The Dean’s New Team

New “mini-dean” structure must not delegate too much student contact to assistants

Last year when the Office of the Dean of Harvard College was consolidated with the Office of Undergraduate Education, one of our cheif concerns was that undergraduate life issues would be lost among the many new responsibilities of the new combined structure. Now, as Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71 assembles his new leadership team, we can gain insight into his sense of priorities, and his selection of associate deans is telling, especially those dealing with student life issues.

Judith H. Kidd, director of the Phillips Brooks House (PBH), will be “acting” associate dean and will serve as liaison to the approximately 260 student groups at the College, head the Committee on College Life (CCL) and oversee the Harvard Foundation for Intercultural and Race Relations.

Kidd has had considerable experience working with student organizations as director of PBH since 1996—a position she will continue to keep. Her strong record of success in dealing with students has already led her to take some positive strides: she has rejuvenated the CCL by setting a more ambitious schedule of meetings and made a committment to reviewing student group records more regularly.

Kidd’s “acting” position is, by definition, only temporary, but when an official search is initiated for a replacement, student input will be vital to the decision. Student representatives have insight into the kind of approachable, active and concerned character that would make the best candidate for a dean position that will highly influence student affairs.

While Gross’s concern for the administration to stay in contact with students is positive and his appointment of Kidd is heartening, the responsibility cannot be Kidd’s alone. The delegation of responsibility to the assistant and associate deans should serve to insure that students are heard, not simply add another level of bureaucracy to shield undergraduates from contact with Gross himself. It is necessary for Gross to maintain a personal relationship with as many students at the College as possible—only in knowing the student body can a dean understand and legislate the myriad issues that affect student life.