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Acting Associate Dean of the College Judith H. Kidd is expected to step out of her role overseeing student public service at the College and step into a full-time deanship in charge of student activities—a move that may give way to significant changes in the administrative structure of Phillips Brooks House (PBH) and Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA).
The promotion marks the end of the restructuring of the College administration begun last spring, in which Kidd was named a part-time dean, splitting her time between PBH and University Hall.
The void in oversight at PBH created by her promotion will make way for the first re-examination of public service oversight since 1996, when concerns about inefficiency prompted then-Dean of the College Harry R. Lewis ’68 to appoint Kidd to a new position charged with supervising the student group.
That decision prompted immediate protest from students and faculty members, who objected both to the perceived meddling of the College in PBHA’s affairs and to the appointment of Kidd herself, who some considered unqualified for the job.
Student leaders and administrators are taking advantage of this recent administrative reshuffling and what many cite as improvements in PBHA’s management and its relationship with the College, to reconsider how best to manage public service at the College.
“Seven years later, the problems that necessitated the creation of the post no longer exist,” Kidd said.
“PBHA is in a really financially and programmatically stable place right now,” said outgoing PBHA President Ayirini M. Fonseca-Sabune ’04. “We have become strong in reporting and sharing information with the College. We have really tried to be proactive about that.”
Kidd says the review could result in a wide variety of changes, from imply finding a new assistant dean for public service to abolishing that position and rearranging administrative duties within the organization. But regardless of the outcome, Kidd says there will remain a concrete—if more detached—reporting relationship of PBH and PBHA to University Hall.
While Kidd’s promotion has not yet been made official, Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 first announced the change to a collection of PBH and PBHA leaders two weeks ago, and yesterday announced the move to his senior staff. If she accepts the job, Kidd will step into the full-time role in July.
A five-person committee—including Kidd, Executive Director of PBHA Gene A. Corbin, Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Standing Committee on Public Service Christopher Winship and Fonseca-Sabune, as well as a student to be appointed by the Undergraduate Council—will determine how best to fill Kidd’s role and possibly reorganize the administration at PBH and PBHA.
According to Winship, the five-person public service committee will have a job description and guidelines for administrative structure by the end of January.
“None of us know where this conversation will lead, but I appreciate that there’s some recognition of this confusion and a willingness to engage in good faith discussion on how to best serve public service at Harvard,” Corbin said.
‘Completely up for consideration’Kidd’s role, and the relationship between PBH and PBHA, has been to many as ambiguous as it has been controversial—a quandary which those on the review hope to solve.
As assistant dean for public service, Kidd serves as the director of PBH, which comprises the physical building and governing board of the organization. She also sits on the board of PBHA, the umbrella organization for student public service groups, along with Winship and Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Bradley S. Epps. Fonseca-Sabune reports to Kidd on issues of fiscal integrity, safety and the law.
But this convoluted relationship between PBH and PBHA might be clarified in the review process, according to Corbin.
“The terms PBH and PBHA have confused everyone in a way that doesn’t positively serve public service at Harvard,” Corbin said. “None of us knows where the conversation will lead, but I appreciate that there’s some recognition of this confusion and a willingness to engage in good faith discussion on how to best serve public service at Harvard.”
“I think [Gross] has communicated that he thinks this is a great chance to really think through the reporting structure,” Winship said. “We don’t know yet how to structure it.”
Kidd suggested that there might be efforts to increase collaboration between PBH and PBHA in areas such as leadership training.
But the committee members were quick to note that nothing has yet been decided—Kidd said that they might make the decision to replace her, or could opt for a rearranging of duties.
“Everything is completely up for consideration,” she said.
While maintaining that it is still too early in the process to predict the outcome of the committee, Corbin and others suggest that there might be increased autonomy for the individual service groups that make up PBHA.
“Social service and social change efforts are best served when they rely on the commitment and vision of students,” Corbin said. “The challenge is how to take advantage of [the students’] dedication, yet be accountable to the College for liability concerns.”
“We want to let them operate,” Gross said. “They are an independent student organization.”
But according to Kidd, several things will stay the same regardless of the eventual course taken by the committee: PBHA will retain what she calls its “programmatic autonomy” and will still be accountable to the College on issues of safety, liability and finance. Moreover, the dotted-line reporting relationship between Kidd and Corbin will remain in place.
Kidd will also keep her ex-officio spot on the PBHA board, in accordance with a controversial 1996 agreement.
Gross notes that Kidd’s new role—as the chief dean in charge of undergraduate activities at Harvard—will mean continued contact with both PBH and PBHA since PBH, like the Office of Career Services, the Harvard Foundation and the Ann Radcliffe Trust, will report to her.
“The College will always be involved. We manage the building. We want to have a relationship,” Gross said.
Gross says Kidd’s accomplishments and the breadth of her responsibilities were behind his decision to ask her to join the staff full time. Kidd asserts that, regardless of her accomplishments and improvements in PBHA’s governance, these most recent changes do not come as a surprise.
“When I accepted this position, I was aware that at a certain point a decision had to be made,” Kidd said. “It wasn’t good for PBHA or for University Hall to have me shuffling back and forth. Something had to happen.”
But the creation of her associate deanship might not be the only move in the final stages of the College restructuring—an independent consulting team has been at work for several months, talking with administrators and crafting a set of recommendations for the final structure of College administration.
“We are almost at a place where we can go in with a concrete set of recommendations,” Gross said.
The team is expected to release its early findings within weeks.
—Staff writer Rebecca D. O’Brien can be reached at email@example.com.
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