THIS WEEK HARVARD LAW School says goodbye to Suzanne Richardson as Dean of Students, a truly remarkable individual who has done wonders for the Law School community in bridging the ever-present, but never necessary, gap that sometimes develops between students and administrators and which can lead to feelings of alienation among the former and feelings of being out of touch with the community among the latter.
For most people who have been confronted with a Law School-related problem, the Dean of Students office may have constituted at least one stop on the way to solving that problem. Such individuals should feel fortunate they found the office because the resources and expertise can expedite problem solving. It is certain that the helpfulness of those within the office undoubtedly reflected the personalities of such individuals, but it also undoubtedly reflected the leadership and personality of Dean Richardson.
One can partly see this leadership and personality in The Record article this week about Dean Richardson’s departure. But Dean Richardson was too modest in her own appraisal, as one can reference by examining her story about the student who initiated online elections at the Law School. It was not that she researched the issue or presented it to the Law School Council; no, her modesty came when one examines the question that was asked, which was to relay stories from her ten-year career that reflect positive changes at the Law School.
Dean Richardson did not trump top-down changes or things she had done to make the Law School better. Instead she told the story of a student who came to her with a problem and how she directed that student in the right direction so he could solve the problem for himself. It was this partnership with students that made Dean Richardson a valuable part of the Law School community. She had two roles to play: She was the student’s voice in the administration and also the administration’s presence in the life of the student. She excelled in both roles.
In addition to assisting individual students, Dean Richardson helped to build a community among student groups. It is not only between students and administrators that chasms can develop, but also among student groups. Dean Richardson sought to bring student groups together so they could learn from one another and know the mission of each. Again, her theme was to develop partnerships between the student groups, not just to serve as a clearinghouse for the student groups.
On a more personal note, the newspaper wishes Dean Richardson the best in her new role as Special Adviser to the Dean. We also wish her the best in her current fight against cancer. We look forward to working with her in the future on issues that will necessitate her expertise and knowledge.