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Letter Attacks Judith Kidd

By Ariel R. Frank

In a letter sent Monday to several University administrators and more than 100 students, alumni and community members associated with Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA), four of the organization's outgoing officers strongly criticized Assistant Dean of Public Service Judith H. Kidd and questioned whether she should remain in her post.

The former officers accused Kidd of holding secret meetings, ignoring student opinions, merging unlike public service organizations and diverting resources away from the student-run organization. The letter urged her either to "celebrate and partake" in the "culture" of PBHA, or to leave.

Kidd denied that she has held unpublicized meetings about space allocation, but declined to comment on the letter's other specific allegations.

"I post my schedule daily," she said. "I have since the day I got here. My entire week's schedule is on my door. It has everything on it."

The outgoing officers wrote, "covert or overt attempts to attack this culture, either through staffing witch-hunts, funding priorities or political tactics are deplorable."

"A lengthy war of attrition over minor details between PBHA and the College, masked by a public appearance of calm, does not benefit either PBHA or non-PBHA programs," the letter continues.

According to Andrew J. Erlich '96- '97, the former president of PBHA, administrators and undergraduates are putting on smiling faces although issues remain unresolved.

"I hope [the letter] will make the College take pause and think about the implications of their actions, which I find highly destructive," he said. "A perception of calm...belies what I find to be a highly problematic agenda on the part of Judith Kidd."

Kidd said she was surprised to learn of the complaints of the former officers.

"I worked very cooperatively with them when they were officers to honor all the terms of the agreements reached between PBHA and Harvard last July," she said. "I am continuing to work cooperatively with the officers and the board now."

Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 said in an e-mail message that, although he was personally not sent a copy of the letter, he believes Kidd is doing "an excellent job."

"I am fully in support of her good efforts to help all the undergraduate public service activities," he wrote.

The letter specifically complained that Kidd is pushing House and Neighborhood Development (HAND), a non-PBHA program, to move into PBH.

But a resolution passed by the PBHA cabinet on February 19 states, "be it resolved that Phillips Brooks House Association be the only public service organization housed in the Phillips Brooks House."

However, the resolution includes some provisions for sharing the House's space.

Ruhi A. Khan '97, the former publicity chair of HAND, said the organization needs a permanent, centrally-located headquarters because it has members from every house.

"We really do need the space," she said. "We would prefer to have a space in PBH. The Yard is accessible to all the people [in the program]."

According to Khan, the community would benefit if PBHA and HAND shared the space.

"We can work mutually together and I don't see why that would be a problem," she said.

Michael W. Ma '98, the vice president of PBHA, said he agrees with the PBHA cabinet's resolution in that having any other public service programs inside the House would be detrimental to the organization.

He declined to comment on the rest of the letter, however, saying, "it would not be good for anyone at this point."

"I haven't worked with Kidd as long as [the former officers] have, and who knows what I'll say in a year," he said. "I'm trying to take things openly. I don't want to have preconceived opinions before I even start."

The letter also alleged that Kidd only created the Public Service Network, a task force composed of different service organizations on campus, to use as a "facade of political legitimacy."

"As the largest public service organization on campus, we have not been consulted on the direction the Network should take," the letter states.

In addition, the letter charged Kidd with reallocating professional staff to other public service programs so as to decrease the levels of support PBHA programs receive.

However, Lewis said the PBHA will not be affected.

"None of these steps to support undergraduate public service have impaired PBH's operations or changed the nature of student participation in PBH affairs," he said.

The former officers wrote that Kidd has created a "heightened confrontational atmosphere" inside PBH over the past year by personally attacking students and staff and by engaging in "an ongoing dance in which her intentions for PBH remain unclear, apparently intentionally so."

The president of PBHA, Roy E. Bahat '98, echoed the letter's concerns about tensions within PBH.

"It's been a very difficult atmosphere for everyone over the past year-and-a-half and sometimes that has flared up," he said.

According to Bahat, students have been shut out of meetings.

"Students have been asked not to sit in on meetings," he said. "They have been excluded from vital conversations and presented with decisions long after they've been made."

