A Student's Dean
The Crimson Staff
This past November, Dean of Students Archie C. Epps III announced his retirement after 25 years of service to the College. Nearly two months later, after much speculation over whether his position would be filled, Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 has announced that Epps will not be replaced. Instead, Lewis will divide Epps' responsibilities among three associate deans of the College, Thomas A. Dingman '67, Georgene B. Herschbach and a yet-to-be-hired individual. Such a decision--to eliminate the presence of one administrator with official responsibility for student concerns--seems to us to be a catastrophic blow to student interests on this campus.
We have not always agreed with the policies of Epps, but the importance of an official student advocate in the upper echelons of the administration cannot be understated. The life of a Harvard undergraduate is a complicated affair. It has long been a shared supposition on this campus that life here in Cambridge is no cup of tea. Now we have statistics to prove it.
In a poll taken by The Crimson, undergraduates--while applauding the quality of their academic and extracurricular experiences--painted a far from pretty picture of Harvard life in the broader sense. Sixty-four percent of students reported that they stay home to do homework on Friday or Saturday nights, either every weekend or every other weekend. Forty-five percent say they wish they didn't stay in so often. Forty-six percent say they feel guilty about their use of free time very often or fairly often. Close to forty percent of our classmates have never had a romantic relationship that lasted longer than a week while at Harvard. In short, if our collegiate years ought to serve as a time for holistic personal development--and this staff believes they should--then Harvard does its students a serious disservice.
To promote this development, the College has the responsibility to encourage their students to take breaks from their busy lives. At the moment Harvard is solely a voice of academic authority. Unfortunately, the administration remains uncharacteristically quiet about the social scene, sending students the message that this side of their personalities is hardly worth cultivating.
So, when we consider the current condition of the student body, it seems sadly ironic that we are losing the only official student advocate just when such an advocate is most sorely needed. Lewis is surely a competent administrator and must feel that this reorganization is the right move. However, we are deeply concerned by his apparent attitude toward student life.
In a recent interview with The Crimson, Lewis expressed his opinion that Harvard was a "rare and precious privilege" and that if students were to slow down, they might risk "wasting" their opportunities. While we agree with his assessment of Harvard as a valuable resource, we couldn't disagree more about how students should spend their time. If there has been one upside to the campus debate over career choices, it has been the increasing realization that Harvard may be churning out dangerously one-dimensional individuals. The College does have much to offer that is rare and precious--a first-rate liberal arts education, a diverse array of extracurricular offerings, the chickwich--but these offerings can only sustain one facet of a well-rounded individual.
And this is where the Dean of Students should enter the equation. We need an administrator who is relatively removed from our academic and disciplinary fates. We need someone whose main priority is the social health of the student body, someone who will listen to student concerns. Three concrete ways to cultivate that atmosphere would be to build a student center, push back the curfew and be more flexible in allowing parties in student rooms.
It is unfortunate that the administration has not seen fit to replace Epps with another, officially titled, dean of students. Now the best we can hope for is that the responsibilities of the three associate deans will be clearly delineated and that they will make a concerted effort to act as real student advocates. Ambition, drive and thirst for knowledge is all well and good. But no one--we repeat no one--should feel forced to study on a Friday night.