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A bipartisan group of six senators wrote a letter to University President Drew G. Faust Friday, calling on her to fulfill her 2010 commitment to increase opportunities for students across the University to work in public service summer internships.
The letter, obtained by The Crimson, references Faust’s 2010 Commencement address, in which she announced that Harvard would commit to “doubling the current amount of funding for undergraduate summer service opportunities, and a significant increase for graduate students.”
Signed by Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer ’71 and Senators Mike Crapo, Edward J. Markey, Daniel S. Sullivan ’87, Chris Van Hollen, and Elizabeth Warren, the letter expresses concerns that unpaid internships in the public sector will only be available to students who have “more financial resources.” Van Hollen initiated the process of writing the leader, according to Lindsay Northern, communications director for Crapo.
“Travel and living costs make accepting a no-pay or a low-pay position a real challenge for many students,” the letter reads. “Our understanding is that at Harvard, that means that hundreds of smart, dedicated, and passionate undergraduates are still denied the opportunity to take part in these critical learning opportunities every year—despite demonstrating strong interest to pursue them.”
The letter also references a Dec. 2017 Undergraduate Council resolution that calls on Harvard to provide an additional $1,219,500 per year above levels the University provided in 2016 in order to meet the 2010 goal Faust laid out in her speech. The resolution also asks the University to “guarantee at least one year of summer public service funding to all students in Harvard College.” The resolution, which the UC passed unanimously, also demands that the Office of the President respond to the UC’s call to action before Jan. 22, 2017.
According to UC President Catherine L. Zhang ’19, Faust has not “responded directly” to the UC. But Zhang said Gene A. Corbin—who served as the assistant dean of student life for public service until this month—invited two representatives from the UC to participate in the “Seamless Service Pathways Process,” a program that aims to make public service options more transparent and accessible to students. The program is funded by the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a Nov. 2017 gift from Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan to help low-income students participate in public service.
Zhang said she was not aware of the letter the senators sent Friday.
University Spokesperson Melodie L. Jackson said Faust plans to respond to the senators’ letter.
“President Faust has spoken with many alumni and members of Congress about Harvard’s commitment to public service,” Jackson wrote in an emailed statement.
Faust also spoke with Mass. Congresswoman Katherine Clark in April about support for public service at Harvard. In a letter to Clark after their conversation, Faust discussed current public service offerings and committed to working to increase these offerings.
“While our current opportunities continue to open so many doors, we will keep striving to develop more,” Faust wrote.
In 2015, Harvard received a $15 million gift from Eric M. Mindich ’88 and his wife Stacey to endow public service initiatives at Harvard. The gift included funding to develop 14 classes oriented around public service and to expand programming in established classes such as US-WORLD 24: “Reinventing (and Reimagining) Boston: The Changing American City.” It also provided funding to establish the Mindich Service Fellows Program, which supports up to 75 students pursuing summer public service work each year. The Mindich gift followed the 2011 Presidential Public Service Program, which supports 10 students annually in summer public service work.
The senators’ letter asks Faust to “set an example for colleges nationwide” by fulfilling her 2010 goal as she prepares to step down in June.
“We look forward to seeing the tremendous impact Harvard students will have in the future with sustained and strong support from the University,” the letter reads.
The signatories are some of Faust’s longstanding allies on Capitol Hill; on her trips to Washington over the course of her tenure, Faust has met with multiple members of the Senate and the Massachusetts delegation, including Schumer and Warren. Faust has spoken with lawmakers about a variety of issues, including legal protections for undocumented students, cuts to financial aid in the pending reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, and the importance of federal research funding to the country’s colleges and universities.
This isn’t the first time Warren and Markey have called for change at Harvard. In May 2016, the two Mass. senators—along with two member of the House—sent Faust a letter calling on Harvard to voluntarily recognize a student union ahead of a National Labor Relations Board hearing on the disputed results of the 2016 election for graduate student unionization.
—Staff writer Kristine E. Guillaume can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @krisguillaume.
—Staff writer Jamie D. Halper can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @jamiedhalper.
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