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Leverett Deans Get Flak for Closure of Common Spaces, Infrequent House Events

Leverett House.
Leverett House. By Amy Y. Li
By Shera S. Avi-Yonah and Delano R. Franklin, Crimson Staff Writers

Leverett House residents aired concerns about newly off-limits House common spaces and a dearth of social events under the leadership of Faculty Deans Brian D. Farrell and Irina P. Ferreras in emails and a public document this week.

Students’ concerns included the recent closure of Leverett’s private dining room, sporadic house-wide events, new keycard access restrictions, changes to the Senior Common Room, and challenges booking social spaces. In a Google Doc shared among undergraduates, students listed their grievances and discussed bringing them to House management.

Farrell wrote in an emailed statement that he and Ferreras are aware of some of the students' criticisms and are “very concerned” about students’ engagement in House life.

Leverett residents Nicholas E. Stauffer-Mason ’20 and Amalia E. Frohna ’20 both said they believe the House’s culture changed after former Faculty Deans Howard M. Georgi ’68 and Ann B. Georgi left in 2018.

“Basically as soon as they took over they took away access to a lot of community spaces that people use,” Stauffer-Mason said.

The Georgis continued to serve in an official capacity at Leverett last year as members of the Senior Common Room, a group of professors, administrators, and local professionals affiliated with the House. At the start of this semester, though, they informed some Leverett residents they would transfer to the Lowell House SCR.

Howard Georgi wrote in an email that they made the decision as a result of “disappointment” with changes Farrell and Ferreras made to SCR policies.

In particular, Howard Georgi cited biweekly lunches SCR members held for students during his tenure.

“We hoped that something like this would continue and that we would be able to attend occasionally to keep in touch with our many student and SCR friends,” he wrote. “The current faculty deans have not continued the tradition and have disinvited many long-time SCR members. So while we are still very close to many of the current seniors, we thought it best to start over in another Senior Common Room.”

Farrell and Ferreras were among the lowest-rated faculty deans in a May Crimson survey of graduating seniors. Asked how much they trust their faculty deans, just under 27 percent of Leverett respondents indicated they trusted the pair.

The role of the College’s 24 faculty deans has come under increased scrutiny in the wake of controversy over former Winthrop House Faculty Dean Ronald S. Sullivan, Jr.’s decision to represent Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein in his criminal trial. Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana dismissed Sullivan and co-Faculty Dean Stephanie R. Robinson in May after months of student outcry.

Khurana’s announcement came one day after The Crimson reported allegations that Sullivan and Robinson fostered a hostile work environment in Winthrop during their decade as deans. At one point, 13 Winthrop resident tutors threatened to quit, though they ultimately stayed.

Farrell and Ferreras sent an email to Leverett residents Wednesday night stating they believe student input is important.

“Our goal is a house culture where everyone feels empowered to shape their house experience. It is clear that we need to think how we can create such an environment for all,” they wrote. “Leverett is already a vibrant, wonderful community. It will be even stronger when all members feel they can share their concerns, voice their ideas, and together build the community we aspire to be, together.”

Frohna and Leverett resident Samantha J. Frenkel-Popell ’21 both said they think communication between students and Farrell and Ferreras could improve.

“I think actually, this has almost been good because you really see that a lot of people care about house life, and I would just love to see that harnessed,” Frohna said. “I think definitely we need to have more communication from the house deans about how they're going to address some of the grievances that we have.”

“I think change came quicker than people expected — and maybe it wasn't explained — so people were kind of surprised by the way things used to be versus the new faculty deans,” Frenkel-Popell said.

—Staff writer Shera S. Avi-Yonah can be reached at Follow her on Twitter at @saviyonah.

—Staff writer Delano R. Franklin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @delanofranklin_.

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