Criticism of Kirshner and Loader is Unfounded

To the editors:

It is evident that the memory of Quincy House seniors has become quite cloudy. Certainly, I believe that Interim Quincy House Masters Lee and Deborah J. Gehrke have done a superb job this year and I am quite pleased to spend my last year at Harvard with them. But I must say that it does a great injustice to Quincy House Masters Robert P. Kirshner ’70 and Jayne Loader—who are on sabatical this year—to selectively contrast very specific qualities of theirs with those of the Gehrkes, and quite frankly, I believe it is rather puerile—ignoring many great contributions of Kirshner and Loader. Such injudicious comparisons often have the tendency to over-emphasize flaws that were never a major problem. Most Quincy residents appreciate the Gehrkes’ style and are flattered by their extra efforts to make us feel at home and get to know us on a personal level. Certainly, many prefer their experience under the Gehrkes. But this precludes both the reality that Kirshner is the master of Quincy House, and that he and Loader are quite competent leaders of Quincy House who add much to both the intellectual and social landscape of our community.

The letter that is referenced, signed by 77 Quincy seniors not including myself, was a poor gesture written in a tone that was simply not in good taste. The so-called “wide disparity between the two sets of masters’ performance” is simply a flagrant exaggeration. For example, contrary to the popular myth, the Kirshners ate regularly in the dining hall, hosted a plethora of events in the master’s residence, and were highly visible at many other House events. They always attended our formal events, and oversaw a number of positive changes to house life last year, including adding significantly to the house DVD collection, creating a designated smoking area in the courtyard with new benches, and purchasing a new plasma screen television for the junior common room. Surely, attaching one’s name to an e-mail petition while procrastinating on a paper certainly does not necessarily amount to an educated and well-considered endorsement. Indeed, in my judgment the inquisition against the Kirshners is truly being led by a very vocal few who are certainly not emblematic of a “groundswell of sentiment.”

What is perhaps even more regrettable than the unfair treatment that some have given the Kirshners is The Crimson’s proposition that the University ought to precipitately give masters the boot whenever they are supposedly judged by students not to be adding enough to the social life of houses.

Social life is only one of the responsibilities of House masters, and the whims of the masses certainly, as progressives surely learned in the 2004 election, do not always equate to what is best. Further, the process of selection of house masters already involves input from students. To Quincy House residents I say: let us be grateful for our year with the Gehrkes, but welcome the Kirshners back next year with kind hearts.

Cambridge, Mass.
May 23, 2007

The writer is a resident of Quincy House.