Opening of Term Greetings, 2001

Dear Harvard student,

Welcome back to Cambridge! I hope your summer was both relaxing and productive. I'd like to share a few news notes and assorted informational items.

INSTALLATION OF PRESIDENT SUMMERS Lawrence H. Summers will be installed as the 27th president of Harvard on Friday, October 12, from 2:30--4:00 p.m., in Tercentenary Theatre (between Memorial Church and Widener Library). All students are invited and urged to attend.

I am very pleased that President Summers has already shown his strong interest in undergraduate affairs. He met with a group of students active in public service at PBH over the summer, visited one of PBHA's student-run urban summer camps, and is scheduled to address the student-faculty Public Service Summit to be held the week before the start of classes. He was actively involved in the appointment of the new Athletic Director, met with senior College administrators early this summer, and plans to meet with the Masters early in the fall.

NEW MASTERS Students of Dunster House will welcome Roger and Ann Porter as the new Masters. Prof. Porter is IBM Professor of Business and Government in the Kennedy School of Government, and teaches the popular undergraduate course Government 1540, The American Presidency. Ms. Porter is a civic leader and community volunteer. Taking over as Masters of Quincy House are Robert Kirshner and Jayne Loader. Professor Kirshner is Clowes Professor of Science in the Department of Astronomy and teaches the Core course, Science A-35, Matter in the Universe. Ms. Loader is a writer, director, producer, and editor. I am grateful to these distinguished and busy couples for making this important commitment to the lives of undergraduates.

The names of these new Masters were suggested by undergraduates. We always are interested in hearing your ideas about senior members of any Harvard Faculty who you think would have the qualities to be Masters of Houses. We are especially interested in suggestions of professors who are women or members of minority groups. Just drop me an email with your suggestions --- I will keep them on file until a search begins.

NEW ALLSTON BURR SENIOR TUTORS We welcome these newly appointed Senior Tutors, all of whom will be teaching undergraduate courses alongside their roles as deans:

  • In Adams House, Dr. Michael Rodriguez, Lecturer in Psychology, replacing Dr. David Fithian, who now is Assistant Dean of Harvard College and Secretary of the Administrative Board.
  • In Kirkland House, Dr. Timothy Harte, Lecturer in Slavic Languages and Literatures, replacing Dr. Mark Risinger, who is pursuing a singing career in opera.
  • In Leverett House, Dr. Catherine Shapiro, Lecturer in Government, joining us from a faculty position at Dartmouth College, replacing Mr. Glenn Magid, who is returning to his doctoral studies.
  • In Lowell House, Dr. Marshall Poe, Lecturer in History and Literature, replacing Dr. Gene McAfee, who has gone to Scotland to be Assistant Minister of St. Giles' Cathedral.
  • In Pforzheimer House, Dr. Melinda Gray, Lecturer on Literature, replacing Dr. Dirk Killen, who has become Assistant Dean and Academic Coordinator at Washington University in St. Louis.
  • In Quincy House, Dr. Maria Trumpler, Lecturer on the History of Science, joining us from Middlebury College, where she was Dean of Ross Commons, and from a faculty position at Yale, replacing Dr. John Gerry, now Assistant Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and Acting Senior Tutor Mark Haefele, who will return to his role as Assistant Senior Tutor.

In addition, Dr. Courtney Bickel Lamberth has moved from acting to regular status as Senior Tutor of John Winthrop House, replacing Professor Sarolta Takács, who has taken up a tenured professorship of the Classics at Rutgers. For the fall term only, Dr. Rena Fonseca will be on sabbatical leave from Mather House, and Ms. Kira Petersen, a Tutor in Government in the House, will be Acting Senior Tutor.

OFFICE FOR THE ARTS The new Director of the Office for the Arts, succeeding Myra Mayman, is Jack Megan. Megan comes to Harvard with extensive experience in arts administration. He served as director of development of the Santa Fe (New Mexico) Music Festival from 1984-86, and joined the administration of the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Mass., in 1988, ultimately becoming the school's executive director of finance, development and operations. He has also served the Boston-based Fidelity Foundation in a grant-making capacity and as an independent consultant to local non-profits. I am sure he would enjoy hearing from current students about the arts world at Harvard and about the work of the Office for the Arts.

