Barry S. Kane, the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Registrar noted for overhauling and modernizing his division during his seven-year tenure, will step down on July 16 and move to Wellesley College to head the Registrar’s Office and assume an assistant deanship there, Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds announced in an e-mailed statement on Tuesday.
At the head of an office charged with coordinating the myriad moving parts of the University’s academic everyday—a busy mosaic of student records, course registrations, grades, transcripts, classroom assignments, and final examination administrations—Kane oversaw the migration of the Registrar’s systems and processes to online platforms. The move was in some ways a reprisal of a previous stint as Yale Registrar, where he used online interfaces and software to streamline academic operations before making the move to Cambridge in 2003.
"Barry transformed the Registrar’s office," said Secretary of the Administrative Board John "Jay" L. Ellison, crediting Kane with overseeing the “complete transition of the registrar duties onto the online world."
In an interview on Thursday, Kane ticked off a number of processes that moved online during his tenure: "Registration was done manually on paper in sort of an arena setting in Sever Hall, course evaluations were manually completed, class lists were paper, grading was paper," he said. "The world has changed."
Hammonds’ e-mail, addressed to "FAS Colleagues," cited Kane’s role in developing the online system and lauded him as well for directing two major reorganizations of his division—giving a greater role to the Information Technology team early in his tenure and later, in the midst of the historic economic crisis that winded the University in the 2009, adjusting to "align the office with new financial realities."
Kane did not command a highly visible presence on campus—a fact very much in keeping with his own conception of the Registrar’s role and profile, which he outlined in a rare, early interview with The Crimson in 2003.
"Our job is to fit into the background," he said then. "Students shouldn’t have to think about the registrar too much. After all, how many students can remember the name of their registrar after they graduate? But I bet they can remember the names of the professors who most influenced their lives."
For many, Kane was a disembodied voice, often exhorting the student body via e-mail to rally to such tasks as the completion of the semesterly course evaluations—known as C.U.E.s and later Q’s—whose online administration fell under his office’s purview.
In one representative spate of correspondence, over the course of two days in 2007, Kane sent three e-mails imploring students to fill out the C.U.E. evaluations, dangling a $10,000 reward for the undergraduate House whose students mustered the highest level of participation. At the end of the following spring, Kane launched a similar campaign, signing his name to e-mails entitled "The Q is now open," "Please, do the Q now," "Final Days to Evaluate Your Courses," and "Six Hours Left to Evaluate Your Courses."
"For those of you who tend to wait until the last minute to attend to responsibilities, that last minute is now fast approaching," Kane wrote in one e-mail to students. "For yourself, for your professors, for your teaching fellows, and for your fellow students, take the time now before the spring term begins to complete your course evaluations. Nothing could be more important to teaching within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences."
In an interview on Thursday, Kane said that he believes the changes he made to course evaluations had been his most significant accomplishment at Harvard. Before Kane arrived at the University, course evaluations were optional for professors, generally took place during the last class of the year, and were filled out by hand.
Kane’s work ethic and dedication to the position will be missed, colleagues and administrators said.
"Barry is a consummate professional, very dedicated to his work, exacting and demanding as a registrar must be," Dean of Undergraduate Education Jay M. Harris wrote in an e-mail from Jerusalem. "I have found him a pleasure to work with, even when we did not see eye to eye, as sometimes happened."
College administrators learned about the decision Monday, according to Ellison, who said Kane was leaving because he was "looking for new experiences and new challenges."
"It’s been seven years. Don’t you think that’s been long enough?" Kane said. "I’ll also say that Harvard has been fabulous probably the best professional experience of my life."
But Kane, who has occupied posts at Yale, Colgate, and Drew Universities prior to his work at Harvard, said he is ready for new challenges.
It remains unclear when the College will select a replacement or who will fill Kane's position in the interim. But, Kane said, work remains for his replacement: his biggest regret is not implementing an electronic platform for professors to submit midterm grades to the College.
Kane will leave behind what some called a time-consuming and sometimes thankless position.
"Registrar is one of those positions where everybody thinks of the registrar as a nuisance, if they think about them at all, until something goes wrong," said former Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68, who called Kane’s departure "a huge loss for Harvard."
—Staff writer Eric P. Newcomer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.