Although he did say that the University has taken some steps toward cooperation, Bahat added that the current PBHA cabinet will have to re-evaluate the organization's relationship with Harvard if the University administration does not change its behavior.

"The nature of PBHA's place at Harvard is one that's under discussion," he said. "The only thing I can promise is that we'll make our decision based on what's best for the community, on whether we empower the community members and ourselves by working with them."

Lewis said he does not plan to take action as a result of the letter.

"I am very pleased by Dean Kidd's work, and have no plans to recommend changes as a result of this unexpected letter," he said

"I hope [the letter] will make the College take pause and think about the implications of their actions, which I find highly destructive," he said. "A perception of calm...belies what I find to be a highly problematic agenda on the part of Judith Kidd."

Kidd said she was surprised to learn of the complaints of the former officers.

"I worked very cooperatively with them when they were officers to honor all the terms of the agreements reached between PBHA and Harvard last July," she said. "I am continuing to work cooperatively with the officers and the board now."

Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 said in an e-mail message that, although he was personally not sent a copy of the letter, he believes Kidd is doing "an excellent job."

"I am fully in support of her good efforts to help all the undergraduate public service activities," he wrote.

The letter specifically complained that Kidd is pushing House and Neighborhood Development (HAND), a non-PBHA program, to move into PBH.

But a resolution passed by the PBHA cabinet on February 19 states, "be it resolved that Phillips Brooks House Association be the only public service organization housed in the Phillips Brooks House."

However, the resolution includes some provisions for sharing the House's space.

Ruhi A. Khan '97, the former publicity chair of HAND, said the organization needs a permanent, centrally-located headquarters because it has members from every house.

"We really do need the space," she said. "We would prefer to have a space in PBH. The Yard is accessible to all the people [in the program]."

According to Khan, the community would benefit if PBHA and HAND shared the space.

"We can work mutually together and I don't see why that would be a problem," she said.

Michael W. Ma '98, the vice president of PBHA, said he agrees with the PBHA cabinet's resolution in that having any other public service programs inside the House would be detrimental to the organization.

He declined to comment on the rest of the letter, however, saying, "it would not be good for anyone at this point."

"I haven't worked with Kidd as long as [the former officers] have, and who knows what I'll say in a year," he said. "I'm trying to take things openly. I don't want to have preconceived opinions before I even start."

The letter also alleged that Kidd only created the Public Service Network, a task force composed of different service organizations on campus, to use as a "facade of political legitimacy."

"As the largest public service organization on campus, we have not been consulted on the direction the Network should take," the letter states.

In addition, the letter charged Kidd with reallocating professional staff to other public service programs so as to decrease the levels of support PBHA programs receive.

However, Lewis said the PBHA will not be affected.

"None of these steps to support undergraduate public service have impaired PBH's operations or changed the nature of student participation in PBH affairs," he said.

The former officers wrote that Kidd has created a "heightened confrontational atmosphere" inside PBH over the past year by personally attacking students and staff and by engaging in "an ongoing dance in which her intentions for PBH remain unclear, apparently intentionally so."

The president of PBHA, Roy E. Bahat '98, echoed the letter's concerns about tensions within PBH.

"It's been a very difficult atmosphere for everyone over the past year-and-a-half and sometimes that has flared up," he said.

According to Bahat, students have been shut out of meetings.

"Students have been asked not to sit in on meetings," he said. "They have been excluded from vital conversations and presented with decisions long after they've been made."

Although he did say that the University has taken some steps toward cooperation, Bahat added that the current PBHA cabinet will have to re-evaluate the organization's relationship with Harvard if the University administration does not change its behavior.

"The nature of PBHA's place at Harvard is one that's under discussion," he said. "The only thing I can promise is that we'll make our decision based on what's best for the community, on whether we empower the community members and ourselves by working with them."

Lewis said he does not plan to take action as a result of the letter.

"I am very pleased by Dean Kidd's work, and have no plans to recommend changes as a result of this unexpected letter," he said

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