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Assistant Dean Candidates Share Ideas at Open Forums

By Orli G. Bahcall

Three candidates for the unfilled position of assistant dean for residence and campus activities addressed issues of student concern at three open forums this week.

Each forum, one with each candidate, was attended by about 20 students representing student governments and clubs.

The three candidates - University of Southern California Student Organization Adviser Rebecca A. Chavez, Emerson College Student Activities Director Jeanne M. Maguire, and Tufts University Assistant Director of Student Activities Katherine G. O'Dair - discussed their experience and fielded questions from the various student leaders in the audience.

The open position was vacated earlier this year when former Assistant Dean for RCA Susan D. Allen left to become dean of students at Roxbury Community College earlier this year.

Chavez would be student advocate

The position of assistant dean of student activities "really caught my eye," Chavez said. "This position could get me back to advisement of student government," she said.

Chavez stressed a desire to be "instrumental in setting a framework," to teach students skills such as leadership that complement academics.

The "position is not only to advise students, but also to be an advocate for them," by serving as a communication link between students and other administrative offices, Chavez said. This will "allow me to work with students in a different level than Iam used to working at."

Chavez suggested presidential forums, where the presidents of all the student clubs would meet several times a year to "throw out things that students are upset with," in an open forum.

While Chavez plans to advocate for the students, "this is just one peg in the whole board," she said. "The larger question is if we are working with an institute that is willing to change. [Students] are one part of that, and RCA is just one part of that," Chavez said.

Chavez received a BA degree in Speech and Theater Arts and a MA in Education from Colorado State University in 1984. At USC Chavez has been active in the advising on finances, student issues, and mediation of student issues.

Maguire discusses procedures

Maguire discussed the procedures that student organizations there were required to follow in order to access their funding, including having the group's advisor sign-off on all requests for payments.

Maguire is most proud of her "ability to make connections, build bridges and work collaboratively with students," and believes that often the "experience outweighs the product," she said. She plans to take a proactive role as the assistant dean for RCA.

"My style is not as a mother," Maguire said. "Iam here to help make sure there is a system that is helpful to students, as well as being safe, sincere and honest."

Maguire would try to bring the heads of various organizations together to facilitate collaboration. She described herself as being "pretty much what you see is what you get." She also expressed hope in improving the relationship between student activities and the administration.

Maguire said that if selected she would like to meet with the student organizations by sitting in government meetings, campus publications and student focus groups.

Maguire received her Masters in Counseling Psychology from Villanova University where she was active with student organizations. She continued to serve four years in the Villanova student activities office.

O'Dair says it's students' money

O'Dair said she became interested in the RCA position because of all the changes going on at MIT and the opportunity to to be a part of such change.

O'Dair said student finance is important. In her current position at Tufts, the student government directly supervises their own finances, she said. "It's the students' money, so they should have control over it... my job is just to make sure that everyone is on track."

O'Dair said that increasing funding for co-curricular activities was a major concern. Several ways to increase funding, including adding an activities fee or taking a fixed percentage or lump sum out of tuition, were brought up. "I'm really not quite sure of the system here, but again, this is very important, especially in light of re-engineering," she said.

"I'm sensing that the financial issue is probably the major concern, and no matter how it is resolved, not everyone will be happy, but I want to be seen as a resource to the students," O'Dair said.

O'Dair stressed the point that she wanted to build a good relationship with the student body. "Trust cannot be established overnight," she said.

O'Dair also brought up up several ideas that would be new to the Institute. At Tufts O'Dair has lead large information sessions on various topics including leadership and programming.

O'Dair would like to see a similar program at MIT. She also favors meetings where student leaders would meet to discuss the goals of their groups and share leadership ideas.

O'Dair received a BA degree in Communication from Miami University in 1988 and an MA in Education, Student Personnel and Counseling from Northeastern University in 1991.

Shawdee Eshghi and Christopher C. Falling contributed to the reporting of this story.