IT HASN'T BEEN a great week for House masters. Last week, Monday's Crimson revealed, Robert J. Kiely, master of Adams House, told an Adams House section about a couple of specific questions and most of the format of his exam in English 166, "The Novel Since World War II." Some of Kiely's students from other Houses didn't like this, and two of them are bringing it before the Commission of Inquiry, a body the Faculty set to balance the Committee on Rights and Responsibilities.
The Commission has never done much of anything, and whether it will break with tradition this time is still unknown. By Tuesday evening President Bok, Dean Rosovsky, Alan Heimert, master of Eliot House, and Martin H. Peretz, master of South House, had all refused to comment on the Kiely case. Bok didn't even say he was behind Kiely a thousand per cent, although last month he'd told 15 people at the Harvard Republican Club that appointing Kiely master of Adams was "one of our best moves," because it "connected the Houses to University Hall."
Kiely's connection to University Hall would be hard to deny. Chairman of the Committee on Undergraduate Education, associate dean of the Faculty, and chairman of the Committee on General Education, he's among the brightest stars in Bok's galaxy of bureaucratic luminaries. On the other hand, the importance of connecting the Houses to University Hall--especially if it means sacrificing masters' identification with their own Houses--seems open to question. Before the University's evident decision that everyone knows what a House is for, President Abbott Lawrence Lowell's statement of the Houses' purpose used to be reprinted in each year's catalogue. It said they were meant to mix undergraduates of "different classes, types and early associations." "Contacts, good talk, wide range of friendships flourish when men live in a community," Lowell continued. He didn't say what he thought of the contacts or the talk in University Hall.
THE CONTACTS, TALK and friendships in University Hall are reasonably important for House administrations, though, and they're getting more important all the time. Last year, Bok and Dean Whitlock appointed two House masters, Kiely and James Vorenberg '48 of Dunster. This year they'll appoint at least two more--Arthur Smithies of Kirkland and Bruce Chalmers of Winthrop will both reach 65, the mandatory retirement age--and there are bound to be some more vacancies in the next few years, especially since Bok's appointments only last five years. Last year, Vorenberg's appointment created more of a stir than Kiely's, if only because Bok didn't tip the Republicans off at the time. In February, a month before Bok appointed Vorenberg, Dunster House residents had signed a letter to Bok suggesting that he choose Caroline W. Bynum '63, assistant professor of History. Students in Dunster had met in late January to draft a letter to Bok explaining what qualities they wanted in a master and listing 28 candidates for the job. Vorenberg didn't appear on the list.
This year Bok has met with committees from Winthrop and Kirkland, and some of the students on those committees say he seems genuinely interested in their opinions. But last year's appointments--in connection with his remarks on closeness with University Hall, and his last two earlier choices, Martin H. Peretz in South House and Jean Mayer in Dudley House--are suggestive of what Bok's idea of the perfect master is.
For one thing, no one could accuse Bok's last four choices of being ivory-tower scholars, whatever they might have said about the aristocrats who used to head Houses. Two of Bok's men aren't from the Faculty of Arts and Sciences--Vorenberg is professor of Law, and Mayer is professor of Nutrition at the school of Public Health. At his last press conference, Bok said this year's choices will be from Arts and Sciences, but there are other things too.
All four appointments have supervisory or administrative posts for which (with the exception of Mayer) they're probably better known than for their scholarship: Peretz is head tutor of the Social Studies Department, Vorenberg is director of the Center for Criminal Justice, and Mayer is on the Board of Freshman Advisers.
OF COURSE, not everyone appointed by President Pusey was exclusively scholarly either--Peretz's predecessor, Mary I. Bunting, was president of Radcliffe, and F. Skiddy von Stade '38, master of Mather, wears almost as many hats as Kiely does. But Bok's bureaucrats, by and large, seem younger, more ambitious, more into the nuts and bolts of things, and maybe closer to the central administration than their predecessors--like Charles U. Daley, Bok's vice president for government and community affairs, or Stephen B. Farber '63, special assistant to Bok, or Stephen S. J. Hall, vice president for administration.
If Bok wanted to extend to the Houses the sort of centralized, streamlined, standardized efficiency implicit in things like Hall's reorganization of Buildings and Grounds, Kiely or Peretz or Vorenberg might be the sort of people he'd appoint, and he might well appoint them only for five-year terms.
Moreover, there might well be a noticeable trend towards making the Houses' composition more uniform. Last spring, oddly enough, an unprecedented number of freshmen were assigned to Houses they hadn't asked for. The computer was so set on having each House represent the whole college that it put some people who hadn't applied to Lowell in Lowell, even though hundreds of freshmen who did apply there were turned away. This fall, the Committee on Houses and Undergraduate Life decided to reaffirm students' freedom of choice. They began by eliminating master's choice, class rank, home town and field of concentration as criteria in House assignment, which was fair enough. Then they decided to add sex to the list and end Radcliffe's guaranteed one to one ratio--which probably means all the Houses would end up with similar, strongly male, ratios.
Dean Rosovsky said that "the principle behind the motion doesn't bother me at all." Since the practical principle behind it, like the principle behind a lot of the administration's actions, seemed to be some sort of centralization or homogeneity in the Houses, maybe it wasn't too surprising. At least, unlike Kiely's problems, it didn't interest The Boston Globe.