DEPARTMENT OF ATHLETICS Succeeding William J. Cleary, Jr., as Director of Athletics is Robert E. Scalise, who most recently has been Administrative Dean of the Harvard Business School. Before leaving the coaching ranks to earn his MBA from Harvard, Scalise had served for 13 years as Harvard's coach of men's lacrosse, and then became Harvard's first coach of women's soccer, leading the team to three Ivy titles. Scalise is a graduate of Brown University, where he had been a varsity lacrosse player. We welcome him back to the Athletic Department and look forward to working with him on Harvard's ideal of "athletics for all students."

WHAT HAPPENED TO THE BUREAU OF STUDY COUNSEL? Nothing, except that it had to be relocated temporarily as its old wood-frame building at 5 Linden Street undergoes much-needed renovations and improvements in accessibility. All the Bureau's counseling and educational services are fully operational, and are located physically at 1033 Massachusetts Avenue (a five-minute walk from Lamont Library, on the left side of Massachusetts Avenue just beyond Bowl & Board). Phone numbers and email addresses have not changed.

WHAT DOES THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN MEAN FOR YOU? Whether you are a senior and will be looking for a regular job after leaving Harvard, or are beginning to think, somewhat tentatively, about professional or career paths, or if you will just be looking for summer employment, you would be wise not to procrastinate. Early planning will enable you to explore more alternatives and to wind up with more choices in an economic environment with fewer job opportunities. The Office for Career Services is always available to you for career counseling and help exploring employment possibilities. If you are in a House, you should get to know your House Tutors who can provide advice about summer or postgraduate employment or postgraduate educational options. It is also wise to seek advice from academic departments, which often have many forms of information about related academic and nonacademic careers.

CROWDING IN THE HOUSES The Houses are fuller this year than they have been in a long time. This circumstance results not from admitting more students --- indeed the size of the freshman class has been unchanged for many years, and the number of transfer matriculants has been reduced in each of the past two years. Instead the crowding seems to have arisen as a result of a combination of factors --- fewer students studying abroad or taking voluntary leaves of absence, more students returning from leaves of absence, and the attractiveness of the residential Houses over other local real estate options. Efforts are underway to address the crowding, which, by the luck of the draw, has hit different Houses differently. We are actively encouraging the conversion of non-student apartments to student rooms where that shift would, in net, improve undergraduate life. We are also trying to equalize the crowding across the residential system by assessing the possibility of changing the number of students assigned to each House. Nascent thinking about changes in Study Abroad policies, undertaken purely for educational reasons, may also at some point result in fewer students being resident in Cambridge. Finally, we are looking for space near campus where the "overflow" could be housed as long as the current imbalance lasts. I would note, however, that patterns in leave-taking and the attractiveness of offcampus life are cyclical, so there are no plans to build an additional residential House.

DON'T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU HEAR ABOUT HARVARD STUDENTS' EXCESSES The University Health Service participated in a national comparative study of student health, and while the news is certainly not all good, there are indications that Harvard students are less prone to some risky behaviors than their peers at other institutions. For example, the rate of binge drinking within the two-week period prior to the administration of the survey was 31.3% at Harvard, as opposed to 47% of college students nationally and 49% in a Boston area cohort of college students. Yet Harvard students report that their excessive drinking has serious consequences: more than ten percent report that they physically injured themselves some time in the past year as a result of drinking; almost a quarter that they forgot where they were or what they did; and more than thirty percent that they did something they later regretted. Both UHS and the Bureau of Study Counsel can help you if you are worried about your drinking behavior.

Smoking is also less prevalent at Harvard than at most other colleges. Nationally, more than a quarter of college students report having smoked cigarettes in the past 30 days; at Harvard, the rate is only 15.6%. Yet a higher percentage of of sophomores than freshmen smoke, and similarly for juniors and seniors; clearly many students are starting to smoke while they are at Harvard. The American Cancer Society reports that a third of all smokers eventually die prematurely because of an addiction that took root during their college years. UHS has a program to help you if you are a smoker and want to quit.

