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Cambridge City Council Calls on Law School to Boost Reproductive Rights Education

Cambridge City Hall is located in Central Square.
Cambridge City Hall is located in Central Square. By Santiago A. Saldivar
By Elias J. Schisgall, Crimson Staff Writer

The Cambridge City Council on Monday called on Harvard Law School to bolster its reproductive rights education and voted to raise fees paid by commercial real estate developers toward a public fund for affordable housing.

During a Monday meeting, the Council unanimously voted for a resolution voicing support for the hundreds of HLS students who staged a full-day sit-in at the Law School earlier this month. The resolution endorses the students’ three main demands: that HLS hire a full-time reproductive justice professor, create a clinic for reproductive rights, and institute a reproductive justice curriculum.

Speaking during a public comment period in the meeting, Samantha J. Nagler, a third-year student at the Law School, called the lack of reproductive rights education at HLS an “injustice to its students.”

“I hope that the City of Cambridge will support our advocacy to hold Harvard accountable and push it to be a leader once again,” she said.

Vice Mayor Alanna M. Mallon, a co-sponsor of the resolution, said the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade this summer added urgency to the need for legal education about abortion rights.

“We know it’s going to take every one of us to fight against the oppressive nature of some of the laws that are coming forward now after Roe v. Wade was overturned,” Mallon said during the meeting.

“Reproductive justice is an important field of law,” she added. “And Harvard should be stepping up in this moment to support these students.”

The resolution calls on the city to send a copy to the Law School. Jeff Neal, a HLS spokesperson, declined to comment on the Council’s resolution.

The move reflects an increased focus on abortion from the Council following the Supreme Court’s decision. Last month, councilors expressed their intention to ban controversial limited-services pregnancy centers that do not provide abortions, but the city’s Law Department raised concerns about constitutionality.

During Monday’s meeting, the Council also amended the city’s zoning code to raise “linkage” fees, paid by commercial real estate developers toward Cambridge’s Affordable Housing Trust, from about $20 per square foot to more than $33 per square foot — a 66 percent increase. Cambridge’s linkage fee now more than doubles Boston’s fee of around $15 per square foot.

The amendment exempts some projects from the linkage fee, including the first 30,000 square feet of smaller developments and those that involve demolishing and rebuilding existing spaces for the same use.

In an interview last month, James G. Stockard Jr., a lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Design and a trustee for the Affordable Housing Trust, praised the “aggressive” fee increase and said it is unlikely to significantly slow down development. He added that a moderate slowdown in development “wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.”

“Development is going to keep on happening in this community almost regardless of the ways in which the city regulates it and places limits on it,” Stockard said.

“It makes sense to keep this number going up, and at some point, probably, it will start to slow down some of the larger developments,” he added. “If we don’t like that as a city, we could back off a little bit.”

—Staff writer Elias J. Schisgall can be reached at elias.schisgall@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @eschisgall.

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Harvard Law SchoolCambridge City CouncilCambridge