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ALEX BEAM

Harvard's architects say: How about us?

The people who read the Harvard tea leaves -- let's call them Harvardologists -- duly noted the absence of an architect from the World's Greatest Graduate School of Design on the newly formed task forces president Larry Summers has appointed to map out Harvard's march across the river into Allston.

 

Most notably there is no Harvard architect on the committee assigned to "envision the ways in which Harvard's Allston planning can contribute to a lively residential urban community." This group is also supposed to "explore options for housing graduate students and others."

"It is as if they were building a new chapel and didn't put someone from the religion department on the planning committee," my informant comments.

The word on the street is that Summers has had more than his fill of GSD architecture mavens, who greeted the newly arrived president with Rem Koolhaas's bizarre "Moses Scheme" for rechanneling the Charles River near Harvard. More recently the GSD championed the Ugliest Building Ever Built, the near-universally reviled 1 Western Avenue, a 235-unit housing facility for students, faculty, and staff in Allston. Both members of the design team of Machado and Silvetti have GSD connections. Jorge Silvetti and partner Rodolfo Machado teach at the school.

Digression: I kind of like 1 Western. It reminds me of the old Supreme Soviet building in Tashkent, Uzbekistan. But then again, I think Leonard Cohen is an upbeat singer. Perhaps my own taste isn't the issue here. . . .

A Harvard spokeswoman knocks down the antiarchitect conspiracy theory advanced here. "There is no linkage between 1 Western Avenue and the selection of the task force members," Lauren Marshall explains. "Membership of each committee reflects broad representation from within the university to help generate a collaborative vision of the planning assumptions. Their objective is to discuss and enhance the planning assumptions, and to give academics' perspectives on the priorities and programs that will drive the physical planning."

More academe

The era of bad feelings continues at Emerson College, where, for reasons not entirely clear, the administration has decided to eliminate the faculty union. The ticked-off faculty is now making much of the supposedly lavish salary and benefits of President Jacqueline Liebergott and Vice President of Administration and Finance Robert Silverman, uncharitably referred to on campus as "Silber-man."

In the most recently reported year, 2002, Liebergott's total compensation was $226,000, Silverman's $300,000.

But the fact is that the Emerson administrators' compensation, while more than three times greater than the average faculty salary of just over $60,000, does not approach the pay scale of, say, John Silber's Bo$ton University, which was prepared to pay its next president in the neighborhood of $750,000. Pretty nice neighborhood, wouldn't you say?

Speaking of neighborhoods, the Emerson faculty union is distributing photographs of Liebergott's and Silverman's Newton homes. This is a bit of a dirty trick, given that neither house belongs to Emerson and that the owners have lived in them for more than 20 years. Not far from Liebergott's pad, for instance, you would find the far more lavishly appointed Brandeis University president's home, now occupied by Jehuda and Shulamit Reinharz. And if you want to see some real feeding at the trough, go to this website -- www.bufuture.net/pictures.html -- to see the five lovely houses in which top BU executives live rent-free.

Emerson has yet to enter the big leagues where financial indulgence and self-dealing are concerned.

The chairman speaks

The latest issue of Modern Maturity -- sorry, I mean Esquire; the cover photo of decrepit Lothario Jack Nicholson fooled me -- has this tasteful quote from Salem's own Jack Welch, chief executive turned Beacon Hill party thrower: "My kids are all very good to me," says the priapic 68-year-old, who has been stepping out with the considerably younger Suzy Wetlaufer, former editor of the Harvard Business Review. "I'm a little wild. You know I had that public divorce. My oldest daughter graduated with Suzy from Harvard Business School. So it's not so easy."

Alex Beam is a Globe columnist. His

e-dress is beam@globe.com.

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