Holyoke Center Makes Cutbacks

The Holyoke Center—home to many of Harvard’s administrative offices—has taken University cost-cutting recommendations to heart, instituting a series of penny-pinching measures to cut operation expenses.

The changes took effect last week and span a variety of maintenance services, including the frequency with which the carpeted areas are vacuumed and the bathrooms cleaned.

The two elevators facing Mt. Auburn Street will no longer be shuttling employees up to their offices overlooking the Square. A piece of paper taped over the elevator buttons explains that shutting down the elevators will “save energy and reduce occupancy costs” incurred by the 10-story building’s tenants.

Notices listing the changes were displayed on walls throughout the building. Staff were notified of the news via e-mail but not informed how much would be saved by implementing such measures.

Representatives from Harvard Real Estate Services, which conceived the energy-saving plan, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Across the University, changes have already been evident. In an effort to reduce costs, custodial directors from Harvard Medical School have also reevaluated the number of times that highly visible locations—such as restrooms and labs—need to be cleaned, determining that the frequency may be reduced to only twice a week or weekly.

Though the changes at the Holyoke Center are relatively minor and more symbolic than anything, its effects did not go unnoticed by staff.

“The cleaning lady doesn’t come every morning anymore,” mused Eric A. Nitschke, a staff assistant who works on the third floor. “I miss her.”

Blue recycling bins peeking out from under office desks will no longer be emptied by the cleaning crews. Staff and administrators will now be responsible for transporting the bins themselves to the communal receptacles at the end of the hall.

“It’s going to be a little more laborious for us,” Nitschke said, as the notice also asked staff to be more “conscientious” about cleaning up self-created mess and washing food-encrusted dishes in the kitchens located on each floor.

Nitschke added that he and his colleagues have speculated whether there will be “sanitary issues” in the restrooms—particularly the men’s.

According to the notice, the management team deemed the state of those restrooms to be adequate after “successfully piloting” a reduced cleaning schedule on the eighth and tenth floors. Specific “conditions” will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

But some employees in the Holoyke Center have felt little impact from the steps the management team has taken to weather the financial crisis.

Sarah S. Bennett-Astesano, an assistant director of the Office of Work/Life on the sixth floor, said that the now inoperative elevators that used to shuttle her and her colleagues directly to the top five floors “spoiled” her. But any complaints raised at this point, she said, would only reflect a general laziness.

“It’s good for people,” Bennett-Astesano said.

—Staff writer Athena Y. Jiang can be reached at

—Staff writer June Q. Wu can be reached at