Deans for Dinner

No student really likes the idea of having a dean in his House. An official charged with regulating student's personal conduct would hardly seem to be the ideal next door neighbor or dinner-table companion. Therefore, most undergraduates were dubious last spring when the Bender committee's Report on Advising suggested decentralizing the present Dean's office and putting a dean in each House.

But it appeared then that the value of having a dean in the House would outweigh any disadvantages that moved in with him. According to the plan the House dean would coordinate the new tutorial system, seeing to it that every concentrator in one of the five large departments had an opportunity for group tutorial with other students in his House, and it possible, with a tutor on the House stall. The new emphasis on the House system seemed a worthwhile gain.

Besides, the House deans were not supposed to be strictly disciplinary fellows like the present assistant deans. They were to be, preferably, senior faculty members, actively engaged in teaching halt the time. They would presumbaly have enough contact with their House members in the classroom and in the dining hall to be able to do a more personal job on disciplinary matters than the deans centered in University Hall.

With those considerations, the idea of House deans became more palatable. But since the Advising Report came out, two practical problems have turned up that again make the desirability of House deans questionable. Hardly had the Report been made public when the faculty disapproved of the group tutorial part of it, and balked even harder at the idea of having tutorial in the five large fields taken from the hands of the departments and put in the charge of House deans. As a result there may be no expansion of group tutorial, and even if there is, the departments will probably administer it themselves. In either case, one of the best reasons for having deans in the Houses may disappear.

Another difficulty in starting the House dean program is that no permanent faculty member is willing to take the job. That is understandable, since the work is probably less stimulating than teaching or research, and there are no special advantages attached to it. It would also be hard to find any assistant professors willing to take the job, since they have teaching obligations and must also write books in order to gain permanent appointments. That leaves the House dean jobs for instructors and teaching fellows--lesser men on the academic scale, who must be willing to subordinate their academic careers to administrative work. With this revision in the archetype of House deans goes the only other reason for having them. No longer is the House dean an older person whose primary contact with his students is on non-decanal lines, and no longer is there any value in having him in the House.

If the faculty is unable to overcome either of the difficulties that have crippled the original House dean plan, it would be best to leave the deans where they now sit in University Hall. If more deans are required, more can be hired. It might even be feasible to assign each dean to the students in one or two of the Houses, rather than to those in part of a class, as is now the case. But if the deans are not going to co-ordinate tutorial or be senior faculty members in accord with the Advising Report's suggestions, they should be kept out of the Houses so that the undergraduates can enjoy the peace of mind that comes with distance from the dean.