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PBHA Plan: The End of Turmoil?

By The CRIMSON Staff

Yesterday's agreement between the University and Phillips Brooks House Association may put an end to the two-year controversy that has plagued the term of Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 and rocked public service at Harvard.

In 1994, Lewis, who was then serving solely as McKay professor of computer science, co-authored a report on the structure of the College calling for significant changes in Harvard's public service structure.

The report recommended replacing the positions held by the popular PBH Executive Director Greg A. Johnson '72, and Director of Office of Public Services Gail Epstein with a new position of assistant dean of public service.

Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles approved the recommendations, and when Lewis was named dean of the College in February 1995, he set about implementing them.

In November, after an eightmonth search, Lewis chose City Year's Judith H. Kidd to be the first public service dean.

Kidd, whose main background was in banking, was the candidate deemed least qualified by student members of the committee. The students were outraged by the selection and charged that their input was completely disregarded.

Opposition crystallized in a much-ballyhooed December 7 rally in front of University Hall, which drew a crowd of 750 students and community leaders.

As protesters held signs reading "Harvard, Keep Your Hands off PBH" and "Student Need, Not Harvard Greed," Agee Professor of Social Ethics Robert Coles '50 mocked the dean.

"Let us pray for that person's soul," Coles said of Lewis.

"There was a moment in the Bible when it was said that the last shall be first and the first shall be last," Coles said. "And let us remember that--those of you who are big shots, let us remember."

Five days after the protest, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences created a new Standing Committee on Public Service with the stated purpose of "[overseeing] public service at Harvard."

But in late April, two of the three students on the committee resigned, citing what they saw as the committee's insensitivity to student needs.

Students objected to the University's reluctance to increase the number of students on the committee to five and to allow students to choose who would represent them, a request initiated by the Undergraduate Council.

PBHA decided at its April 17 meeting to elect a board of trustees that includes non-student voting members.

Ehrlich said the move would strengthen PBHA's position as an organization and improve its institutional memory.

Epps, however, said student organizations are not allowed to have non-student voting members, and insisted that he would withdraw the University's recognition of PBHA as a student organization if students proceed with their plan. Epps also insisted that Kidd be appointed the head of PBHA.

The withdrawl of the College's recognition would have deprived PBHA of $750,000 in University funding, thereby crippling many of its major programs.

In addition, PBHA would have been barred from using Phillips Brooks House and funding for its 10 administrators would have disappeared.

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