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The appointment of Judith H. Kidd as assistant dean for public service comes as a shock and a rebuff to students involved with public service at the College. We are dumbfounded by the decision itself and also surprised at how the administration has handled its aftermath.
First of all, the decision rejects the opinions of some of the most knowledgeable people on campus in the field of public service--the student and non-student directors of Philips Brooks House Association (PBHA). As we did in a previous editorial, they supported Greg A. Johnson '72, the director of PBHA, for the position that will encompass his current job.
To make matters worse, members of service programs run by the Office of Public Service are dissapointed because Director Gail L. Epstein will be dismissed, and the office will be reorganized under the new dean, according to the Report on the Structure of Harvard College.
The directors wanted a seasoned, compassionate leader who had developed a university-based public service organization into a national model--in short, Johnson. Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis '68 completely ignored the students' input into the process by choosing a candidate whose experience is not comparable to Johnson's. For whatever reason, his 15 years of consistent effectiveness in administration and fundraising as head of PBHA did not match up to Kidd. She is a vice president of Boston's City Year program who has never led an organization similar to PBHA; her previous work at Bank of Boston involved doling out grants, not time and energy, to groups such as PBHA.
Despite this immense difference in qualifications, Lewis chose Kidd. It's not surprising that Lewis hasn't tried to show students how Kidd lives up to their expectations--she doesn't. However, she might have one qualification that Lewis finds particularly attractive. According to PBHA Vice President Eric D. Dawson '96, all the candidates interviewed in the last round of the search process were asked how they would react to a protest backed by students at PBHA. Kidd was the only candidate who said she would side exclusively with the administration; most others said they would try to mediate a solution.
In an interview on Friday, Kidd said she thought that "the vehemence of the opposition against my selection is related to the vehemence of the reaction to the position being created." She's missing the point. It's bad enough that the new deanship will entail the dismissal of well-liked administrators Johnson and Epstein, but the hiring of an underqualified replacement makes the change even more detrimental to PBHA. Though the new deanship will bring more of PBHA and other campus-based public service programs under University supervision, the majority of students' objections were against Kidd herself.
In the meantime, Lewis has said little in Kidd's defense except to pay her some vague compliments and say she has "a great deal to learn." We wish she had learned more before being hired for the job.
With the recent formation of a subcommittee on possible independence from the University, PBHA now finds itself at a crossroads. We believe PBHA must seize this opportunity to begin raising funds for its eventual withdrawal from University financial support. Independence offers the prospect of keeping Johnson as director and avoiding Kidd, but it would also mean the loss of University resources. Lewis's appointment of Kidd has hardly benefited the cause of public service at Harvard--it has instead placed its future in jeopardy.
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