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Harvard names undergraduate college dean, filling post vacated by dean at center of secret email search scandal

Posted by Matt Rocheleau  January 22, 2014 05:03 PM

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Harvard University named a new dean to oversee its undergraduate college on Wednesday, eight months after the previous dean stepped down amid controversy over covert searches of instructors’ e-mail accounts.

Rakesh Khurana will become dean of Harvard College starting July 1, university officials announced.

Khurana currently works as the Marvin Bower Professor of Leadership Development at Harvard Business School, professor of sociology in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and as co-master of Cabot House.

“I’m honored to have this opportunity to serve the college and work with the faculty, students, and staff to create a transformative educational experience for our students,” said a statement from Khurana, who earned a doctorate from Harvard in 1998. “I am convinced that, working together, we will have a significant and positive impact on the college.”

Harvard president Drew Faust called Khurana a “faculty leader who embodies the interconnectedness of Harvard.”

“His experiences as a graduate student, an award-winning teacher at HBS, and the master of an undergraduate house give him a unique perspective on the university, and his deep respect for the liberal-arts model and the residential education will serve him well as he guides Harvard College,” she said in a statement.

In the spring of 2013, it was revealed that Harvard administrators had, in the fall of 2012, secretly searched about 14,000 e-mail accounts looking for a leak to the news media about a massive cheating scandal.

News of the covert searches prompted outrage around the campus.

Two months later, Harvard College dean Evelynn M. Hammonds, stepped down.

The university also hired an attorney to conduct an independent investigation which concluded that all of the searches “were undertaken in good faith” and that no administrators read any of the e-mails unearthed in the searches.

And, Harvard created a task force that is working to develop recommendations on the university’s e-mail privacy policies.

In the announcement Wednesday about Khurana’s selection, university officials, including the newly-picked dean, did not address the scandal or Hammonds’ departure

Donald Pfister has served as interim dean since Hammonds’ department and will continue in that role until Khurana takes over.

Khurana and his wife, Stephanie, will remain co-masters of Cabot House.

Khurana earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell University. He worked as a founding member of Cambridge Technology Partners before starting graduate school at Harvard in 1993.

After earning his doctorate at Harvard five years later, he taught for two years at MIT before being appointed to faculty at Harvard Business School in 2000. He became co-master of Cabot House in 2010.

Faculty of Arts and Sciences dean Michael D. Smith announced Khurana’s appointment in an email Wednesday.

“Rakesh is a distinguished scholar of organizational behavior and leadership, an award-winning teacher, and a dynamic House master who has also deeply engaged with undergraduate issues on important committees,” wrote Smith. “He brings to the deanship an intimate understanding of the Harvard College experience, a profound commitment to the values of a liberal-arts education, and a warm and compassionate personality that accompanies his belief in the importance of community and an inclusive approach to decision-making.

“Rakesh is an ardent proponent of the values of a liberal-arts education,” Smith added. “I am confident that he will advance undergraduate education with both a respect for enduring values and the ability to embrace change. He understands the interplay of academic, extracurricular, and residential life at Harvard and is an eloquent spokesperson for the transformative nature of the Harvard undergraduate experience.

Matt Rocheleau can be reached at matthew.rocheleau@globe.com. Looking for more coverage of area colleges and universities? Go to our Your Campus pages.

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