The Corporation's decision last week to dismiss the grievances brought by three senior professors at the Graduate School of Design against Maurice D. Kilbridge, the dean of the School, demonstrates once again the futility of challenging from below the administrative structure of a self-contained community such as Harvard. In declining to address itself to the larger and more important issue of Kilbridge's overall performance as dean, the Corporation has substituted an inadequate institutional decision which upholds the Dean's action on six separate counts by imposing the strictest possible interpretation of the Statutes of the University.
The Corporation's interpretation of the Fifth and Sixth Statutes concerning the prerogatives of deans and administrators reflects a belief that these prerogatives extend as far as circumstance dictates. It is now clear that Kilbridge did, with the knowledge of President Pusey, Overseers and others, actively work to remove Professors Isaacs, Nash and Vigier from positions of influence in the Planning Department. And yet the Corporation finds that his methods, while "unusual," were justified by conditions in the School and the Department.
Similarly, in its application of the Third Statute concerning grave misconduct, the Corporation has found that the Dean's actions circumventing the decisions of the School's admissions committee were, while "outside normal precedent," understandable in light of abnormal conditions and circumstances. In other words, when the Statutes are applied to administrators, anything goes so long as circumstances agree.
We have already made known our concern about the shaky condition of the Design School, and while opinions differ on its current direction, it remains clear to us that the School will never prosper while the bad taste of the past three years, and these proceedings in particular, lingers. We have noted with regret the lack of judgment shown both by the Dean and Professors Isaacs, Nash and Vigier--the three men who dominated the Planning Department in the decade preceeding the crisis of 1969-70. And we stand by our conviction that the interests of the School would be best served by an attempt at a new start. The two complainants who remain at the School, Isaacs and Vigier, should abtstain from significant administrative duties in the future, and Dean Kilbridge should resign to return to the Business School.
Aside from the grievances at the GSD, however, the Corporation's reluctance to address itself to the issue of the condition of the School carries with it some troubling implications. By finding for the Dean "with prejudice," the Corporation has effectively blocked any appeal by the professors within the University. The decision intones that no professor or group of professors can, through formal proceedings, successfully challenge the prerogative of a dean or administrator--even when, as in this instance, they feel that University Statutes have repeatedly been violated. In a supposedly open community, this denial of formal redress is deplorable.
The three professors followed the Corporation's expressed intent to consider only violations of the Statutes. They presented their case as a series of alleged violations in hopes that the sum of their allegations would establish certain conclusions about the Dean's overall performance. But the Corporation, by distinguishing among the six counts, undercut the professors' overall contention. By narrowly applying the Statutes, the Corporation found the Dean's methods extraordinary but not illegal.
Apparently, the Corporation subscribes to the theory President Bok propounded Wednesday that the proper way to question the performance of an administrator or the condition of a school is through private discussion and consultation. But that is precisely what is irksome about the way Harvard handles its internal affairs: the appointment of professors, the granting of tenure, the selection and evidently the removal of administrators all revolve around hushed conferences. And the logical extension of this theory, now crystallized, is that when formal grievances are brought, they will be considered not on merit alone, but with the apprehension of establishing a dangerous precedent.