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Dean Bender Attacks Editorial

The Mail


To the Editors of the CRIMSON:

The editorial in Monday's CRIMSON entitled "Deans for Dinner" contains several gross errors and distortions of fact which ought not to be allowed to stand unchallenged.

The editorial argues that the proposal to transfer the functions of the Dean's Office to the Houses is undesirable for two reasons. First, "the faculty disapproved of the group tutorial part of it (the Report on Advising) and balked even harder at the idea of having tutorial in the five large fields taken from the hands of the departments and put in charge of House deans". The facts are that far from disapproving of the Report's recommendations for group tutorial the Faculty formally approved of them in principle last spring without a dissenting vote. A Faculty committee is now engaged in drawing up plans for implementing this vote and it should make its report in the near future. The Faculty did not "balk even harder" at the idea of taking group tutorial from the hands of the departments and putting it in the hands of the House deans because no such proposal was ever made.

The editorial's second point is that, "no permanent faculty member is willing to take the job". This may indeed be true, but since the job does not exist as yet and since no member of the Faculty, permanent or impermanent, has yet been asked by the Provost or myself or any one else with any responsibility for appointment whether he was interested, the statement has no factual basis. My own opinion is that there are few men with permanent appointments who will be interested in doing this work, at least at the start of the plan, but that it will be possible to find able, mature Faculty members for the jobs.

Even more serious is the gross misconception of the function of the Dean's office which is implied in the editorial. Phrases such as, "an official charged with regulating students' personal conduct," and "strictly disciplinary fellows like the present Assistant Deans," are used. The fact is that probably less than one per cent of the cases that come to the Dean's Office are disciplinary cases, and there may well be more disciplinary cases handled in the Houses now than in University Hall. Almost all of the work of the Dean's Office consists of trying to deal with the academic and personal problems of students and evaluating their personal qualities for a variety of purposes. The question is whether these things can be done more effectively in the Houses than in University Hall.

The recommendations of the Advising Report are important for the future of Harvard College and ought to be thoroughly debated. An inexcusably ignorant and irresponsible editorial like this one adds nothing but confusion to the debate. The CRIMSON owes its readers an apology for printing it. W. J. Bender   Dean of Harvard College

First: The CRIMSON editorial never said that the proposal to transfer the functions of the Dean's Office was undesirable for the reasons listed; it merely pointed out the practical difficulties which have, we believe, changed the character of the Senior Tutor from the character of the House Dean as originally proposed. The CRIMSON stated editorially last spring that it favored the proposals made by Dean Bender's Faculty Committee and endorsed by the full Faculty. This last editorial merely attempted to point out that unless certain important problems could be worked out--problems which would radically alter the original plan--the system might not be practical after all.

Second: Dean Bender is absolutely correct in stating that the CRIMSON erred in saying the Faculty disapproved the group tutorial plan.

Third: The CRIMSON did not intend to imply that all deans do is to handle riot, fight cases, and the like. We, of course, included "academic discipline" cases and "social discipline" cases in the references to "discipline."

Fourth: The statement "no permanent faculty member is willing to take the job" was not meant to imply that anyone was officially offered the post. Of course, this is Impossible since the jobs do not yet exist. The CRIMSON'S Information is, however, that many permanent faculty members questioned about the post said they would not take it and that, in fact, the sub-committee on House Deans, of which Dean Bender is a member, is now reconciled to using non-permanent appointees. Whether or not these men would be "able and mature" was not the question.

The CRIMSON editorial was directed to this one point: unless the Faculty can get the right men to do the job, and unless it is willing to give these men the broad functions in helping direct group tutorial in the Houses as originally planned, it hardly seems worthwhile to implement the new system at all. We still believe it is a fine plan in principle and certainly feel that it is important. We are just a little dubious now of its working out in practice.--ED.

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