Liem: Big Fish in a Small Pond

Having trouble identifying the fish dishes in the Dunster House dining hall? Just ask the new master, Bigelow Professor of Ichthyology Karel F. Liem, an expert in the study of fish.

Liem and his wife Hetty, who were chosen this summer to replace Sally Falk and D. Cresap Moore, say they are ready to dive into their roles as the semester begins.

For Liem, being a master has special meaning. Part German, Dutch, Chinese and Indonesian, he is the College's only minority master. And he says he hopes to be a role model for minority students at Harvard.

"[My selection shows] that the University does recognize the importance of equal representation," he says. "I expect it will be seen as an important step to [minority] students."

But Liem--a committee member of the Harvard Foundation--says he will not use his position to focus solely on minority issues.

Instead, he says he plans to revitalize the academic advising system with a plan spawned by Dunster senior tutor Jeffery Wolcowitz. The plan would expand the roles of house tutors and make the transition from Yard to house life a little easier for incoming sophomores.

"Academic advising is of mixed strength at Harvard," Liem says. "It is in this area that the house system can contribute well and make sure students get good advising for their courses."

Liem says another problem he faces is over-crowding at Dunster, which threatens to leave residents packed into suites like sardines. "My only solution is to have the house committee look into this matter," he says.

But Liem must deal with proposed changes in the freshperson housing lottery himself. He views as fishy a proposal by Dean of the College L. Fred Jewett '57 to randomly assign at least half the spaces in the lottery.

"I like students to have a choice," he says. "I don't like the generic nature of [random] lottery and mixing."

Of course, Liem will have his share of champagne and caviar. He and his wife say they will sponsor international teas to foster cultural diversity at Dunster.

Hetty Liem, a full-time genetic engineer at Cambridge-based Genzyne, Inc., says she will be a "night person" around Dunster this summer. She says she will focus on house social activities rather than academic advising this year.

The Liems have two children, Karel, Jr. '87 and Erika, now 15 years old.

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