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Following recent decisions by two Harvard schools to pull out of the U.S. News and World Report’s annual rankings, Dean of the College Rakesh Khurana emphasized the importance of providing adequate information about the College to prospective applicants.
“I think that that’s a combination of both, kind of quantitative and qualitative data, and it’s not something that can be reduced to a single number,” Khurana said.
Harvard Law School last November and Harvard Medical School in January announced that they would stop participating in the U.S. News rankings, citing perverse incentives and fairness and equity concerns.
Universities like Harvard — ranked No. 3 — currently participate in the rankings by sharing key admissions and demographics data with the U.S. News magazine, information Khurana said is valuable to provide to applicants.
“One of the things that’s the most important to me is that students and prospective students make the best decision for what college is right for them,” Khurana said.
Khurana added there are thousands of institutions of higher education in the United States and many are “really high-quality.”
“I hope people will focus on a decision about what’s right for them, more than something overly reductive like either a ranking or even a brand name,” Khurana added.
Khurana also discussed the following topics:
Khurana laid out priorities for improving student mental health while underscoring the resources available to those experiencing acute mental health challenges, pointing to improvements to the College’s advising system.
“To me, it’s thinking about ‘What are my responsibilities as a college to create an environment that is generative, affirmative, and supportive?’” Khurana said.
Khurana said while he believes the College’s residential system is an asset, he added that “there’s more that we want to do to promote and strengthen healthy practices that lead to well-being.”
Khurana also addressed criticism of Harvard’s mental health care services, specifically long wait times for appointments at Harvard’s Counseling and Mental Health Service.
“One of the most important things we can do is to let students know who are in crisis that there is immediate help available,” Khurana said.
In recent months, Quincy House residents have reported an uptick in pests and rodents in their suites, a challenge Khurana said is linked to maintaining Harvard’s “classical” and “old” architecture.
“The presence of rodents is upsetting, and, you know, it’s not a feature of the system, it’s a bug. No pun intended,” he said.
To combat unwelcome insects and rodents, Khurana encouraged students to contact their house building managers following sightings and to refrain from leaving out food waste.
“Keeping our rooms clean, especially making sure that we’re not leaving unfinished food around or in trays outside our doors — these are all areas that, you know, we have direct control over,” Khurana said. “It’s not only the right thing to do to prevent infestation, but it’s also respectful to our custodial staff and our dining staff.”
Amid turnover of some of the University’s top posts — including the presidency and dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences — Khurana strongly signaled that he plans to remain dean of the College for the foreseeable future.
“I love being the dean of the College. I pinch myself every single day that I get to do this job and be around you,” said Khurana, who was appointed College dean in 2014. “I’m very happy in the job that I’m doing and continue to do the best that I can.”
In December, the University announced FAS Dean Claudine Gay would succeed outgoing president Lawrence S. Bacow, leaving a vacancy in her wake. The following month, the College announced that Princeton administrator Thomas Dunne would succeed Katherine G. O’Dair as Dean of Students.
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.
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