ON THE NOT SO DIZZY DEANS
Now that the History 1 faculty has been brought face to face with the fact that the Dizzy Dean at the Freshman Smoker had nothing to do with deans of University Hall, it might repay inquiry to discover how any responsible person could get such an idea of the men who administer the daily life of the college. For a man holding the position of dean must combine the executive ability to keep the wheels of industry rolling, the personal charm to inspire the confidence of students and outsiders with whom he comes in contact, and the intellectual outlook of a teacher as well as of office manager and publicity man. From the Dean of the College right down the list to the assistant dean of Freshmen these qualities of character and ability must be held, and, if the College is to function smoothly, the only thing that can be dizzy about a dean is the height of the seat of authority on which he sits.
In the educational world an assistant deanship at Harvard is certainly an advantageous position for a young man to hold. An office in University Hall gives him a chance to try his talents at administrative work, leaving him at the same time the opportunity to teach without becoming a slave to research. He is an educator in the real sense of the word, having a hand in shaping the early training and planning the programs of thousands of students, and not depending solely on his ability to teach in his own specialized field to make his influence felt on the generations that come to college to fit themselves to life in the modern world. An assistant dean holds a magnificent position of opportunity and trust.
But despite the indispensability of his office and the real opportunities of the chair which he occupies, a baby dean's lot, like the policeman's in "The Pirates of Penzance", is not always an happy one. As in minor positions in the Government, the job of administering the daily routine of the college often tends to bog down in bureaucratic entanglements. The power, and sometimes the willingness, is lacking, to cut these knots. There is a strong tendency for a minor dean to indulge in the game of passing the buck, and, instead of dealing evenly and directly with all his students, to shift the onus of making difficult decisions over to other people, perhaps to that mysterious body known as the Administrative Board. In view of the fact that much of a dean's effectiveness depends on the position of respect or disrespect in which the undergraduates hold him, it might be well to give the lesser officials in University Hall a little more authority in routine matters.
For when all is said and done the personal magnetism and charm of a dean is his most important characteristic. Unlike a great professor who can draw people to him by the wealth of his learning, however disagreeable and cantankerous he may be, a dean must inspire the respect and loyalty of everybody who deals with him. A chance or thoughtless word, though off-hand and unintentional, may convince an undergraduate that the heart of University Hall is black and malign. But, given a man with an attractive personality and the ability to manage people, the opportunities of assistant deans for influence in the educational world are infinite in scope and variety.