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College May Sever Ties With PBHA

Trustees Vote to Hire Own Executive Director; Epps Says Proposal Unacceptable

By Matthew W. Granade

The University may sever its ties with Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA), Harvard's largest public service organization, after a contentious meeting of PBHA's board of trustees last Thursday, where several weeks of near-settlement negotiations between College officials and PBHA leaders collapsed.

The trustees voted to allow PBHA to hire and pay its own staff, including an executive director who would report exclusively to the trustees. The vote was 6-5-1 in favor of the proposal; six of the 18 trustees did not attend the meeting.

The College, who owns Phillips Brooks House, where the organization resides, and provides funding to PBHA, will not tolerate this change, according to Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III.

"We would not accept any staff in our building who do not report to the College," said Epps, who serves on the board and voted against the proposal at Thursday's meeting.

The new staff structure would eliminate the position of executive agent, which has been vacant since the departure earlier this year of Kenneth G. Smith, the first and only person to fill this position. A compromise agreement last summer between the College and PBHA established the position and created the board of trustees--consisting of PBHA supporters, students and College representatives--as PBHA's governing body.

The executive agent reports to the College on matters of safety and liability and to the trustees on programmatic issues and is paid equally by the College and PBHA. Smith said it was very difficult to work for both the College and PBHA, prompting a subcommittee of the board, the Program Development Team, to draft the current hiring proposal.

The College's representatives on the board said that the proposal which the trustees passed would have grave consequences for the student organization, if PBHA decides to implement it.

"In effect, a bare majority voted to separate PBHA from Harvard, to move off campus and forego access to Harvard buildings, give up cooperation with Harvard on fund drives, and forgo regular access to the privileges of a Harvard student organization," said Professor of Government and of Sociology Theda Skocpol, who serves on the trustees and chairs the Faculty of Arts and Science's Committee on Public Service.

Epps concurred, adding that the College has not approved PBHA's proposed $10 million capital campaign and has put a hiring freeze in place.

PBHA President Roy E. Bahat '98 said PBHA must now decide whether to implement the trustees' vote against the wishes of the College. For now, student leaders will continue to negotiate, he said.

"We will try--as we have been--to work with the University to come up with a solution that works for all of us," Bahat said. "Unfortunately, I don't know what form that solution will take."

The College brought a counter-proposal to the meeting which permanently recognized the board of trustees as PBHA's governing body--the compromise agreement did so only on an experimental basis--and called for the creation of a ombudsmen board to mediate future disagreements between PBHA and the College.

The College's proposal had the executive director continue to report both to the College and the trustees.

Though Assistant Dean of Public Service Judith H. Kidd served on the board's Program Development Team which helped draft the hiring proposal, sources confirmed that Kidd voted against it in the meeting.

Kidd refused to comment as did Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '67.

The central issue--as it has been for over two years--is how much autonomy PBHA can enjoy from the University. When PBHA's student cabinet approved the hiring proposal at the beginning of May by an over-whelming majority, 65-1-1, it was hailed as what could be a permanent compromise in the long-standing battle over the organization's structure.

At its May meeting, the trustees endorsed "continued negotiations" with the hiring proposal as a goal, though the College's representatives on the trustees opposed it then as well.

Skocpol said she is concerned for the future of the organization.

"I am deeply saddened by the extremity of this move," she said. "As a trustee of PBHA, I confess to being very worried about the future, about the integrity and continuity and safety of the programs."

Epps said he will soon set up a "transition team" to work on the relationship between PBHA and the College. On September 1, he will issue a review of the College's relationship with PBHA as called for in last summer's compromise and will also announce "new measures," he said

Epps concurred, adding that the College has not approved PBHA's proposed $10 million capital campaign and has put a hiring freeze in place.

PBHA President Roy E. Bahat '98 said PBHA must now decide whether to implement the trustees' vote against the wishes of the College. For now, student leaders will continue to negotiate, he said.

"We will try--as we have been--to work with the University to come up with a solution that works for all of us," Bahat said. "Unfortunately, I don't know what form that solution will take."

The College brought a counter-proposal to the meeting which permanently recognized the board of trustees as PBHA's governing body--the compromise agreement did so only on an experimental basis--and called for the creation of a ombudsmen board to mediate future disagreements between PBHA and the College.

The College's proposal had the executive director continue to report both to the College and the trustees.

Though Assistant Dean of Public Service Judith H. Kidd served on the board's Program Development Team which helped draft the hiring proposal, sources confirmed that Kidd voted against it in the meeting.

Kidd refused to comment as did Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '67.

The central issue--as it has been for over two years--is how much autonomy PBHA can enjoy from the University. When PBHA's student cabinet approved the hiring proposal at the beginning of May by an over-whelming majority, 65-1-1, it was hailed as what could be a permanent compromise in the long-standing battle over the organization's structure.

At its May meeting, the trustees endorsed "continued negotiations" with the hiring proposal as a goal, though the College's representatives on the trustees opposed it then as well.

Skocpol said she is concerned for the future of the organization.

"I am deeply saddened by the extremity of this move," she said. "As a trustee of PBHA, I confess to being very worried about the future, about the integrity and continuity and safety of the programs."

Epps said he will soon set up a "transition team" to work on the relationship between PBHA and the College. On September 1, he will issue a review of the College's relationship with PBHA as called for in last summer's compromise and will also announce "new measures," he said

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