Opening of Term Greetings, 1999


TO: Students in Harvard College
FROM: Harry R. Lewis
RE: Opening of term greetings
DATE: September 20, 1999

I hope you have had a restful and productive summer, and I want to welcome you to the 1999-2000 academic year.

It has been a busy summer in Cambridge, and I thought you might welcome a brief summary of various news items, from the consequential to the merely interesting.

Harvard and Radcliffe.     Last spring Harvard University and Radcliffe College announced their intention to merge and to create a new entity, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, as an integral part of Harvard University. The details of this plan have been worked out over the summer and the official agreement has now been signed, with an effective date of October 1. The Institute will officially come into being on that date, and over the coming year will develop its agenda and plans as a place for scholarship and research in a variety of areas, including women, gender, and society. At the same time Radcliffe College will cease to exist, and women undergraduates will henceforth be Harvard College students in the same way that men have been for hundreds of years. Women's diplomas will be identical in form to men's diplomas.

Except for these formal changes, the merger agreement should have very little impact on the daily lives of most undergraduates. Transition planning for existing Radcliffe undergraduate programs is underway, and the Office for the Arts will continue its programs uninterrupted, but now exclusively under Harvard's management. At the same time, as a permanent focus for programs and activities focused on women's issues in general and the interests of women undergraduates in particular, a new organization within Harvard College is being created by Harvard and the Radcliffe Institute: The Ann Radcliffe Trust in Harvard College. The Trust will incorporate the agenda of the Harvard College Women's Initiative, but will also have a grants process for funding student initiatives consistent with the goals of the Trust. (The Radcliffe Union of Students grant process, funded by the RUS $5 term bill fee, will continue unchanged for this year.) The Trust will be guided by a student and faculty advisory committee, and during the fall, as plans for the Trust are developed, we will be reaching out to the entire community for advice and ideas on how its mission can be advanced. Karen Avery, who is returning from maternity leave to resume her responsibilities as Assistant Dean of Harvard College, will also assume the role of Director of the Ann Radcliffe Trust. To learn more and become involved in the activities of this institution, sign up for the email list by writing to wominit@fas, or call Dean Karen Avery, 495-4348.

Academic programs.      An eleventh Core Curriculum area, Quantitative Reasoning, is being introduced this year, and the entire Core exemption structure is being revised as a result. This change will not affect the Core requirements for any previously enrolled student, but the requirements for new students (freshmen and new transfer students) will be different from those that apply to continuing students. The Handbook for Students has two separate sections on the Core Curriculum, one for students entering this fall and one for students who had been previously enrolled. When consulting these pages, make sure you are looking at the right section. The tables of Core exemptions for each concentration look very similar!

For students interested in teaching careers, a new option within the Undergraduate Teacher Education Program will allow students to combine a term in residence at Wellesley College with participation in UTEP to earn certification in elementary education. UTEP continues to offer its programs for middle and secondary school certification. For more information about UTEP, see the Handbook for Students or the UTEP website,

Physical changes.      A great deal of construction has taken place over the summer. Harvard Hall has been extensively renovated, and now is wheelchair-accessible and has up-to-date media capabilities in its classrooms. Holden Chapel is also undergoing extensive renovations, which will make it suitable as a classroom space as well as for continuing use as a rehearsal hall for our choral groups. Unfortunately, the Holden Chapel project turned into an archaeological investigation when the basement excavation uncovered human bones! It was subsequently determined that these were ``leftovers'' from around 1850, when this building was a medical school laboratory, but this and other discoveries held up the project's timetable enough that it will not be completed until mid-November. This will, regrettably, cause awkward commuting for the next few weeks around the freshman dormitories, especially Lionel and Mower. That's part of the cost of being at a university with a long history!

Widener Library is in the initial stages of a very extensive renovation, which will entail two years of major construction activities and the installation of badly needed climate control systems, all without closing the building to daily use. The massive crane on the Massachusetts Avenue side of the building went up the day after Commencement; it will be a fixture of the landscape for many months to come.

