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Khurana Maintains Importance of College’s House System Amid Leverett Deans’ Early Departure

Leverett House was established in 1931.
Leverett House was established in 1931. By Julian J. Giordano
By Vivi E. Lu and Leah J. Teichholtz, Crimson Staff Writers

Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana declined to comment on the early exit of Leverett House’s former faculty deans but affirmed the importance of Harvard’s house system in a Monday interview.

A staple of Harvard’s undergraduate experience is its residential system, which places each undergraduate into one of 12 upperclassman houses led by a pair of faculty deans. Khurana said the College does not comment on personnel matters when asked about the circumstances surrounding the departure of Leverett ex-faculty deans Brian D. Farrell and Irina P. Ferreras, who stepped down suddenly in June.

The Crimson reported earlier this month that some affiliates allege Farrell and Ferreras’ leadership was marred by a pattern of mismanagement. Neither a College spokesperson nor Farrell and Ferreras provided a reason for their departure. In 2019, Khurana did not renew Winthrop House’s deans for another term following a Crimson investigation that found they fostered a toxic culture.

When asked how the College plans to prevent instances of mismanagement and hold its faculty deans accountable, Khurana highlighted the importance of the house system.

“The College continues to work with faculty deans, resident deans, and house staff to ensure that the students are having a wonderful experience,” Khurana said.

Another stress test for Harvard’s house system is the uptick in students living in overflow housing. With the exception of Leverett, upperclassmen in 11 of the 12 houses reside in overflow housing due to the unprecedented size of the Class of 2025 and ongoing house renewal projects.

Khurana said the College made a “values-based” decision in choosing to admit the same number of students despite a high number of deferrals from the Class of 2024 during the Covid pandemic.

“We tried to be very clear what the consequences of this would be, which would be a swell of students coming through the residential system,” Khurana said. “Our residential system was already under strain because of house renewal, but we still felt that it was important to bring students to campus.”

Still, some students in overflow housing have raised concerns about feeling disconnected from house life and having to travel longer distances to dining halls.

“We hope that continual focus on house renewal and other ways of strengthening and expanding the house system will help alleviate some of the strain in the coming years,” Khurana said. “But it is an ongoing challenge.”

Khurana said the focus for College administrators should be on encouraging students to stay connected to their houses through activities like study breaks and intramural sports.

“It’s anchored in our philosophy that the house system is really critical,” he said.

The Crimson interviews Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana once per month during the academic year. Click here to submit a question for consideration in our next interview.

—Staff writer Vivi E. Lu can be reached at vivi.lu@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @vivielu_.

—Staff writer Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at leah.teichholtz@thecrimson.com. Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.

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