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Khurana, Dingman Pen Op-Ed Defending Rejection of Program for Low Income Students

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana speaks at an Undergraduate Council meeting in Harvard Hall. During the meeting, Khurana explained why he rejected a proposed summer program for low-income and first generation students.
Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana speaks at an Undergraduate Council meeting in Harvard Hall. During the meeting, Khurana explained why he rejected a proposed summer program for low-income and first generation students. By Derek G. Xiao
By Hannah Natanson and Derek G. Xiao, Crimson Staff Writers

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana and Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67 published a Crimson op-ed Tuesday defending the College’s rejection of a summer program for low income students amid continuing student discontent over the decision.

The proposal—dubbed the First Year Institute—called for a three-day freshman pre-orientation program to help low-income and first-generation students adjust to Harvard. Though Khurana chose not to pursue the First Year Institute, the College plans to create a new, part-time position in the Freshman Dean’s Office titled the “First-Gen Low Income Student Advocate” who will specifically advise first generation and low income students.

On March 31, The Crimson’s editorial board criticized Khurana for his decision, writing that the rejection of the “First Year Program will prevent a significant portion of the College from taking advantages of the opportunities promised to them.”

The board additionally critiqued Khurana for the way he communicated his decision.

“By not making public any justification for his decision, [Khurana] has shown disrespect towards the students who have put years of work into this proposal,” the editorial reads. “A public statement, potentially through a College-wide email, would help those frustrated by his decision and help students to move forward with a constructive solution.”

Khurana and Dingman wrote their opinion piece “responding” to the Crimson editorial, and argued that they thought a summer program would not adequately address the needs of Harvard’s low income and first generation students.

“While the proposed program certainly has merit, we believe that an opt-in, three-day pre-matriculation program would be too narrowly focused to address the complex needs of these students,” Khurana and Dingman wrote. “A holistic post-matriculation approach is better suited to address the multiple challenges many of these students face in transitioning to life at Harvard.”

Khurana and Dingman went on to outline four areas where they believe the College must improve its efforts to support first generation and low income students: helping these students access available resources, building a better academic support network, shifting Harvard’s culture to become more “inclusive and welcoming,” and providing greater financial access to existing pre-orientation programs.

Khurana and Dingman previously attempted to explain their rejection of the summer program to students at a tense meeting of the Undergraduate Council on April 3. During a 45-minute public question-and-answer session, the two administrators fielded criticism and questions from UC members.

But Khurana and Dingman’s explanations failed to satisfy some students, including many UC representatives, who recently penned a letter voicing their discontent.

Since Khurana’s rejection of the summer program became publicly known, several students have expressed their disappointment with the decision, both online through posts on Facebook and through other op-eds published in The Crimson.

In addition to their original editorial, The Crimson’s editorial board published another piece Monday reemphasizing their support for the summer program.

—Staff writer Hannah Natanson can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @hannah_natanson.

—Staff writer Derek G. Xiao can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @derekgxiao.

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