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Harvard has swiped a Yale official to fill its vacant Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) registrar position come October, officials announced yesterday.
Barry S. Kane—who comes from the corresponding position in New Haven to replace Harvard’s outgoing FAS Registrar Arlene Becella—said yesterday that his tenure as registrar could see important changes in student services such as the course selection process. Most of these ideas—especially an anticipated move to online registration in place of the current pencil-and-paper system—will have to wait for all student records to be converted to a new database, he said.
That conversion process, Kane said, had been “pretty much brought to completion under Arlene,” but will require some final work before he can move on to other projects.
“You can’t begin to do substantial work on online services until you have a single unified database in place,” he said.
Kane said he would be involved in helping FAS adjust on a day-to-day level to changes caused by the ongoing curricular review.
“He will be of great help...in working closely with our faculty on the changes which will come about from the curricular review,” said Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 in a statement.
In the process, Kane said he hopes to serve as a pragmatic voice on what kinds of academic retoolings are within reach.
“It always helps to have the registrar involved in that kind of project, because you just need to know...what is possible in terms of the database,” he said. “You don’t want to be coming up with recommendations that might be problematic in terms of implementation.”
Kane said he has no specific agenda as of yet. Instead, he said he would seek the opinions of students and administrators—especially Gross, to whom he will report—on what his next major step should be.
“I have to get into the business and learn what the issues are before I can come up with a timeline,” he said.
Kane stressed that he did not see himself as an authoritarian or activist registrar.
“The registrar’s office, if it’s functioning well, is a very behind-the-scenes operation,” he said. “You shouldn’t have to think about it too much...I see its role as more advisory.”
At least one important potential registrar-related move—a preregistration plan like the one abortively proposed by Dean of the Faculty William C. Kirby this spring—was not on the table as far as he was concerned, Kane said.
“[Preregistration] can’t come from the administration, it can’t come from the registrar’s office—it has to come from the faculty, it has to come from the students, it has to have broad-based support and without that it’s not going to happen,” he said. “I just don’t see that happening.”
Kane—who will oversee four of Harvard’s most critical registration and study card days in September before his permanent arrival here from Yale on Oct. 1—has faced similar issues in his seven years in New Haven. His tenure there has integrated the graduate and undergraduate registrars’ offices, converting student records to a new database system and preparing to move many student services to the web. Yale is also planning for a curricular review, but Kane said it would be relatively minor compared to the comprehensive overhaul headed by Gross.
Kane said he originally had planned to leave Yale at the beginning of the term, but had agreed to stay there for most of September when he heard that a major strike was being planned to coincide with the semester’s start.
In his time at Yale, Kane said he and his colleagues watched Harvard closely—especially following the fierce controversy surrounding Kirby’s preregistration plan, which he said was similar to various ideas contemplated at Yale at the time.
And the lifelong pianist and singer says that he learned one significant lesson from his time as the registrar in New Haven.
“My sense after seven years at Yale is that there was only one school that mattered, and that was Harvard,” Kane said.
His predecessor Becella, who decided to retire in January to live with her husband in Ireland, had served as registrar for nearly seven years.
—Staff writer Simon W. Vozick-Levinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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