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Student leaders at the Graduate School of Education (GSE) say their views have largely been ignored in the Allston planning process, even though their entire campus is slated to move across the river in the next stage of Harvard’s expansion.
On Monday night, the GSE Student Government Association (SGA) unanimously approved a resolution requesting that their representatives be included on the five University task forces charged with hashing out plans for the Allston move.
The SGA resolution adds to previous criticism by Faculty of Arts and Sciences professors who accused the University of a lack of transparency in the Allston planning process during a meeting last month.
The five task forces unveiled by the University in December initially included no student representation. But less than a week later, University President Lawrence H. Summers announced the addition of students from the College to the task force on undergraduate life.
“It’s just very illogical for there not be a student from our school [on the task forces] if our entire campus is going to move to Allston,” said Michael J. Novielli, a GSE master’s student and SGA member who sponsored Monday’s resolution.
“Input from students at GSE should be an essential part of planning for the Ed School’s future,” said GSE master’s student Kirstin C. McCarthy, the SGA’s vice president for student life and social activities.
“The surest way to incorporate that input is through student presence on Allston planning committees and task forces. We feel very confident that the administration will support us in this matter,” McCarthy said.
University spokesperson Lauren M. Marshall said that “GSE students will no doubt be involved as the [Allston] process moves forward.”
“Each of the task forces is reaching out to the broader university community, including students,” Marshall said.
But Novielli said that University officials have not responded to the SGA’s request to place students on the task forces.
The task forces have been meeting since January and will deliver preliminary reports in May.
Novielli, who served for two years as the student council president at Columbia, contrasted Harvard’s approach to the Allston expansion with what he said what his undergraduate alma mater’s aggressive courting of student leaders’ opinions on physical planning issues.
As an undergraduate, Novielli received a personal note from Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger last February inviting him to work with faculty and architectural firms on “developing a comprehensive vision for Columbia’s future.”
Novielli included a copy of Bollinger’s letter in an e-mail SGA sent to Summers Tuesday announcing the resolution.
Bollinger was widely thought to be the frontrunner for Harvard’s presidency in 2001 before Summers was tapped for the job.
But Novielli said that the inclusion of the note “was not in any way a statement about Bollinger versus Summers.”
Novielli said the SGA appealed directly to Summers after “we realized we weren’t getting the support we needed from our own [GSE] administration.”
“We’ve been kept out of the loop—even at our own school,” he said.
But GSE spokesperson Greer Bautz said the school has reached out to students on the issue, including a presentation to the SGA at which administrators “asked for recommendations for how to gather input more widely from the student body.”
A GSE faculty committee met several times to develop a set of principles guiding the Allston relocation, according to committee member Robert B. Schwarz, director of GSE’s Administration, Planning and Social Policy Program.
Schwarz said the committee released its report last month and promptly disbanded.
“Given the space squeeze [facing GSE], there’s a broad enthusiasm for the move,” Schwarz said.
While no students served on the committee, Schwarz said that its chair, Gutman Library Director John W. Collins III, solicited student opinion through a series of focus group meetings.
Collins could not be reached for comment yesterday.
Novielli conceded that master’s students, who attend GSE for only nine months, would have difficulty participating in the multi-year planning. But he said that doctoral candidates at the GSE—many of whom have an academic background in community development—could make substantial contributions to the planning.
Monday’s resolution requests that any potential GSE representative on the task forces come from the SGA. But the SGA currently includes no doctoral candidates among its 20 officers, McCarthy said.
“We’re hoping to have from now on—added to the student government structure—a doctoral student representative,” she said.
Although student leaders at both GSE and the College faced the same challenge—gaining representation on Allston task forces—Novielli and Undergradute Council President Matthew W. Mahan ’05 both said they have done little to coordinate their efforts.
“I was surprised that [GSE students] hadn’t organized to get a representative on one of the Allston committees earlier,” Mahan said. “I haven’t heard from them at all.”
“In the future, collaboration between our two councils would be helpful,”Novielli said.
—Staff writer Daniel J. Hemel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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