A Tale of Two Worlds

Harvard employees living in Allston experience two sides of a heated debate

The perks they cite range from a diverse work environment to the chance to take classes at the Harvard Extension School and certain graduate programs at a reduced cost.

With his tenth floor Holyoke Center office looking out onto Allston, Robert Breslin—an accountant and longtime resident who has been working for Harvard since he was a junior in high school—says he has enjoyed the opportunity to earn two degrees from the Extension School with University funding.

“Harvard can really offer so much,” Paula Alexander says. “Since I’ve worked here, I’ve learned here—I’ve had great opportunities and met friends from all over the world.”

At the same time, employees say they define themselves by their families, community, and neighborhood first and foremost.

“It’s my job, not who I am,” Kearney says.



“Being a member of both communities—Harvard and Allston-Brighton—one realizes that it’s very easy to make generalizations,” says one Harvard employee living in Allston.

The Allstonian viewpoint is sometimes caricatured as uniformly antagonistic toward Harvard, which employees from Allston say does not represent their perspective.

One Allston contingent has positioned itself in opposition to the University, sometimes making an affiliation with Harvard uncomfortable, says one Harvard employee.

“I have a Harvard t-shirt that I very rarely wear around town,” he says.

Several Harvard employees, speaking as Allston residents, say that they do not share the sense of “entitlement” expressed by some of their more vocal neighbors.

“A lot of people feel like Harvard owes them something—I don’t,” says Kearney, who has worked for Harvard for almost three decades.

Breslin echoes this sentiment, adding that Harvard has a certain obligation to look after the neighborhood, but that the University in this case is a landlord like any other.

And employees also acknowledge that Harvard’s presence benefits the community as a whole.

Pointing to Harvard’s contributions to Allston—such as the Harvard Allston Education Portal, which offers free enrichment opportunities in science, math, writing, and public speaking to neighborhood children—resident employees add that Harvard has provided significant community benefits, which are sometimes forgotten in the heated discussions over Allston’s future. Others note that Harvard’s development into Allston has the potential to create jobs in the area for locals.

But despite their more balanced perspectives, several Allston residents employed by Harvard say they were not immune to the disappointment following the University’s decision to halt construction on the Science Complex.

“They promised us the world, a utopia,” Robert Alexander says.

—Staff writer Sofia E. Groopman can be reached at

—Staff writer Tara W. Merrigan can be reached


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