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Jablonski Leaving RCA in August To Accept Faculty Spot at UMass


Gabor Csanyi--The Tech
Dean of Residence and Campus Activities Margaret A. Jablonski looks back on her time at MIT.

By Dan McGuire
Executive Editor

Dean for Residence and Campus Activities Margaret A. Jablonski will leave her position at the middle of next month to take a faculty position at the School of Education at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst.

Associate Dean for RCA Andrew M. Eisenmann '75 will assume her duties when she leaves.

Jablonski said that her experience teaching a freshman seminar at MIT was "thoroughly enjoyable" and said that she wanted to find some way to continue teaching. The move would also "bring coherence to the personal side of my life," she said. "I was recently married and I live in Amherst, so I've been commuting" between Amherst and Cambridge, she said.

Jablonski said that she will remain with MIT for up to another year as a consultant, working a "few days a month" on the Leadership Development Center, which is currently being planned.

No replacement expected soon

Officials said that there was no plan to conduct a search for a replacement right now. "We're going to make an interim arrangement," said Margaret R. Bates, dean for student life. "We're not going to do a search for a person at this time."

Part of the problem is that there is not enough time before the year begins to find a replacement, she said. In addition, the fact that Jablonski will be close enough to MIT to provide some support makes the need for a replacement less urgent.

The current plan is to distribute Jablonski's chores among other staff in the office. "It will be a series of peopleŠ in the next few weeks" it will become clearer how her tasks will be distributed, Bates said.

Jablonski's departure will also allow the Dean's office to examine the position, said Dean of Students and Undergraduate Education Rosalind H. Williams. "Instead of looking for a immediate replacement, we're looking at all of the piecesŠ to figure out how to shape it for the long haul," added Bates.

However, "that's serendipitous. It's an unintended coincidence," Bates said. "The main issue was the timing."

Jablonski's tenure productive

Jablonski hit the ground running when she was appointed in early December of 1993. It was hoped that she could bring order to the office of Residence and Campus Activities, which had been thrown into chaos by the resignation of former Dean James R. Tewhey. Tewhey left MIT amid charges that he had an affair with former Associate Director of Student Financial Aid Katherine M. Nolan.

"It was not the smoothest of transitions in that regard. She did step into an office at a difficult time," said Arthur C. Smith, then-dean for student affairs. However, Smith said that at the time he was confident that she would be able to restore the department's stature. "She's a very able person. She's had a great deal of personal experience," he said.

But Jablonski was faced with an office in disarray whose connections with other organizations had been badly frayed. "The office had been without a leader for almost a year. The organization was in a state of some disrepair," said Smith.

Jablonski said that her first task "was restoring some sense of stability for the staff and for the students" while also working to "establish relationships with departments like the Campus Police, Housing," and the Campus Activities Complex.

Tenure touched by controversy

Jablonski's tenure, while marked by successes, was also touched on more than one occasion by controversy. In August, 1996 The Tech reported that then-Undergraduate Association Treasurer Russell S. Light '98 and then-Association of Student Activities President Douglas K. Wyatt G had discovered accounting errors totalling $140,000 in the books being kept by RCA on student activities.

Jablonski worked to resolve that problem, Wyatt said. "She was eager to solve the problem rather than patch it over."

"The assay system has been in shambles for years," he said. "I don't even know if it was working prior to the date" of the earliest records that were reviewed. "The problems were uncovered" and attempts were made to deal with them. Jablonski left the office's finances in better shape than she found them, he said.

The party ban initiated in the winter of 1995 after a Northeastern University student was shot outside of Walker Memorial was a more controversial decision. "There were almost no large events for almost an entire term," he said. "I certainly want to do something if someone gets shot at a party" but a complete ban was too harsh, he added. "But most of that I put on the shoulders of the CPs. I think that was a bit of a knee-jerk reaction" on their part, he said.

"She definitely is tough to negotiate with," said former Dormitory Council President Christopher H. Barron '97, who worked with her during the Senior House renovations. "If anything, she knows what she wants and we know what we want and we should both be trying to aggressively uphold out interests because that's the only way a good compromise can come out," he said.

Colleagues bid farewell

"This is bittersweeet," said Williams. "Margaret Jablonski has been a superb administrator and a extraordinary member of the Dean's office and I'm sad to see her depart"

"She has an excellent faculty position out there. We absolutely understand why she's taking advantage of" it, she said. "It's a real loss for MIT."

The UMass-Amherst position "is an excellent professional opportunity," said Bates, who added that her working relationship with Jablonski was "excellentŠ she's been a very good colleague."

"We're very happy its Massachusetts she's going to and not California so we can maintain the relationship."

Douglas E. Heimburger contributed to the reporting of this story.