Fired Tutor Sends Angry Mass E-mail

Eliot House resident tutor David D. Kane was on top of the world. He was the proud father of one-year-old daughter Michaela, enjoyed popularity with many House residents and was about to graduate from the John F. Kennedy School of Government with a Ph. D. in political economy and government in June.

Then came his dismissal from his role as a resident tutor.

Kane and his wife, Kay, also an Eliot resident tutor, were officially told by House Co-Masters Steven A. Mitchell and Kristine Forsgard in an April e-mail that they were no longer needed next year after four years of service to the House.

However, Mitchell contends that Kane was told "long, long ago that it was unlikely that he would be asked back for 1997-98."

Even though Kane had applied to do post-doctoral work at Yale University and for senior tutor positions in various other houses--indicating that he had considered leaving Eliot House--Kane nonetheless called the firing "an abuse of authority" in a vitriolic eight-page e-mail he sent out last Tuesday to over 200 Eliot House residents--including seniors, the masters and fellow resident tutors.

Kane recently received notice that he has not gotten any of the positions he applied for and will go into the business world next year, according to the e-mail.

To prevent other resident tutors from similar predicaments, Kane said that the House ought to adopt "Kane's Rule," which would ensure that "no Eliot tutor shall be denied reappointment from office for the following academic year after January."

Meanwhile, the mass e-mail has generated a mini-controversy in Eliot.

According to Kane's e-mail, Mitchell is a "two-faced liar" while Forsgard has "shut-the-hell-up dagger eyes."

Mitchell said that the strong tone of Kane's e-mail expressed emotion over accuracy: "The construction and interpretation of events he gives is much closer to what he must be feeling than it is to the historical record."

Mitchell was particularly disturbed by Kane's "gratuitous personal attacks, unjustified and untrue as they are, on my wife, who does more for the House as a whole and for the individuals within it than anyone I know."

In retrospect, Kane said that his dismissal was not the first time he felt ill-treated by the masters.

He details the frustration he felt at having to move to various suites throughout the House in search of a de-leaded room for the baby he and Kay were expecting.

They moved from N-43 to J-11 to B-13. Kane said that the masters had promised only one move but then reneged on the promise.

Mitchell declined "to respond point-by-point to Dave's letter." He said, "I was brought up to respect privacy and although I understand Dave's desire to vent his feeling, I hardly want to prompt future rounds of commentary."

Kane is also offended by what he calls the masters' unprofessional manner.

He said the masters began to harbor animosity toward he and Kay after they complained about the room changes.

"We made the mistake of telling people, including other tutors, about what had happened to us," Kane said in the e-mail. "They [the masters] are not people who tolerate such things."

Kane said the animosity then escalated into backstabbing. When he applied for the senior tutor positions, Kane said that Mitchell played a "two-faced" role.

"He claims, on the one hand, that he is telling the other Masters that I would make a great senior tutor while simultaneously telling me that I am such a lousy tutor that he has no choice but to kick me out of Eliot," Kane said.

Moreover, Kane said that the masters expressed an unprofessional attitude toward other tutors as well.

For example, he said that they fired married tutors Sean Gallagher and Aida Vidan in an underhanded manner last year for an undisclosed reason. Nevertheless, Kane said that he did not speak up then because he believed the masters were acting in the best interests of the House.

Students say that Kane's allegations are not without validity.

An anonymous Eliot House senior who declined to give his name said that his blockmates were very good friends with Gallagher last year and heard of the reason behind their dismissal.

"Aida happened to be good friends with this Ukrainian student [who] sued Eliot House, and [the House] lost money and were bitter about it," he said.

He believes that Aida, and indirectly, her husband Steve, were asked to leave because Aida had befriended and associated with a controversial figure.

Of Mitchell and Forsgard, he said, "They definitely play favorites in Eliot House, even among the students."

Another Eliot House senior, who also declined to give his name, concurred. "I have to agree with David Kane in terms of how two-faced the masters may seem, but I don't interact with them very often," he said.

However, the students had only kind words for Kane. "He didn't have an enemy in the world," the first senior said.

"Of all the House tutors that I knew, David was one of the only ones that knew my name," said a third anonymous Eliot House senior who declined to give his name. "I talked to him about many issues like sports and women and other things."

However, resident tutors sympathized with Mitchell and Forsgard.

Chantal E. Stern said she thought the Kanes' dismissal was more of a personal issue. "It's happened before Tutors are asked to leave and there are a variety of reasons," she said.

Stern said that she has never felt betrayed by the masters and believed that most tutors felt the same way.

"Overall, the tutorial staff at Eliot House is a really great group," she said. "Tutor morale is actually very high."

Resident Tutor Ellie R. Chadwick said the e-mail was "inappropriate" not only because "everyone in the House held the masters in high regard" but also because "it was addressed to all the seniors."

In an e-mail to The Crimson, Mitchell said that "many seniors have expressed annoyance that their 'one and only Harvard graduation' threatens to be overshadowed by [Kane's] dissatisfaction at leaving the house."

Mitchell also said that Kane's mass e-mail was not a good reaction to the decision to dismiss him. Rather, it only strengthened his belief that firing Kane was a good decision.

"Certainly after receiving [the e-mail], I was strengthened in my conviction that the decision had been a good one, and that it was time for him to move on. And who wouldn't feel that way?" Mitchell said. "[The e-mail] hardly cast Dave himself in a very flattering or intelligent light.