Hammonds Hosts Undergrads at Tea

Student spaces and course satisfaction were the topics of discussion when Dean of the College Evelynn M. Hammonds hosted an afternoon tea for undergraduates Friday, her first since taking office this June.

A group of about 25 students, which was disproportionately freshmen, joined the Dean in the Faculty Room in University Hall for tea and cookies to discuss their thoughts on the College experience.

“I thought it was very enlightening,” Hammonds said following the tea. “I like to get a sense of the diversity of student opinion.”

The discussion came mostly from the students and centered on the possibility of a student center, the positive and negative aspects of large versus small classes, and the importance of good pedagogy.

Hammonds later added that she was not surprised by any of the topics discussed, as she had heard “similar versions” of each argument in prior conversations with students.

She also said that the setting was more formal than she had expected—students were seated around a large table and each had name placards, while Hammonds wore a red nametag—and that she would like to see the event made more informal for future iterations.

Benjamin M. Zagorsky ’12 said he thought the discussions were relevant to him as a member of the Undergraduate Council and as a means of informing Hammonds’ perceptions of student priorities, but that the event’s structure and length may not have allowed for enough in-depth discussion.

Though the list of attendees was selected randomly from those who RSVPed for the event—in order to ensure diversity in class year and House affiliation—Hammonds said she was surprised that the students present did not all know each other.

Since her appointment, some have suggested that the Dean’s visibility among students has been low so far, though she has been to dinner in several of the Houses and attended election night parties sponsored by the Freshman Dean’s Office.

Late last month, UC President Matthew L. Sundquist ’09 said that Hammonds still seemed to be settling in to her job.

“We hope and think that working with students will be one of her top priorities,” he said at the time. “The Dean and I have not been in particularly frequent contact, though we did have two great e-mail exchanges in May.”

In his experience on the UC, Zagorsky said that Dean of Freshman Thomas A. Dingman ’67 has been very accessible to members of his class, but “the rest of the administration has been sort of the same phantom entity that students experience.”

Nevertheless, Joyce Y. Zhang ’09, another student at the tea who is also an inactive Crimson writer, said that Hammonds “exhibits a lot of understanding and concern for undergraduates” and that the tea provided “a nice way for us to feel connected to her and for her to feel connected to us.”

—Staff writer Aditi Balakrishna can be reached at