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Dean McBay is in a difficult position

Column/Robert E. Malchman

Second in a series

The editorial board of The Tech is correct when it says one does not lightly call for the resignation of an important official [Feb. 12]. One must consider carefully the reasons and effects of such a call before making it.

Imagine how you would feel if you read a newspaper editorial, or received a letter, or heard someone say publicly that you did your job so poorly that in the interests of those whom you were trying to benefit, you should quit that job.

Dean for Student Affairs Shirley M. McBay is not an evil person. She was hired into a difficult situation and charged with implementing a difficult agenda. President Paul E. Gray '54 and Vice President Constantine B. Simonides had decided to cut the Dean's Office budget heavily. McBay was to effect these cuts.

Taking money away from people is not a good way to make friends. If McBay had limited her actions to only cutting the budget, she still would have been unpopular. One could then dismiss the grumblings of the Finance Board, other groups, and ODSA staff members as mere pique.

McBay's other actions as dean fall into patterns and effects that require closer examination. The first is an inability to learn from past errors. Three times she has scheduled events vital to student interests at the ends of terms. There is no surer way to stifle student input than to request it in May or December.

The second pattern is one of continual ODSA attempts to run student activities. At best the Dean's Office attitude toward activities is statist; at worst it is fascist. McBay insinuates herself time and again into student activities' financial and policy decisions.

McBay has repeatedly "recommended" that "certain groups" with "excess funds" pay the way for small or inefficient groups. The basis for this recommendation is her need for an excuse to slash the budget for activities.

The Dean's Office should get out of the finance business. Why not let student government set an activities fee? That way students can have exactly the amount of student activities they want.

McBay's jousts with the pornography issue are the latest examples in the second pattern. She is so ineffective an administrator that not only must she unilaterally enact a policy over the summer when no one is looking, but then must rewrite the policy the first time it is implemented, and then ignore it entirely to achieve even partially her goals.

The third pattern is the inability to ease problems in non-budgetary areas. Wide gaps in communication and understanding between the Dean's Office and activity leaders remain after five years. The faculty still rarely, if ever, interacts with the ODSA.

The most damning effect of her problems also falls into this category. McBay has lost the confidence and respect of virtually all the students and their organizations. Large activities dislike her for her financial intrusions. Women dislike her because she has trivialized the pornography issue and given its proponents ammunition. Minorities dislike her for her callous handling of Assistant Dean Mary O. Hope's dismissal. Students in general are disgusted by the patterns of excess involvement and foolish neglect.

The Tech editorial board wrote with courage, not caprice. I agree completely with its position. Even if all the complaints against McBay were specious, a dean without the confidence or support of her students can do no good. McBay should leave her position as dean for student affairs.