Maxwell Dworkin, the new building for electrical engineering and computer science, is open and in operation; you may have a class there this fall. This building is connected to the north end of Pierce Hall, across Oxford Street from the Museum of Comparative Zoology. You're welcome to have a look around anytime during the workweek.

At Soldiers Field, the Beren Tennis Center and the Jordan Field (an artificial turf playing surface), expand Harvard's athletic facilities for intramural and recreational as well as intercollegiate use. In its inaugural game on September 10, in a driving rain that would have made the game unplayable without an artificial turf field, Harvard Field Hockey beat the University of Vermont by a dominating score of 9-1.

Memorial Hall is sporting a new tower, built to restore the appearance that was lost as the result of a fire 43 years ago. Over the coming months, the plywood roof will be covered with decorative slate.

Y2K.      All critical Harvard systems are believed to be ready for the year 2000, as are outside systems, such as utilities, on which Harvard depends. Nonetheless, the possibility of problems cannot be ruled out, and we hope you will cooperate. All Freshmen will have to vacate their dormitories during winter break and will therefore not be on campus for the arrival of the new year. While the Houses will remain open (with reduced heat), we are encouraging students not to remain in the Houses over New Year's this year, and not to plan to return to campus early. Reading period will begin on Wednesday, January 5, 2000, and we hope that students will return to campus only shortly before that date. If students who are then away from campus wish to contact us for up-to-date information on our state of readiness for their return, they will be able to check the College web site, or to call the main Harvard College number, (617)495-1555.

People.      I hope everyone in Adams House will join in welcoming Drs. Judy and Sean Palfrey to the Mastership, and will help get the House off to a good start this fall. Otherwise the Houses have had a remarkably stable year; all the other Masters and all the Senior Tutors are returning. Wendy Franz and Phil Bean join Sarah Birmingham Drummond as Assistant Deans of Freshmen for the coming year. In my office, David Illingworth has taken up the role of Associate Dean of Harvard College, assuming many of the responsibilities for extracurricular affairs and policies relating to student organizations previously overseen by Dean Archie Epps. Dean Epps remains in University Hall on a part-time basis and will look forward to seeing old friends and making new ones. Leaving Harvard to take a position at his alma mater, Brown University, is Jim Miller, long the Director of Financial Aid. We wish Jim every success, and know that the tradition of caring, personal attention he has established at the Financial Aid Office will be maintained in the future.

Miscellaneous news.      Of special interest to freshmen is the new policy on ``blocking groups,'' the groups of students (single or mixed gender) that will be kept together when freshmen are assigned to the Houses next spring. Blocking groups will henceforth have a maximum size of eight, large enough to encompass most close friendship groups that have wanted to be part of the same House. At the same time, having blocks be no larger than eight will help ensure that each House is a microcosm of the College as a whole and that newcomers to a House will reach out to know those outside of their group. From the 1930s when the House system was born, the basic objective has been to create communities that are small enough that most members get to know each other, but large enough to represent the full range of talents, interests, and backgrounds of Harvard's remarkable student body.

The College remains concerned about students' health and well-being, and continues to regard abuse of alcohol and drugs primarily as a health issue. Students concerned about their own substance use or abuse, or who are made uncomfortable by the behavior of their roommates or friends, should seek help from the Harvard University Health Services, from counselors at the Bureau of Study Counsel, from their Senior Tutors, or from the peer groups Room 13 and Project ADD. There is no one ``right'' place to begin; what is important is to talk to someone about the problem. The College web site has new information about how situations might be addressed when a student's behavior is for any reason disturbing others but the student does not willingly seek professional help.

I wish you every success and satisfaction for the coming year. I hope you will look around at the wide range of opportunities available to you, academic, social, and extracurricular, and explore some new endeavor this year.

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