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Professors involved in planning Harvard’s expansion into Allston reported on their progress to a meeting of the Faculty yesterday, emphasizing the undergraduate student life component of the future campus and the need to integrate the Allston campus with existing Harvard facilities.
Meanwhile, discussion of the ongoing Harvard College curricular review was limited to the final minutes of the meeting.
Dean of the Divinity School William A. Graham, who co-chaired the Allston Undergraduate Life Task Force, said planning is proceeding from the assumption that a strong undergraduate presence on the new campus is essential. Yesterday’s presentation followed upon a preliminary report the committee issued in May.
“Our first and principal question was whether an undergraduate presence would be essential [in Allston],” he said. “The resounding answer was, there’s no question, there has to be an undergraduate presence.”
He said the additional space could even allow the College to expand the size of the student body by 20 percent.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences William C. Kirby did not discount the possibility of increasing undergraduate enrollment, but said there are no near-term plans to do so.
“But were the College eventually to grow in the fullness of time, then additional houses in Allston would be logical and necessary,” he said.
The May report by Graham’s task force recommended that the College relocate an initial “critical mass” of 25 percent of the student body—or two to three undergraduate houses—in Allston, with the view to establishing up to eight houses there. Under the plan, the Quadrangle would be converted from undergraduate to graduate student housing.
“It would be obvious to displace the Quad Houses,” Graham said. “The primary reason for that is to have two centers of student activity, rather than three.”
Reports to the Faculty centered on ways to utilize the space in Allston to maximize the quality of student life.
Graham emphasized his task force’s suggestions to build in Allston an undergraduate student center as well as improved facilities for the arts and athletics, particularly recreational athletics.
Plummer Professor of Christian Morals Peter J. Gomes said he was very pleased with efforts to improve student life.
The Allston development “allows us not only to reinvent the College but to reinvent and reinvigorate the residential House system,” he said, praising in particular the suggested student center.
Professor of Economics Edward L. Glaeser, a member of the Allston Life Task Force, reported on what he called the “absolutely critical” issue of transportation between Harvard’s three main campuses—Cambridge, Longwood and Allston.
He said transportation will likely entail a mix of pedestrian traffic, particularly between Cambridge and Allston, and a new improved shuttle transportation system.
While professors praised the work of the task forces, they cautioned administrators not to neglect other financial imperatives.
“I think the University has to proceed with great care essentially in order to ensure that the current mission of the University isn’t put into jeopardy by the fiscal demands of the ‘Harvard of the future’ we’re building [in Allston],” said Classics Department Chair Richard F. Thomas.
Though he called the Allston initiative “highly desirable,” he said that it must not come at the expense of other existing programs.
He said he was encouraged by Kirby’s suggestion that, in Thomas’ words, “when Allston is completed we should be able to look back and not detect any diminution of existing programs.”
Also, Department of East Asian Languages and Literatures Chair Philip A. Kuhn said he hoped the Allston development will not result in the neglect of other financial imperatives, including what he called the “notoriously underfunded system of graduate student support.”
Discussion of Allston expansion dominated the meeting, and left time only for brief remarks by Kirby and Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 on the status of the curricular review.
Kirby announced a series of meetings intended to facilitate discussion of various issues pertaining to the review. The first meeting, to be held Dec. 10, will discuss proposed changes to the General Education curriculum.
Last year the General Education committee of the curricular review recommended that the College abolish the Core Curriculum in favor of departmental distribution requirements.
—Laura L. Krug contributed to the reporting of this story.
—Staff Writer William C. Marra can be reached at email@example.com.
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