Monday, June 25, 2007

Harvard's Outgoing President on the New Allston Campus

Outgoing Harvard President Derek Bok has released his June 2007 President's Report to the Board of Overseers (covering the 2006-7 school year). It was also published in hardcopy form as an insert to the most recent issue of the Harvard Gazette.

In his June 2007 report, President Bok writes:
Work on developing Allston has also gone forward on schedule. In December, the University filed a master plan to describe how the property might be developed over the next 50 years. Under the direction of Stefan Benisch, architectural drawings for the first complex of science buildings are nearing completion so that construction can begin within the year. Architectural plans are also underway for extensively renovating a large building in Allston that will house the University’s art collection during the long-awaited renovation of the Fogg Museum and then provide permanent space for Museum staff and for galleries dedicated to modern and contemporary art.
Hmmm... he seems to have gotten the date wrong for the release of the master plan, which actually came out in January, not December. I wouldn't blog on this little technical mistake if he hadn't continued on writing about...

..."renovating a large building in Allston that will house the University’s art collection."

For those who have been paying attention in the last six months, Harvard is currently still on record with a proposal to put their art storage/museum in a new building at Barry's Corner. In December 2006 they discarded their April 2006 plan to renovate a large building in North Brighton (not technically North Allston) in favor of the Barry's Corner idea.

Has Harvard's President just served notice to the community that they are returning to their April 2006 building renovation plan for the art storage/museum facility, abandoning the December 2006 Barry's Corner plan?

I have heard a number of people say that President Bok has been generally uninvolved in the Allston Campus project, at least in comparison to former President Larry Summers. My guess is that Bok used old information when writing his June 2007 report, and just hasn't been paying much attention to the Allston Campus this past year.

I can just imagine a memo from Chris Gordon, head of Harvard's Allston Development Group, to President Bok after reading this report. (Note for the uninitiated: this is known as satire... or at least an attempt at it.)

June 19, 2007

To: President Bok
From: Chris Gordon

Re: Allston Campus Talking Points

Have you read the latest report that I left on your desk about Harvard's 50-year master plan for its Allston Campus? We wrote a version of it as an Executive Summary (draft), so that it wouldn't take you much time to scan through it.

Did you read through all the other stacks of documents I keep leaving with your secretary? Or are you just piling them in that corner of your office under the sign labelled, "Drew"?

Let's make a few things clear. I suggest memorizing the following talking points, so that we can try to be on the same page when speaking or writing publicly:
  1. We want the art museum to go into Barry's Corner in a big new building close to neighborhood houses, not an empty, mothballed, existing building further west. It's important to leave those empty buildings empty. The empty buildings have a very important purpose called the "interim use plan." Very, very important.
  2. The Allston Campus is a focused development: focused on being, well, a little bit of everything. Originally, we thought it would be a "science campus," but other people had other ideas, like professional schools, cultural activities, or housing. So we decided to define "science campus" as including systems biology, chemical biology, bio-inspired engineering, innovative computing, public health, education, athletics, business, art museum, performing arts, undergraduate housing, and graduate housing. Just don't say "science campus" anymore -- it's so 2002. Or, if you do, be expansive in your definition.
  3. "No significant impact" on the neighborhood. Approximately 1000 employees will be moved into North Allston to work at the Science Complex, but we'll be reducing traffic, not increasing it. Read our traffic study. Or just repeat: "No significant impact." I'll get you a bumper sticker for your car, or we can have someone paint the phrase on the back of your car.
Please read this memo, as well as those other documents in the corner. It's important that we avoid misunderstandings like that in your 2007 President's Report.

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