[Parentsgroup-list] Disappointment & Outrage of Crimson article "Students Will Protest

Tonya Cropper tonya_cropper at ksgphd.harvard.edu
Tue May 10 20:37:15 EDT 2005

Hello Everyone, (I 'm resending this email from Saturday.   I've been 
posting to an incorrect parents email link 
parentsgroup-list-bounces at lists.hcs.harvard.edu
Also, some of us have been contacted by the Crimson for an interview.)

In reply to the Crimson article (Thursday, May, 5, 2005) in which a group of 
undergraduates students are planning a launch against the construction of
new graduate student housing on Cowperthwaite Street, we wrote a response to 
the article.  The steering group of the proposed student parents
organization voiced its personal support of the construction, which we feel 
will benefit graduate students. Obviously, there is no guarante that the
article will be printed.  Please read the Crimson article and our response. 
If you feel inclined, please express your opinions to this group or the


Also, here's a link to more information and pictures of the proposed 


After reading the Crimson article, "Students Will Protest Building," we feel 
compelled to respond to these students' lack of understanding of the benefit 
of additional housing to graduate students.

We feel that many graduate students, especially student parents, are 
experiencing financial crisis, and that the disparity between housing costs 
and grad student incomes is a primary cause of this crisis.   We applaud 
Harvard's efforts to increase the supply of housing-and thus reduce its 
cost-by their recently completed 235 apartment units at One Western Avenue 
and the proposed Cowperthwaite Street development.

Demand for grad student housing close to campus is tremendous.  According to 
Harvard's Affiliated Housing website, during the 2003-2004 leasing period, 
only 33% of the 3700 applications for apartment units were matched.  Yet 
despite the demand, the cost of these units is still a significant financial 
burden to many graduate students.  Currently, the monthly cost of a 
2-bedroom Harvard apartment ranges from $1415-$1809 without heat and 
$1521-$2050 with heat.  Most Harvard grad students have a teaching or 
stipend income of $1740-$1800/month; the source of many students' financial 
crisis is obvious.  But by improving supply, we believe that graduate 
housing rents will be reduced.  Current Harvard reasoning behind charging 
grad student market-rate rents for housing supports this belief.

The limited supply and high cost of housing, in addition to high 
out-of-pocket costs of health insurance and child care, can have a seriously 
destabilizing effect on the lives of Harvard graduate students, especially 
students with children.  Unlike undergraduates, incoming graduate students 
are not guaranteed campus housing, and those who do win the lottery often do 
not find out until a few weeks before classes begin.  This uncertainty can 
be very stressful.  Graduate students who are not fortunate enough to 
receive Harvard housing must scramble to find housing in the Cambridge area, 
often having to shell out thousands of dollars upfront, or else move far 
away from campus and commute, which can have a very negative effect on these 
students' ability to participate in campus life.

Thus, before these students launch their campaign against the proposed 
Cowperthwaite Street units, we invite them to understand how some of their 
fellow Harvard students-and many of their TFs-live.  These students state 
their main opposition to the graduate housing is the "early-morning noise" 
and that " the building would compromise their safety, sense of community, 
and privacy."  We would like them to imagine a different perspective. 
Imagine being a single mom with an 8-year-old and not having a campus 
apartment a month before classes start, nor having the thousands of dollars 
to secure an off-campus apartment, and thus not being able to enroll your 
child in school.  Imagine spending $5600 to cover your family under Harvard's 
health insurance and then having to move father away from campus to afford a 
place to live.  Imagine having to spend $14,000 for a year at a Harvard's 
child care center when you only use the service for nine months.  Imagine 
not being able to afford Harvard's child care center and having to rely on 
cheaper child care arrangements that resulted in harm to your child. 
Imagine having only  $200 a month remaining from your stipend check after 
you pay the rent on your Harvard apartment.  Imagine not knowing until a 
week or more after classes begin whether you will have a much-needed income 
from a teaching fellow position because of Harvard's lack of preregistration 
and the "shopping period" tradition.  These are some of our experiences as 
grad students and as grad student parents at Harvard.

If these students really want to feel "energized" and make a difference, we 
implore them to join us in asking Harvard administration to reduce the 
outstanding financial burdens faced by many grad students.  Granted, Harvard 
has reduced its apartment costs by about 6 percent for next year's leasing 
period, but we feel that the university can do much more.   Other leading 
universities provide substantial subsidies to their students for campus 
housing.  Student parents at Princeton can rent a 2-bedroom for $900 a 
month, which includes utilities.  Student parents at Berkeley are eligible 
for an additional  $6000 annual grant to use towards housing, child care, or 
health insurance expenses.

We are disappointed that some Harvard students are opposed to additional 
housing for graduate students and outraged that the crux of the objection is 
that the height and width of the building "will obstruct light and 
significantly diminish the pathway and park behind Leverett."  We hope they 
are willing to join us in enriching the academic experience and livelihood 
of graduate student parents by advocating for not only more housing units, 
but also a substantial decrease in the cost of these units.  We believe that 
more affordable housing at Harvard will result in the creation of a more 
collegial and happy environment for the entire Harvard community.


The Steering Committee for Harvard Student Parents Organization:

Pär Cassel, Tonya Cropper, Ryan Larsen, Liang Luo, Christine Wenc

Zoe Trodd, Graduate Student Council President

More information about the Parentsgroup-list mailing list