Defining "partnership"

One of the interesting questions raised at last night's Harvard Allston Task Force meeting is whether or not there is a viable partnership between the community and Harvard. The Harvard staff took umbrage at my assertion that, despite all the talk, there actually is no partnership at all. This was in the same meeting where Harvard staff said that after 2 years they are still trying to figure out how to allow community members to ride the Harvard shuttle ("we had a meeting about that just this morning" they told us) and that they can't find a way to allow limited public access to their athletic facilities without displacing their own students. It seems possible that most of the time not all of Harvard's 28 tennis and 16 squash courts in North Allston are being used.

But if Harvard doesn't want the unwashed masses on their turf, that's fine. But what's not fine is claiming that we really are partners and "all in this together" while acting as if we are held hostage by an evolving set of unsolvable constraints (liability, security, etc.) that prevent this integration. At the same time, Harvard has established a virtual monopoly over the non-residential land in our neighborhood, and it is pretty well established that the general welfare of society may not be well-served if monopolies are able to exercise all rights that they had before achieving monopoly status.

The Harvard staff explained that we have a partnership based on attending more than 70 meetings together in the past 2 years. Here are some more traditional definitions of "partnership":
  • "a type of business entity in which partners share with each other the profits or losses of the business undertaking in which all have invested." - Wikipedia
  • "A relationship between individuals or groups that is characterized by mutual cooperation and responsibility, as for the achievement of a specified goal" - The Free Dictionary
  • "two or more parties working to achieve common interests and goals"
  • "a relationship... usually involving close cooperation between parties having specified and joint rights and responsibilities" - Merriam-Webster

Those sound great - close cooperation, joint rights, mutual responsibility, shared outcome - but also so distant from the current relationships that the community has with Harvard and the BRA. Admitting that our relationship lacks these attributes seems like a better step toward reconciliation than continuing to pretend we have something that we don't.

It makes sense to wrap up thoughts with the mission statement of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Community Partnerships which includes:

"...bringing to bear the broad range of human knowledge needed to solve the
complex, comprehensive, and interconnected problems of the American city so that
West Philadelphia (Penn’s local geographic community), Philadelphia, the
University itself, and society benefit."

1 comment:

  1. Community Member11:04 PM

    Fantastic post, and fantastic decision by the task force to stand up for Allston residents.

    Harping over definitions isn't always helpful, but Harvard's claim of community "partnership" illustrates the fundemental problem with Harvard's expansion - THEY HAVE NOT LISTENED TO THE NEEDS OF THE COMMUNITY.

    Because of the task force, Allston and Brighton residents are more unified than ever; the whole task force finally made me proud. I hope this progress continues.

    Thanks, Harry. The next step is to continue this progress and *to make sure our elected officials support the community consensus as much as possible*.