Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
The Dean’s Search Committee’s Student Liaisons, seniors Dan Chung, Urooj Khan, and Leah Rethy, hosted a fireside chat, yesterday, to discuss the process of selecting the next Dean of Student Life. The position will fill Dean Jim Larimore’s vacancy and replace Acting Dean Garikai Cambell as the leader of the Dean’s Office, which oversees various aspects students’ day-to-day life.
The Dean’s Search Committee is comprised of three students, three faculty members, Vice President Maurice Eldridge, Dean of Admissions Jim Bock, College Provost Connie Hungerford, President Rebecca Chopp, and two independent search consultants.
The group has only met once, this semester, to discuss the advertisement to be put in three publications next month. Upcoming meetings will focus on developing the job description and the selection process. The final decision will be announced early next spring.
The preliminary fireside chat began with each student liaison’s interactions with the Deans’ Office and personal reasons for applying to the committee. Chung and Khan both stressed the importance of the accessibility and counseling roles of a dean’s position, highlighting their own positive experiences with the Deans’ Office during sophomore year.
Rethy felt that the current financial situation heights the necessity in finding a new dean, since “the decisions that are going to be made in the following few years are going to be really important in shaping where this College goes. I’m worried that [Swarthmore’s] going to become a corporate environment, trying to deal with efficiency and productivity rather than fairness to workers, employees, and students as well.” Chung also noted the long-term importance of Dean of Student’s ability to work with President Rebecca Chopp to maintain the culture of collaboration consensus.
The remainder of the evening was open for students to provide their opinions on the values that should be held by a Dean and what a new Dean should know about Swarthmore. Most students echoed Rethy’s sentiment in hoping that the new Dean of Students would preserve Swarthmore’s commitment to ethical intelligence in making financial decisions. Cathy Ng ’10 said that candidate should have had prior experience mentoring college students, since “the Dean should understand the college lifestyle and be professionally familiar with what it may be like to be a first-generation college student or to be on financial or work-study.” Students shared anecdotes about their experiences with the Deans’ Office.
Rethy and other students articulated the need for strong relationships between the deans, and students or staff.
Lauren Ramanathan ’11 said she was looking for a dean who would be visible and proactive in reaching out to students. “Students here might flounder, academically and emotionally…but also might be embarrassed to ask for help.”
Another student said that the annual “Meet the Deans” event, often catered by Baja Fresh or Rita’s Water Ice, was not an active enough introduction of the Deans’ Office to the student body. “We need a Dean who can actively work by themselves or with student groups to be accessible.” Ramanathan also voiced a desire for an “institutionalized regular contact with the IC and BCC,” a connection that President Chopp had similarly established during her time at Colgate.
The chat rounded off with logistical questions for the liaisons. All three students will be hosting a similar Fireside Chat later the semester once the Committee has actual candidates that it will be considering. In the mean time, students can voice their concerns to the liaisons.