Opinions Solicited for Dean SelectionBy Sarah Y. Keightley
Although less than 20 students came to the Dean Selection Committee's student forum yesterday, the organizers seemed to agree that it was a success. Committee Chair Judy Jackson said the students comments were "insightful, thoughtful, and showed genuine concern."
The committee, directed by the Office of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, is selecting the replacement for former Associate Dean for Residence and Campus Dean James R. Tewhey, who resigned last April.
"As students, your lives are probably touched more by this position," than others in the RCA office, said Jackson, who is director of the Office of Minority Education. This dean has a "very pivotal position" since groups and activities such as the housing office, the Interfraternity Council, the housemaster system, student affairs, and Residence/Orientation Week fall under this dean's jurisdiction.
The committee advertised widely for the position, most prominently in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The basic criteria for the job are a masters degree and at least five years of experience, Jackson said. Of the 145 applicants, 35 percent are women, about 10 percent are minorities, 77 percent have masters degrees, and 20 percent have PhDs. The candidate pool represents 31 states and includes three people from MIT.
The committee is currently in its first phase, where members read and discuss the applications. This phase includes "getting input from across the MIT community," such as from last night's meeting, Jackson said.
The committee plans to narrow the list down to about 10 potential candidates by early October. These people will be interviewed by telephone. In mid-October, a short list of five candidates will be made.
Candidates on the short list will be interviewed in person, and then the committee will make a recommendation to Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Arthur C. Smith, who will make the final decision.
Although there is no set deadline for the dean selection process. "The sooner the better," Smith said.
The committee was formed this summer, but members "wanted to wait until they had the opportunity to have an open meeting with students," Smith said. They did not want to select a dean during the summer when everyone was away, he said.
At yesterday's meeting, several central themes were discussed. These included specific qualities to look for in the final candidate, a difference of opinion over the candidates' previous experience, and specific items to include in the final interviews and reference checks.
Qualities to look for
Everyone at yesterday's meeting agreed that integrity is an essential quality for the final candidate. Furthermore, the person needs to be willing to stand by his decisions.
Anand Mehta G, former Graduate Student Council president, said the person needs to be responsive and flexible. "MIT students are egotistical but know what they want." This person needs to understand this and work with students, he said.
MIT needs a person who knows how to negotiate -- to "make society move better," one student said.
In the past, it seems like this dean has either been a rule-enforcer or has taken more of a laissez-faire attitude, said Grant K. Emison G. Instead, the new dean should "facilitate groups and individuals in achieving goals," he said. "MIT has a real reputation of in-breeding and not changing," he continued. The new dean needs to "be someone to change things."
Mariquita C. Gilfillan '94, Panhellenic Association president, said the individual needs to be able to deal with students more on the peer level, than on an authoritative level.
GSC President Caryl B. Brown G agreed and suggested that the committee consider a younger candidate because a younger person is "not so experienced that he is set in his ways."
Disagreement over experience
Students disagreed on whether the final candidates need to have experience in academia.
"Experience is the best teacher for a manager," Brown said. But this individual does not necessarily have to be from academia, he said.
Gilfillan said she was worried "because MIT is not really like any other institution," and she does not want to see MIT modeled after another university. Still, she would like the person to have had experience with academia.
MIT currently gives students a lot of freedom in choosing their way of life, such as with the alcohol policy and R/O Week, Gilfillian said. She wants to ensure that the dean does not "take choices away from students."
There will be trade-offs between Institute policies and people being responsible for themselves, Emison said.
One student said that the final candidates should have backgrounds in community affairs. Another student said the committee should consider individuals from the service sector rather than academia.
What matters is "how the person interacts in his or her own community," said committee member Nika C. Lee '95.
Interview items, references
For the interview process, students suggested that the committee set up scenarios for the candidates and ask them how they would act in specific situations.
One student pointed out that the committee should be careful in using this technique because the new dean should be "willing to grow," not just say what students want him to say. Another student recommended having the candidate state the pros and cons of specific situations.
Students encouraged the committee to research the candidates' policy-making philosophy, including past decisions they have made; to talk with students from other universities who may have dealt with the candidates; and to consider the candidates' experience in working with sexual harassment cases.
Shift in discipline
There have been no changes in the actual structure of the dean's position, except for a modification of discipline hearings, Smith said. These hearings will be made a function of the Smith's office and will be handled "more broadly" instead of just within the RCA, Smith said. The new dean will primarily be concerned with housing and student activities.
Smith is "reorganizing the way discipline is being handled in the Dean's Office," Jackson said.
When Tewhey was dean, he was responsible for discipline. This shift in disciplining power makes the new dean's position "more managerial," Jackson said.
Last night's open meeting with students was part of a long process. "The committee has met with a number of groups," Smith said. They met with the housemasters last week and people in the RCA who will be working directly with the new dean.
"As we've gone around talking to people, their concerns are already having an influence" on our decisions, Jackson said.
Before yesterday's meeting, committee member Daniel J. Dunn '94 said that in talking to the MIT community, character issues have been "the most consistent theme."
Vikram Mehta '95 said that Greek issues, the alcohol policy, and R/O Week are his concerns. But knowing that there are already four students on the committee "puts me at ease," he said.
Jackson said she wanted the dean selection committee to be "representative of as broad a matrix of campus as possible." Along with the chair, it includes four faculty and staff members and four students.
Faculty and staff on the committee are: Jackson, Phillip J. Walsh, director of the Campus Activities Complex; Anne P. Glavin, chief of Campus Police; Professor William B. Watson, Baker House housemaster; and Arnold R. Henderson, Jr., assistant dean for student affairs. The student committee members are: Undergraduate Association Vice President Anne S. Tsao '94, Feniosky A. Pena G, Dunn, and Lee.