Tutors to Retract Threats of Libel

Two tutors in Dunster House who sent letters to six other tutors threatening libel suits will apologize and retract the letter in writing, Master Karel F. Liem said yesterday.

Liem also took blame for the increase in tensions in the house, although he said the letters were sent without his knowledge.

At the request of the house committee co-chairs, Liem will hold a meeting tonight to address student concerns about the controversy. Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 will attend, and a member of the Harvard Negotiation Project will moderate.

"I want to appeal to the students to look forward, and I will work together to find a fairer system of appointing and evaluating tutors," Liem said. "I have the good of the students in my heart."

Vincent W. Li '87 and his brother William W. Li '84 will send a letter to the six tutors to "smooth out tensions and try to diffuse a sense of threat," William Li said yesterday.

Li said he made the decision to send another letter last month, and told Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 about it in a meeting last Thursday. He said no one ordered him or his brother to write the letter.

Liem said the Li brothers "made a gross error and misjudgment" when they sent the letter last month.

Li refused to confirm or deny Liem's statement that he would apologize to the tutors. Li also said he would not apologize to students, although he said he would try to attend tomorrow's meeting.

"This is not between me and students," Li said in a telephone interview yesterday. "If students have concerns, they can come to me personally."

Eight tutors said last year that Vincent W. Li '87, the assistant senior tutor in charge of hiring other tutors, had influenced Liem in the hiring of Li's brother, girlfriend and two longtime friends as resident tutors.

Liem held a three-hour meeting last May to discuss student and tutor concerns about conflicts in the house.

But last month, the lawyer for the Li brothers sent a letter to six tutors threatening legal action if they take "any further actions to propagate false and professionally damaging information." Sophie Volpp '85, a tutor in East Asian Studies, resigned, citing the letter as her reason for leaving.

Liem's announcement that the Li brothers would retract the letter came after 35 members of Dunster Students for Free Expression composed a list of questions about the recent tutor controversy at a meeting Mon- day night. House committee co-chairs presentedLiem with the list yesterday.

Issues raised in the list, which was also madeavailable to students yesterday, include increasedstudent involvement in tutor selection, theappointment of a third co-chair of the committeethat advises pre-meds and an explanation for thelack of tutors in several concentrations.

"People are very confused about what reallywent on about last year's tutor controversy," saidElizabeth Cotter '94, Dunster House Committee.co-chair. "There's a general lack of communicationin the House."

And although only two pre-med students attendedthe Students for Free Expression meeting, thegroup expressed the need for a third premedadvisory committee co-chair. The Li brotherscurrently chair that committee, which reviewsmedical school recommendations.

"I would very strongly assert that pre-medscare about this issue," said Jesse M. Furman '94,one of the coordinators of the meeting. "[Thatmore pre-meds did not attend the meeting]indicates a tremendous amount of fear that anyinvolvement will be held against them."

Many students also questioned why the new tutorhiring policy prohibits Dunster alumni fromserving as tutors until five years after theirgraduation. Students suggested the waiting periodshould be three years, as it is in many otherhouses.

Students added Liem should allow current tutorsto retain their jobs as an exception to the fiveyear rule. If the rule is enforced, David Bear'92, a non-resident tutor in physics and anoutspoken critic of Liem and the Li brothers, willbe forced to resign at the end of this year.

"Maybe this was created to get rid of him," onestudent said.

Students also wanted more representation on thetutor selection process, which currently allowsfor a student interview committee and studentrecommendations.

Organizers said they were pleased with theturnout at the meeting.

"We really tapped into a real well ofresentment in this house," said Ted G. Rose '94, aformer Dunster House Undergraduate Councilrepresentative and former Crimson associate sportseditor. "It's really there and this meeting provedit."

The group, which plans to meet next Monday, wasoriginally formed two years ago when Liem did notrenew a resident tutor's contract after the tutorexpressed disapproval for a kosher toaster inDunster House.

"We intend to pursue this until all questionsand concerns voiced today are restored," Furmansaid. "If that takes a long time, so be it."

Liem said he will continue to meet with Jewettabout the issue. He said he has been meeting withJewett almost exclusively, save one meeting withJewett and Knowles.

Liem confirmed yesterday that he asked VincentLi to resign from the advisory committee set up tointerview prospective tutors. Liem said he wouldreplace Li on the seven-member committee.

Liem also defended his choice of the othermembers of the committee.

"I think they are not connected to studentneeds in picking tutors," Liem said. "But they arebringing a different perspective and are objectiveabout the whole thing."

Liem also defended his selection of Dr. R. DanaOno, a dissertation advisee of his from 1975 to1981. "As one gets older and produces a lot ofPh.D. students, it is difficult to stay away fromPh.D advisees," Liem said.

Li did not return phone calls yesterday