BY CLINTON DICK
Two days ago President Lawrence Summers wrote a letter to the Harvard community confirming what has been circulating as rumor since the end of summer: The new Allston campus will be used to accommodate the increasing space requirements of the science department and the graduate schools of education and public health, while also expanding student housing and creating a cultural environment that “could help bring to the area the kind of creative energy that has long characterized Harvard’s environs in Cambridge.”
The letter ends speculation that it might be Harvard Law School that packs its bags and makes the move across the Charles to the 200 acres that the University has acquired over the past twenty years.
“Even for a centuries-old institution that prides itself on taking the long view, planning for how best to take advantage of the Allston opportunity poses an uncommonly challenging task,” Summers began his letter. He explained that he had outlined key elements for the move to Allston and that “these programmatic planning assumptions are, at this stage, neither immutable nor merely conjectural.” Instead, he continued, “they are meant to suggest a promising path forward, intended both to sharpen discussion of prospective advantages and disadvantages and to outline broad parameters for a next, more focused phase of planning.”
Emphasizing that progress depended on the capacity to accommodate more researchers, Summers hoped that science and technology would especially benefit from the land across the river. “As the scope of activity in science and engineering expands . . . progress depends more and more on the capacity to mobilize broad-ranging teams of researchers in settings that encourage their creative and flexible interaction. . . .”
“Allston should figure prominently in the future of Harvard science, as home to a robust critical mass of scientific activity.”
Additionally, the graduate schools of education and public health “stand to benefit academically from being close to each other, given the potential for synergistic links between health and education. . . .” as well as benefiting from their proximity to the Business School and the Kennedy School.
While Allston will relieve space constraints for some Harvard schools, Summers also acknowledged that student housing needed to be expanded, particularly for graduate students. “Especially given the difficulty of the local private housing market, as well as intensified competition for outstanding students, we can and must do better.”
“If we are successful, our students’ lives will be better, and our educational environment livelier and richer,” Summers continued. He said that increased student housing could lead to better integration of Harvard with the Allston community, “rather than walled off from it.” Summers envisioned an Allston with “open space to throw a Frisbee or spread a picnic blanket,” as well as eating and shopping establishments.
Summers continued, “For Harvard, as for the larger community, it is important to envision our extended campus in Allston not just as a place to work, but as a place to live.”
Finally, Summers hopes Allston will be home to a collection of artistic and cultural resources that “could help bring the area the kind of creative that has long characterized Harvard’s environs in Cambridge.” He hoped space needs for museums and entering students could be relieved in part through an Allston expansion.
With those planning assumptions in mind, Summers said the next stage in the proposed move “will need to draw strongly on the creative, farsighted thinking of faculty members and others in considering how the broad outlines sketched above can be sharpened, tested, elaborated, and ultimately converted from ideas into reality.” As such, Summers announced the creation of several task forces designed to facilitate this plan.
With the announcement official, Dean Kagan sent a letter to the Harvard Law School faculty. “Our focus now will turn to expanding and upgrading our existing campus,” Kagan said. Professor Meltzer’s “committee on physical planning already has begun this work, as he will discuss at the next faculty meeting. In the months ahead, we will need to cooperate closely with other parts of the university to ensure the best possible integration of all our building plans. I am confident that this process will result in exciting new opportunities on our campus.”