BY MIKE RODMAN
Dean Robert Clark Tuesday announced that the Law School would move to a new location in Allston over the summer. Speaking to a standing room-only crowd at a LSC-sponsored town hall meeting Tuesday, Clark said that University President Lawrence Summers had informed him of the decision on Monday.
“Frankly, we were not expecting the move to come so soon. When the University told us to that the timetable was indefinite, we were thinking that it would be a few years,” Dean told the audience in Ames Courtroom.
Clark said that when he heard about the decision from Summers’s personal secretary, he was overjoyed.
“The President and I agree, these modular units are going to be the best thing that ever happened to the Law School since that Edy’s machine was installed in the Hark Box,” Clark said.
According to Rich Brighton at the Harvard Planning and Real Estate Office (HPREO), the Law School will be moved to land that the School currently owns in Allston. Brighton said the school would be temporarily located in modular classrooms until a permanent campus could be constructed “at some indefinite point.”
“The problem is that we still haven’t gotten all of the easements that we want to build the permanent campus on property that is currently leased out to someone else. But, after Genzyme’s lease runs out at the end of the century, the Law School will have a campus that will make the Business School jealous,” Brighton said.The modular units will be housed in the parking lot of the School’s Allston shopping center, which is also home to a Star Market and McDonald’s.
“The location should also help improve the quality of student life,” Clark said. “You all have been complaining about the Hark for years, and now — just think — McDonald’s!”
Even a few months ago, the HPREO wasn’t sure that HLS would be moving so soon. “Well, what happened is K-Mart declared bankruptcy and we realized that they would probably be moving out of the [shopping] center. Once we realized that we’d have a place for all of the books, we negotiated with Office Max for some of their parking spaces so that we’d also have room for the [modular] units,” Brighton said.
Dean Clark said that the K-Mart bankruptcy provided a “historic opportunity” for the Law School.
According to Brighton the modular classrooms have already been ordered from Whitley Manufacturing in Indiana. The units, which should arrive in August, will be air-conditioned and fully ADA-compliant.
While the new campus will not have any housing for law students, Clark said that he did not think that students would be too upset.
“After all, new students will not know what they are missing, and I think returning students will be relieved that they don’t have to live in Gropius anymore,” he told the assembled students. “We think forcing you to find expensive apartments in the Boston area, while refusing to raise the financial aid budget, will help students learn how to innovate. If all else fails, students can just camp out.”
Most students attending the town hall meeting did seem to mind.
“As long as I still graduate from Harvard, why would I care? It’s not like the firms are going to care,” Aaron Thomas said. “They’re probably going to still have interviews at the Charles. And I don’t go to class anyway.”
The faculty reaction, however, has been somewhat more mixed.
“This is absolutely outrageous,” Professor Ann Marie Slaughter said on the condition of confidentiality. “I bike to school. I can’t bike another half-mile.”
Still, Dean Clark was confident that faculty and alumni would eventually come to appreciate the school’s new Allston home.
“Some of the alumni are going to squeal like hogs going to the slaughter house, but we have to be remember that in the long term their squeals just aren’t going to matter. I mean, we all die sometime right? And eventually they won’t be around to squeal any more. And if they squeal too loud then they certainly won’t be around. Then there will just be alumni who appreciated the convenience of going to school right next to an incredible supermarket. And it is an incredible supermarket. Have you seen their imported foods section?” Clark said to the audience.
Professor Elena Kagan, who had investigated a move to Allston as the chair of the Historic Allston Location Opportunity Committee, refused to comment on the decision. “Our committee hadn’t gotten very far when this decision was announced. Some of our members were having difficulty figuring out how to catch the No. 69 bus and never even got a chance to visit Allston,” Kagan said. “Still, even if I had something to say, I wouldn’t contradict Dean Clark. I may have tenure, but I’m still new here.”
Brighton said that the old Law School campus would be used by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS).
“I think that we’re probably going to raze the entire thing. We want to build a 21th century leisure and entertainment center for the undergrads. Also we might build some dorms there. Some of the FAS faculty don’t like having the students living so close, so we might move them out of Harvard Yard and into new dorms on the [current] Law School campus,” Brighton said.
“Of course, we’ll have to replace the Gropius complex. No self respecting undergrad would ever live there,” he added.