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GSE Looks to Fields for Home

By Stephen M. Marks, Crimson Staff Writer

The Graduate School of Education (GSE) committee charged with studying options for the school’s impending move to Allston is envisioning a new campus on the site of the University’s soccer fields, an administrator on the committee told students last month.

The GSE Allston Planning Committee sees Ohiri Field—located across from Harvard Stadium, just south of the Harvard Business School—as its top choice for a new campus across the river, Director of Student Affairs Nancy E. Nienhuis told the school’s Student Government Association in a Dec. 3 presentation.

According to The Appian, GSE’s student paper, Nienhuis said that a proposal for the 6.5 acre campus would be one of four plans described in a written report to University President Lawrence H. Summers.

GSE Director of Communications Christine Sanni wrote in an e-mail yesterday that the committee “has not made any recommendations on specific plots of land.”

And Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Alan J. Stone said that any recommendations were those of the school, noting that the central administration is “focused more on academic opportunities and aspirations” rather than on where individual schools will move.

But Shattuck Professor of Education Catherine E. Snow, a member of the GSE committee, said that the school was looking at Ohiri Field as an attractive, yet attainable, site.

“I don’t think that we feel we have complete free choice,” she said, noting that riverfront property would be the school’s ultimate dream.

“[Ohiri] is the closest area that’s currently available that doesn’t require moving anything or getting any easements resolved,” she said. “It’s an attractive spot because it’s quite close—close to the Kennedy School [of Government], close to the river, close to what presumably would be the new south Harvard Square.”

The plan would also seem to mesh with recommendations made last fall in a School of Public Health report. That report envisioned the school becoming part of a science campus adjacent to Ohiri, on the opposite side of Western Ave.

Ohiri is currently home field for both the men’s and women’s soccer teams and the women’s lacrosse team. The men’s lacrosse team plays on the astroturf Jordan Field.

According to Director of Sports Information Chuck Sullivan, the University currently has no other space that could adequately accommodate Division I soccer.

“Ideally you don’t place soccer on astroturf,” he said. “There isn’t really anything existing in current format that would be able to house those teams.”

Navigating the Crunch

The GSE faces a severe space shortage, both in terms of classrooms and offices, and as a result many at the school look favorably on a move to Allston.

“Classrooms are inadequate in number and size for the student body,” Sanni said.

The school currently rents out space to accommodate its facilities, which has resulted in a spread-out campus. A new campus would offer “more space, and space that’s not disparate,” said Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education Howard E. Gardner.

Given its needs, the GSE wants to be proactive with its desires.

A similar Allston committee at Harvard Law School (HLS) recommended in 2002 that the school occupy prime riverfront property if it moved cross-river. The success of that report in helping convince University President Lawrence H. Summers to keep HLS in its current home has shown the importance of producing compelling Allston reports.

“To a certain extent, these reports are exercises in persuasion,” said Gardner, who is a member of the GSE Allston committee. “If one of the schools or one of the interest groups...makes a very persuasive case for how they want to use the space, it’s more likely they’ll get it.”

The organization of a new GSE campus is one of the major issues that the committee did not resolve, according to Gardner. He said he personally supports creating a “museum of learning” to showcase the various ways in which people learn.

“I think the biggest sticking point is whether there ought to be some education facility, particularly a school, around which the campus would center,” Gardner said. “Should we simply have a bunch of buildings that are connected, or should we have something else that’s a central metaphor for the school, like a school itself? That’s been where there’s no consensus yet.”

—Staff writer Stephen M. Marks can be reached at marks@fas.harvard.edu.

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