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To the editors:
Faculty of Arts and Sciences Dean Michael D. Smith has asked what qualities are necessary and desirable in the next Dean of Harvard College. I would encourage him to relax the constraint that the Dean be a tenured faculty member. For most of the modern era, the longest-serving and most effective deans were not tenured faculty: John U. Monro, Fred L. Glimp, Charles P. Whitlock, John B. Fox, Jr., L. Fred Jewett. When Harry R. Lewis ’68 was made dean in 1995, he was only the second tenured professor since 1947 to hold the post.
The Dean of Harvard College is a pastoral job: She cares for students as holistic beings and creates an environment for undergraduates to flourish. This pastoral temperament and orientation is difficult to find anywhere—but especially among Harvard-caliber tenured faculty, who have keenly (and often single-mindedly) spent their careers pursuing their academic interests. They simply have not had a lot of practice or experience taking care of undergrads as whole people.
It's crucial that the Dean of the College have the utmost respect for and deference to the faculty; she should work hard to earn their trust and respect and support, which she will need to be successful in her job. But she should not necessarily be a tenured (or tenure-track) professor. That requirement bears little relation to the day-to-day responsibilities of this job.
Patrick S. Chung ’96, HBS ’04
Harvard College Visiting Committee
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