Khurana Quietly Assumes College Deanship as Pfister Makes Exit

The University Hall office that a systematic botanist occupied for the past year finally has a permanent inhabitant. Rakesh Khurana, Cabot House co-master and Business School professor, is officially the new dean of Harvard College.

Tuesday marked a changing of the guard at the top of the College administration, as Khurana assumed the deanship exactly a year after Evelynn M. Hammonds, who served in the role for five years, stepped down in the midst of scandal. Donald H. Pfister, a longtime botany professor, served as dean in the interim.

Khurana said in an interview Tuesday afternoon that he spent much of his first day on the job settling in. He met with the College staff and made sure his phone and email were up and running.

“I’m spending a lot of my time listening,” he said.

While an oversized stamp of botanist Asa Gray no longer sits on the dean’s office mantel, Khurana did decorate his new desk with photographs of his family and his late dissertation chair. It’s also now home to a wind-up toy robot, which he said reminds him to look to the future.


“There’s always getting used to the physical office, but I think...people have been incredibly warm and welcoming,” he added.

Named Pfister’s successor in January, Khurana will lead the College through a period of transition, as administrators navigate the most significant changes to its academic integrity policies in decades.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences approved in May a proposal for the College’s first-ever honor code—a policy that Khurana helped write—which is expected to be implemented by the fall of 2015.

The policy will dramatically alter the College’s existing disciplinary system, changing the jurisdiction of the Administrative Board, a body that was founded in the 19th century. As approved, the honor code will create a student-faculty judicial board, distinct from the Ad Board, to hear cases of academic dishonesty.

As dean and Ad Board chair, Khurana will likely play a large role in implementing the honor code over the next year.

Despite that upcoming change, Khurana comes to University Hall during a period of relative calm. Pfister devoted much of his year in the Dean’s Office to reaching out to students and colleagues to repair relations frayed during the scandal-ridden last year of Hammonds’s tenure.

—Staff writer Ivan B.K. Levingston contributed to the reporting of this story.

—Staff writer Madeline R. Conway can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @MadelineRConway.


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