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Lacking Information, Students Hesitate To Make Conclusions on House Masters

By Naveen N. Srivatsa, Crimson Staff Writer

While it is not every year that a Dean of the College has the opportunity to nominate a House Master—much less three—House residents’ responses to Evelynn M. Hammonds’s Friday announcement of the appointments of next year’s Masters in Cabot, Eliot, and Mather Houses remain unsettled.

Several undergraduates in Cabot, Eliot, and Mather said over the past weekend that they didn’t know enough about the incoming Masters to have formed a solid opinion on the professors who will lead their Houses starting next academic year.

Students attributed this sentiment primarily to the secrecy surrounding the selection process, which prevented most students from meeting the candidates.

“I think I have seen her name before on various faculty lists, but I haven’t had a whole lot of interaction with her. I don’t know much about her.” said Mather House resident Brian P. Eggert ’12 about French and Comparative Literature Professor Christie McDonald, who, along with her husband Michael D. Rosengarten, were named Mather’s new House Masters.

The case was similar in both Cabot and Eliot Houses. “I’ve never met him and I don’t have any experience taking his class,” said Eliot House resident Andre D. Gabriel ’11, in reference to Natural Sciences Professor Douglas A. Melton. Melton and his wife Gail O’Keefe will become the Eliot House Masters at the end of this semester.

“I read a little profile on them, and they seemed nice,” said Cabot House resident Amelia H. Lin ’11 about Harvard Business School Professor Rakesh Khurana and his wife Stephanie Khurana. “I know a person involved in the selection, and I trust they have good judgment.”

But for students familiar with the appointees, enthusiasm replaces ambivalence.

Xiang “John” Du ’12, an Eliot House resident and Human Developmental and Regenerative Biology concentrator, said he learned about Melton’s appointment through an exclamation point-filled text message from a friend. Having taken the introductory course in the newly-created concentration, Du said that he has had several conversations with Melton on topics ranging from the regeneration of the liver to the state of the Boston Celtics.

“I talked to him a couple times after class. He’s very receptive,” Du said. “He’s a really fun guy to talk to.”

In contrast, other undergraduates said yesterday that they had been uninterested in—or entirely unaware of—the House Master selection process.

“I knew that we were getting a new one, but I didn’t know that they had been chosen,” Cabot House resident Andrew J. Leiman ’12 said.

Several students said they would reserve judgment until they meet the appointees.

“I don’t know how his bio will tell me more about how great a House Master he will be,” said Anna M. Kamerow ’11, an Eliot House resident.

But what many students, including Mather House resident Claire W. Shepro ’10, could agree upon was that the bar has been set high by the incoming House Masters’ predecessors.

“I hope that Christie and Mike can top that because they’re hard acts to follow,” Shepro said, referencing outgoing Mather House Masters Sandra F. Naddaff ’75 and Leigh G. Hafrey ’73.

—Staff writer Naveen N. Srivatsa can be reached at srivatsa@fas.harvard.edu.

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House LifeMatherEliotCabot