHA students to move for greater autonomy from the University. But administrators threatened to kick PBHA out of Phillips Brooks House and deprive it of hundreds of thousands of dollars of funding unless certain preconditions were met. (see related story, page seven).

The Nuts and Bolts

Under the agreement, non-students will be voting members on the board and PBHA's student cabinet "has ultimate authority over the trustees as their electors and as the principal governing body of the Association."

In order to facilitate this new structure, the agreement establishes the position of PBHA executive agent.

This officer will be a Harvard employee reporting to the assistant dean for public service but will be "accountable to the PBHA Board of Trustees in areas of program design, management and long-term [planning and support] of the Board and PBHA leadership."

The agreement is only provisional. According to its terms, it must be reviewed by Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III by September 1, 1997, at which time he can allow a permanent exception to allow non-student trustees if "the two fundamental principles" of programmatic autonomy under student leadership and oversight and authority on the part of Harvard "have been successfully maintained."

Epps was out of the country yesterday and thus unavailable for comment.

The agreement is designed to encourage greater interaction and cooperation between PBHA and the University, according to Judith H. Kidd, the assistant dean for public service.

While communication between PBHA and Harvard has been strained and often vitriolic over the last two years, both parties see this agreement as indicative of increased acceptance of the other side's position and willingness to discuss contentious issues.

According to sources on both sides of the issue, the agreement comes from a series of steadily progressing negotiations rather than a sudden break in the deadlock.

"There were a lot of very frustrating times going back and forth," Ehrlich said. "I can't attribute it to a specific event. It took a lot of flexibility on everyone's part.

This officer will be a Harvard employee reporting to the assistant dean for public service but will be "accountable to the PBHA Board of Trustees in areas of program design, management and long-term [planning and support] of the Board and PBHA leadership."

The agreement is only provisional. According to its terms, it must be reviewed by Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III by September 1, 1997, at which time he can allow a permanent exception to allow non-student trustees if "the two fundamental principles" of programmatic autonomy under student leadership and oversight and authority on the part of Harvard "have been successfully maintained."

Epps was out of the country yesterday and thus unavailable for comment.

The agreement is designed to encourage greater interaction and cooperation between PBHA and the University, according to Judith H. Kidd, the assistant dean for public service.

While communication between PBHA and Harvard has been strained and often vitriolic over the last two years, both parties see this agreement as indicative of increased acceptance of the other side's position and willingness to discuss contentious issues.

According to sources on both sides of the issue, the agreement comes from a series of steadily progressing negotiations rather than a sudden break in the deadlock.

"There were a lot of very frustrating times going back and forth," Ehrlich said. "I can't attribute it to a specific event. It took a lot of flexibility on everyone's part.

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