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Gross Tapped To Be New College Dean

Consulting few, Kirby selects leader of reorganized office

By Alexander J. Blenkinsopp, Crimson Staff Writer

Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby has named Dean of Undergraduate Education Benedict H. “Dick” Gross ’71 to a new position that will oversee all aspects of Harvard College.

The appointment comes less than a month after Harry R. Lewis ’68, the current dean of the College, was forced to step down so his position could be merged with that of the dean of undergraduate education in a major restructuring of the College adminstration. Kirby has consulted few professors or students in making his decision.

Last night, Secretary of the Faculty John B. Fox Jr. ’59 wrote in an e-mail message to the Faculty Council and high-level administrators that today Kirby “expects to make public his recommendation that Dick Gross be the next Dean of Harvard College.”

And Gross said last night that he will accept the position.

Both Kirby and Gross stressed yesterday that Gross has only been “recommended” for the new job.

“I am making such a recommendation to the governing boards,” Kirby said. “There will be a real announcement about this tomorrow or the next week.”

But Fox wrote in his e-mail that the governing boards are expected to approve Gross and included the draft of an announcement of Gross’ selection, to be issued today.

Multiple University Hall sources said last month that Kirby offered Gross the job before consulting the committee headed by Executive Dean of the Faculty Nancy L. Maull, which was charged with discussing the integration of the two deans’ duties.

At the time, though, Gross denied that he had been offered the job.

Associate Dean of the College David P. Illingworth ’71 said last night that Kirby made the appointment without consulting his colleagues.

“Pretty much, Dean Kirby did what was his prerogative,” said Illingworth, who is a member of the committee headed by Maull.

Undergraduate Council President Rohit Chopra ’04 said no students had been consulted about the appointment.

“I think students deserve to be consulted on the qualities of a dean. But I guess not,” Chopra said. “It’s surprising that the administration didn’t even pretend to ask students.”

In a press release last month, Kirby said he would consult students, faculty and staff about the administrative restructuring, although he made no promises about consultation for the selection of the new dean.

The draft of the press release that Fox included in his e-mail message quotes Kirby as saying that the consolidation of the offices of Dean of Harvard College and Dean of Undergraduate Education will not “happen quickly,” as it comes in the middle of a broad undergraduate curricular review.

“Indeed, some issues may not be fully resolved until the current curricular review has been completed,” Kirby said in the press release draft. “But I have felt, very strongly, that we should not embark on that review without first putting in place the structure most likely to foster a successful outcome for this extraordinarily important undertaking.”

Illingworth said the consolidation of the offices is still “in its very early stages.”

“There are no plans as of this point,” he continued. “We’re not at any stage of making recommendations.”

Though the details are still unclear, leading the curricular review and heading the Administrative Board will definitely be two of the responsibilities that fall under the new deanship, Gross said.

Chopra said he was not surprised that Gross was selected, but that the timing of the appointment—before the details of the administrative restructuring have been worked out—did surprise him.

“It’s like filling a position without a job description,” Chopra said. “This seems to be done in reverse order.”

Pending the approval of the governing boards, Gross will assume the position of dean of Harvard College on July 1, after Lewis leaves his post.

—Rebecca D. O’Brien contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Alexander J. Blenkinsopp can be reached at

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