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Name Change In Store For Tutors and Deans

Assistant deans and resident tutors now dubbed 'Resident Deans'

By Nina L. Vizcarrondo, Crimson Staff Writer

The phrase “senior tutor” may soon go the way of Harvard’s Latin diplomas and its once-famous 15-point GPA scale.

The position formerly known as “Allston Burr Senior Tutor” is now to be know as “Allston Burr Resident Dean,” based on a recommendation by a committee that the College convened last spring.

The “Assistant Deans of Freshmen” will also be known as “Resident Deans.”

But the responsibilities entailed by both positions remain unchanged—for now.

“It doesn’t reflect any change in duties, but simply describes the position in language that the outside world can understand,” according to Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross ’71, whose title will remain the same.

“Since we search for resident deans nationally, I felt the new terminology would help,” Gross explained in an e-mail.

The newly-named Allston Burr resident dean of Cabot House, Stephen H. Kargère, often found that his idiosyncratic title created confusion.

“When we sign pre-law, pre-med letters...sometimes people have no idea what a senior tutor is,” Kargère said.

But Harvard isn’t ready to relinquish all of its labyrinthine lexicon.

Students will still have “concentrations,” not “majors,” and they will graduate with an “A.B.” rather than a “B.A.”

But Harvard will still have more “tutors” than an Elizabethan court.

“There are so many tutors out there,” Kargère said.

The houses will still have residential and non-residential “tutors,” who fill a variety of roles.

And while the phrase “senior tutor” may soon be as extinct as a dodo bird, “senior tutorials” remain a fixture of many concentrations.

According to Gross, it was logical for senior tutors and assistant deans of freshmen to share a common title since “their duties are similar.” But some find the amalgamation to be potentially problematic.

Kargère said he is “a little bit concerned” that students may feel that he is less approachable now that he is a daunting “residential dean” rather than a “senior tutor.”

“Assistant deans of freshmen are typically people you don’t want to see,” Kargère said. “One imagines a dean as someone who is a disciplinarian.”

Kargère said that his position “is about helping students, not at all about discipline.”

But Currier House’s Cole M. Crittenden is now keen on being a dean.

“A lot of students even in their senior year don’t know exactly what a senior tutor does,” Crittenden said.

He said the title more accurately describes his post. “The senior tutor always was the academic and residential dean for the house,” Crittenden said.

The lack of consensus over the title is indicative of a larger debate over the substance of the resident deans’ role.

“To my understanding, the new job description is in the works,” said the resident dean of Winthrop House, James E. von der Heydt.

But a name change designed to reduce confusion may—for the time being—only have created more of it.

Some resident deans have yet to change their placards or e-mail signatures, and the Undergraduate Housing Office website still calls them “Allston Burr Senior Tutors.”

“You’ll find great variation in that at this particular moment,” said the resident dean of Eliot House, Oona Britt Ceder ’90.

According to Gross, “current deans can call themselves whatever they wish.”

“I’m more interested that they have a good relationship with the students in their house,” Gross wrote in an e-mail last night.

WHO WAS ALLSTON BURR?

The name of Allston Burr, Class of 1889, remains attached to the post.

Burr, an investment banker and a Harvard overseer, died suddenly in January 1949 at the age of 83, according to an obituary in The Crimson.

In his will, he left his alma mater an unrestricted gift of $1.5 million. Two-thirds of that sum went to endow the senior tutor position.

—Staff writer Matthew S. Lebowitz contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Nina L. Vizcarrondo can be reached at nvizcarr@fas.harvard.edu.

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