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Smith Sets Summer Table

Skocpol to stay—for now; Pilbeam will remain adviser

By Samuel P. Jacobs, Crimson Staff Writer

As he took off for a month-long vacation last week, incoming Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) Michael D. Smith left his colleagues with a plan to keep several administrative veterans on board as he enters his freshman year in University Hall.

Smith reported in a June 18 letter to professors that Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Dean Theda Skocpol, who announced in March that she would resign this summer after two years in office, had agreed to continue leading the school until Smith found a permanent replacement.

David R. Pilbeam, who has served as interim FAS dean for the past three months and is a former dean of undergraduate education, will be sticking around University Hall as well. Pilbeam, an informal consultant to Harvard administrators for decades, will act as senior adviser to Smith—a computer scientist who assumes the deanship with less administrative experience than recent predecessors.

Smith's letter also signaled that he intends to press ahead with efforts that have occupied the Faculty for the past year, including implementing the new general education program for undergraduates and following through on a landmark review of teaching released earlier this year.

"[I]t is clear that the Faculty is eager to move forward on the important initiatives already underway," Smith wrote. "I am excited to get started."

The June 18 letter, provided by an FAS spokesman, was the first of what Smith promised would be many communications between the dean and his faculty.

Smith, on vacation in Europe, has not returned requests for comment. It remains unclear how the dean-to-be will fill the most important unoccupied position in University Hall, the College deanship. Dean of the College Benedict H. Gross '71 resigned last week, two days after Smith sent his letter, calling the move "entirely my decision."

Smith did, however, outline several other personnel moves. He announced that acting Dean of the Humanities Diana Sorensen will assume the position permanently. The promotion indicates that Smith wants to retain the four-year-old divisional dean structure even though it has irked some professors and administrators for being too vague and overly bureaucratic.

In an interview at the time of his selection, Smith said he wanted to increase the authority of divisional deans. "We should be allowing the divisional deans to have the power that they need to implement within their areas what's best for those individual areas," he said.

In addition, Smith said he will turn to British geophysicist Jeremy Bloxham, the divisional dean of the physical sciences who in May turned down the opportunity to be dean of the Faculty, to serve as a temporary replacement for Douglas A. Melton as acting dean of the life sciences.

Melton, a leading researcher of stem cells, will co-chair a new University-wide department on regenerative medicine.

—Staff writer Samuel P. Jacobs can be reached at

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