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Search Committee for RCA Dean Narrows Pool to Three Finalists

By Stacey E. Blau
News Editor

The search committee for the new assistant dean for the Office of Residence and Campus Activities has narrowed down its candidate pool to three finalists.

The three are all from outside MIT, said Richard L. Brewer, manager of administration in the Office of Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs, who chaired the search committee.

The candidates will be introduced separately at student forums that will be held next Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. in Ashdown House's Hulsizer Room.

The search comes after former Assistant Dean for RCA Susan D. Allen left to become Dean of Students at Roxbury Community College earlier this year. She had served as associate dean for three years.

The assistant dean functions as an overseer for issues related to student activities, from organization of events to management of activities' finances.

Other members of the search committee include Ida G. Faber, staff assistant for Undergraduate Academic Affairs; Ted E. Johnson, assistant director for programs in the Campus Activities Complex; Emily B. Sandberg, Undergraduate Education and Student Affairs Public Service Center program director; Marie E. Seamon, Public Relations Services conference coordinator; Andrew J. Rhomberg G; Marc A. Manders '97; and Ashwin Viswanathan '98, Undergraduate Association floor leader.

Forums intended for student input

The forums next week are designed to collect student input on the candidates, Rhomberg said.

"I've insisted on having a student-organized event," Rhomberg said. "The administration has promised they would be receptive to student input."

The final decision on the candidates lies with Margaret A. Jablonski, associate dean for residence and campus activities. "She's said that she is going to value the meetings very highly," Rhomberg said.

The identities of the three candidates will not be revealed until the the actual forums, where each one will appear individually on one of the three nights. The secrecy is out of fairness to the candidates, who were not put on warning; Brewer said. It would not be fair to reveal their names and qualifications for scrutiny yet, he said.

More important than the candidates' resumes and other similar qualifications is what students want from a new dean, Brewer said. "The students know what they want," he said. "They have to find out if the candidates are going to do that for them."

All of the three candidates are qualified, Brewer said. They all have master's degrees and three to five years' experience in a student setting. The search committee, which started its work in December, selected the three finalists from a pool of about 200 applicants.

Rhomberg is drawing up a series of questions that the candidates will be prepared to address at the meetings. The questions were culled from input from members of the Association of Student Activities and the Graduate Student Council as well as from other student input, Rhomberg said.

Students want guidance from dean

The new dean will need to understand the importance of student activities, said President of the Graduate Student Council Bonnie J. Souter G. Students need "guidance rather than a watchdog," she said.

"We have fewer graduate students than undergraduates," Rhomberg said. But graduates still have quite an interest in the selection process, he said.

The new dean must be "willing to build a relationship with students," Souter said. A particularly important role for the dean to take on will involve teaching students financial responsibility for their activities, she said.

The mechanical functions of the dean's position involve things like processing checks, signing event registration forms, and making decisions to loan money to student groups, said Undergraduate Association Treasurer Russell S. Light '98.

Such tasks always have to happen and should happen "as quickly could be reasonably expected" so that student groups do not have to "go through hassles to get checks written and events registered," Light said. "Your money is your money, and you need to have access to it."

One way to improve some of the problems with activities' access to their money is the current initiative to allow student groups to open outside bank accounts, Light said. "This will reduce the burden on the student accounts system so that it can better meet the needs of groups that would prefer not have outside accounts," he said.

But the dean should also "be somebody you can go to when you need problems solved," Light said. "You need somebody whose office you can just walk into." The new dean "should have an open mind to the generally unique way MIT does things," he said.