Debate on PBHA Structure Rages

Administration, Student Visions Clash

The battle between Phillips Brooks House Association Inc. (PBHA) and the administration has reached new heights in the past few days, and although an agreement seems near, the conflict may cause the service organization to lose its status as a student group, be evicted from Phillips Brooks House (PBH) and lose$750,000 per year in University funding.

Underlying this bitter dispute are two clashing visions of public service, and this dichotomy has existed for at least 15 years.

As the struggle has intensified in the last two years, students say administrators have repeatedly broken promises and directly lied in order to protect their vision.

For their part, administrators contend that students want to take advantage of considerable Harvard resources but are unwilling to give the University any control over where its money goes.

Difference in Vision


PBHA aims to promote social change in Cambridge and Boston and to provide an avenue for students to enhance their learning through public service, according to the organization's mission statement.

"We start bottom-up," says Hahrie C. Han '97, vice president of PBHA. "We begin by building relationships within the community and then structuring programs around them."

The College has no formal mission statement, but according to Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III, the College sees community service as an extracurricular activity.

Epps acknowledges that the administration would prefer less-risky modes of public service than PBHA would like, and the 1994 Report on the Structure of Harvard College says the need to simplify PBHA's programs comes from legitimate safety concerns.

The College seemingly would like public service to be administered much like the Housing and Neighborhood Development (HAND) program, in which the College faces less liability than in some PBHA programs.

PBHA officials say the goal of the administration--other than to save money--is to run public service from the top down so as to retain complete control.

"[The administrators] would like to have glossy Christmas parties at children's hospitals--that's their idea of public service," says John B. King '96-'95, a past president of PBHA.

Han says that the HAND program is the only type of public service that the administration can handle.

"If the administration ran PBHA the way it wanted to, [PBHA] would become an organization like HAND," Han says. "It would be like if the University took over The Crimson, it would become the Gazette."

Until the present year, HAND has had three student coordinates, all of whom have been paid by the University. This year, Jessica D. Steigerwald '90 has been appointed to replace the role of the student coordinators.

PBHA officials say the HAND program is limited by its administrative structure. They say they want to make sure that PBHA is not controlled in the same way as HAND.

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