College Launches Dean of Students Office

Katie O'Dair
Dean of Students Katherine G. O'Dair leads the newly opened Dean of Students Office

The Dean of Students Office—which will oversee residential life, diversity and inclusion initiatives, student experience, and student advising for the entire College—opened Monday, Dean of Students Katherine G. O’Dair announced in an email to College staff.

The Office is the product of a merger between the Freshman Dean’s Office and the Office of Student Life. Previously, the FDO had administered programming for freshmen, while the OSL provided support for student organizations, housing operations, College-wide diversity initiatives, and some aspects of House residential and social programming.

In her email, O’Dair wrote the DSO will allow administrators to better “support students.”

“By centralizing the services that are currently offered by the OSL and FDO, we will be able to provide greater linkage and continuity between a student’s first-year and sophomore year experiences and streamline student support throughout their entire four years at Harvard College,” she wrote.


O’Dair wrote that the new office will not merely centralize pre-existing programs, but also incorporate a number of new initiatives, including an Experiential Learning Center. The office will also aim to provide “more class-based programs” and serve as a point of contact for “Title IX information and support.”

As part of its oversight of student social programming, the DSO will be the primary liaison between the College and unrecognized groups seeking official Harvard recognition—and thereby avoiding the College’s social group sanctions.

The sanctions—which took effect with the Class of 2021—bar members of unrecognized single-gender social groups from holding student group leadership positions, varsity athletic team captaincies, and from receiving College endorsement for prestigious fellowships.

In order to achieve recognition, social groups will have to demonstrate to some College administrators that they are either already co-ed or have a commitment to going gender-neutral down the road.

The creation of the DSO created some administrative turnover before its formal launch. The new administrative structure of the DSO means the College eliminated the position of dean of first-year students, occupied since 2004 by Dean of Freshmen Thomas A. Dingman ’67.

Dingman stepped down from his position at the end of the academic year.

—Staff writer Caroline S. Engelmayer can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @cengelmayer13.