As interesting as the statistics about student behavior is the wide variance between Harvard students' perception of the behavior of their fellow students and the reality. For example, students' perception is that only 1.2% of their fellow students would not have had a drink in the past month; the actual number is 27.6%. Students' perception is that about 46% of Harvard students have five or more drinks when they party; the actual percentage who drink that much is about 29%, and the majority of Harvard students have three drinks or less when they party. Harvard students think that more than two-thirds of their fellow students would have smoked a cigarette in the past 30 days, as opposed to the 15.6% who actually have. Harvard students think that 54.2% of their peers would have used marijuana in the past month; the actual number is 12.2%. For amphetamines, perceived usage in the past month is 19.5%, actual is 1.2%. For cocaine, perception is 8.7%, actual is 0.5%. If you are abusing any of these substances and think that you are only doing what is "normal" at Harvard, you are kidding yourself. Please seek counseling at the UHS or at the Bureau; whatever you share with a clinician will be kept confidential from all other College agencies.

Likewise, students' perceptions of the level of sexual activity of their fellow students are exaggerated. 59.8% of Harvard students reported not having had vaginal intercourse in the past month, but only 15.4% of Harvard students believe that the typical Harvard student would not have had intercourse in the past month. Have confidence in your own judgment of what is proper behavior for you, and do not allow yourself to be goaded into doing something you do not want to do by the suggestion that your inclination to abstinence is abnormal.

FEELING OVERWHELMED? By contrast with the relatively good health news summarized above, a significant cause for worry is the number of Harvard students who experience feelings of being overwhelmed, hopeless, or deeply sad. A third of our students reported feeling overwhelmed at least 11 times during the past school year; more than half of students reported feeling, at least once during the past school year, that they were so depressed that it was difficult to function. If you are feeling persistently downhearted, you may well be dealing not with situational difficulties, but with clinical depression, a well-understood condition you would share with many others who have been helped by the treatments that are available for this condition. Seek help; it is only a phone call away at the UHS Mental Health Service (5-2042) or the Bureau of Study Counsel (5-2581).

USE THE UNDERGRADUATE COUNCIL Feedback and change can be effected through your elected representatives to the Undergraduate Council. The UC works with the College administration both through student-faculty committees and through individual meetings with administrators. The UC on its own also undertakes a variety of initiatives on student life. I urge you to become familiar with the UC's operations and to give its leaders and representatives your input.

THANK YOU FOR YOUR LETTERS I have received and responded to a number of interesting letters in response to the request Dean Pedersen and I sent over the summer to hear about students' experience in the College. These letters contain suggestions that have been helpful for us to hear, and you should feel free to write us at any time.

Harvard is a big and complicated place, but whatever your question or problem, the answer is not far away. Your Allston Burr Senior Tutor or Assistant Dean of Freshmen is fair game for questions of any kind, by e-mail or in person. If the question is about Harvard and this dean does not know the answer, he or she probably knows who does. Use the College web page and the University web page; set up your portal page and use it to keep you current on the activities and news in which you are most interested. Email me directly if you don't know who else to ask or can't understand the answer you've been given.

While I hope you will always have ready access to the the factual information you need, I know it can be harder to get advice, academic or personal, that is appropriate to you as an individual. Take the initiative to seek out advice from academic departments; the faculty and staff there are best able to guide your course of study and to help you meet your intellectual objectives. I am well aware that academic advising is variable across departments and curricular committees, and Dean Pedersen and I have worked with several large departments to encourage improvement in departmental advising. Be persistent, and let me know if you face unreasonable difficulties.

At the same time as you seek information from others at Harvard, I hope you will also take the time to think hard about yourself and your personal objectives. From my many conversations and interactions with Harvard students, I have come to recognize that their enormous energy and endless willingness to take on new challenges sometimes result in a level of activity that is more frantic than productive. If you press simultaneously on too many fronts, you will not leave time to excel at any of them, or even to come to grips with what you love and what you are doing only out of habit or perceived obligation. I have written a longer letter of advice along these lines, called Slow Down: Getting More out of Harvard by Doing Less. It is aimed at entering freshmen, but I think also worthwhile for others to read. It can be found one click away from the College home page, or you can pick up a hard copy in University Hall, at the reception desk in the center of the first floor.

My very best wishes for a happy and fulfilling year.

 

Harry R. Lewis

Dean of Harvard College