Dean for Student Life to be Named Today by WilliamsBy David D. Hsu
A new dean for student life will be named today by Dean for Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Rosalind H. Williams.
The appointment is a continuation of the search for the dean for undergraduate education and student affairs, which culminated in Williams' appointment in June to replace outgoing Dean Arthur C. Smith.
The new dean will take office before the end of this semester, Williams said. Following the appointment, Williams will be dean for undergraduate education.
Williams declined to comment on the identity of the new dean in advance of today's announcement.
However, Dean for Undergraduate Academic Affairs Travis R. Merritt said that the person is from outside of the Institute.
Professor Lawrence S. Bacow, chair of the faculty, said that he had heard that the dean was a woman who has previously worked at Harvard University and Duke University.
Two deans to report to Williams
The selection of the new dean will not mean a split in the dean's office, Williams said. Instead, the dean for student life, along with dean for undergraduate academic affairs, will report to Williams.
The new dean was created because Smith's position was such a large job, she said. "In my short tenure, I can really understand that reasoning."
After Smith announced last fall his plan to retire in the spring, a committee chaired by Professor of Materials Science and Engineering Linn W. Hobbs recommended two lists: one for the dean for undergraduate education and one for the dean for student life. In June, Williams was selected as dean for undergraduate education.
Using the committee's report as a guide, Williams worked with Hobbs, Provost Joel Moses PhD '67, and President Charles M. Vest in selecting the new dean.
"I think the process was extremely open," as well as long and arduous, Williams said.
Fivestudents, selected by the administration, served on the Hobbs committee. Then-Undergraduate Association President Vijay P. Sankaran '95 criticized the committee last fall as unrepresentative of the student body. He called it "overly secretive," said that the student members "should have been selected with the input of their peers."
On one side, Merritt will handle issues that are more academically oriented, Williams said. The dean for student life will handle non-academic issues like housing and dining.
Several important issues will confront the new dean, including making Residence and Orientation Week as effective as possible, said Senior Associate Dean Robert M. Randolph.
In addition, housing must accommodate MIT's "rapidly changing demographics" in the increasing number of women, said Director of the Edgerton Center J. Kim Vandiver PhD '75, a former chair of the faculty.
The new dean will be "concerned with coordinating activities of student life within and outside of the dean's office," Williams said.
Another important task for the new dean will be to help Williams in the process of re-engineering student services in the most effective way. The student services
She added that the dean for student life is not a position reproducing or replacing Associate Dean for Residence and Campus Activities Margaret A. Jablonski, Williams said.
Outsider status not a disadvantage
The committee's report made no recommendation either way on appointing a dean from inside or outside the Institute, Williams said. But the new dean had to be "somebody who will complement my background, what I bring to the office, and what I don't bring," she said.
Faculty members are open to the idea of having someone from outside the Institute as dean for student life.
The effect of a non-MIT affiliated dean "depends entirely on who the individual is," said Professor of Physics Robert L. Jaffe, a former faculty chair. At MIT, people tend to think that the school is incomprehensible to the rest of the world. That notion is not true; Jaffe said he is "confident that an outsider could learn."
"The disadvantage is it will take a while," Vandiver said. "The advantage is that someone from outside will be a professional in this area, and no doubt bring experience from another school."
"Sometimes looking at old problems with new eyes can give you some new responses," Randolph said.