"The setup ensures that the right parties have been approached, in the right sequence, to address the right interests, under the right expectations, at the right table or tables"Thursday morning at 8:00 at the Ed Portal is the first walk-in coffee hour with Bill Purcell. This upcoming opportunity, which is mentioned in a Harvard Crimson story but seemingly not at http://allston.harvard.edu/ or http://www.evp.harvard.edu/allston-work-team, raises some questions about what interests should be discussed and what expectations are constructive to have at this point in the Harvard-Allston relationship.
For the past several years, many questions asked by residents of Allston and Brighton to various Harvard employees have been returned with some form of "I don't know" or "I'll have to get back to you on that." Most recently, questions about the Science Complex and the status and schedule of Harvard's Allston Work Team have received variations on that response. We hear these non-answers so often that, for some, it may be hard to believe. As the Crimson reported:
"University officials remained unable to present detailed updates on the future
of Harvard's campus across the river... University officials did not present a
timeline for moving forward with construction on the Science Complex"
Are there times when Harvard employees have information that they don't want to share? Maybe on some occasions the answer really is unknown and other times the answer is known but will not be shared, especially in a large public meeting with the media in attendance.
Perhaps it is helpful to categorize any question we might ask or subject we might attempt to raise on Thursday and in the future. Issues in categories 1, 2, and 3 are more likely to receive an "I don't know".
Category 1: The answer is not known, and even if it was known it would not be shared
Category 2: The answer is known, but Harvard considers it none of our business.
Category 3: The answer would be provided, but it doesn't exist.
Only when we get into category 4 might Harvard feel comfortable and confident enough to provide an answer or discuss a topic. So while Harvard might be delighted to talk about a "4" like the design of Library Park, trying to discuss Harvard's budget for Allston construction through 2015 (or 2025) seems like more like a dead-end "1".
This methodology, if it has any validity, is difficult to use because the Allston/Brighton public knows so little about Harvard's current state of planning and operations. Has Harvard really gone back to square one (or earlier) and thrown out all of the planning for the Science Complex and the rest of the Allston 50 year plan that we saw back in 2007? What are all those Harvard Deans discussing during their Allston meetings? Do they really have no schedule for their planning and deliberations?
If we could talk with Bill Purcell about Harvard's openness and certainty regarding various relevant to the Allston/Brighton community, and when and how they might move towards 4, that would seem like a pretty constructive way to spend a coffee hour.