Dean Search Committee’s Town Hall Calms Fears
Written by Bwog Staff
Bwog CCSC correspondent Maren Killackey stopped by Roone Arledge Cinema last night to check in on the doings of the committee searching for the next dean of Columbia College. Because it seemed, well, important.
Despite the seemingly significant concern expressed regarding the selection of Columbia College’s new dean, attendance at the town hall held by members of the Dean’s Search Committee last night barely escaped single digits. Though it was initially dubious that all of 15 CC juniors and seniors (and lone sophomore) would somehow be able to voice the grievances of the collective College community, these few individuals asked the tough questions (mostly) and ultimately secured vehement assurances that the process is being undertaken with the utmost seriousness and care.
Student committee member Mary Kircher, CC’13, began the meeting with a brief outline of the Committee’s activities thus far as well their plans for the coming weeks. Members came together for the first time last Friday, and, as nominations for the position closed Sunday, will be meeting again in the near future to determine interview candidates. The Dean Search Committee will then conduct the interviews, and based off of those discussions and the candidates’ overall portfolios, they will decide which three names to add to the prestigious, all-important list being sent to PrezBo, who will appoint the Dean by the end of the semester.
“‘The end of the semester’? Isn’t that like… two weeks away?” Yes, the fast approach of the Dean selection deadline was by no means lost on members of the audience. “If we’ve needed a dean since August,” said one student, “why are we starting the selection process… in April?” Said Professor Christia Mercer, one of the two faculty Committee members present that evening, “I’m not terribly worried about the timeline.” But beyond personal misgivings—or rather lack thereof—it turns out there are actual, legitimate reasons behind the delay. One such reason was the necessity of placing a Provost, which was only finalized mid-February. The second, as Professor Cathy Popkin, the other faculty Selection Committee member present, explained, is that there is some sort of Davos-type retreat for Columbia trustees that occurs in March of every year. Prezbo specifically wanted to wait until after this rendezvous to begin the search process. Why? Professor Popkin could only hazard a guess, but assured the audience that PrezBo hadn’t wasted any time.
Aside from timeframes, another recurring theme was transparency—greater transparency of the selection process as well as greater transparency of Dean action once appointed. Regarding the process, it was suggested that the Committee release some sort of summary of the conversations occurring during their meetings, so that the more paranoid College students will be reassured that serious considerations are being weighed. Another (more contentious) audience suggestion was to release the name(s) of the candidates who did not get the position. Cited complications included the desire to not damage rejected individuals’ possibly delicate egos. However, several students pointed out that the released information would not be meant to harm reputations, but rather show the students which faculty had cared enough to apply in the first place, thus elevating the status of those faculty in the eyes of the students.
In terms of transparency of the Dean once appointed, suggestions mostly surrounded the creation of concrete times and dates during which the Dean would, in one form or another, brief the student body on the goings on of his or her office. Tied to this suggestion was the comment that the new Dean should work to create a better dialogue between her or his office and the College community, either by holding meetings with students or being more open to campus press, so that those who wish to be involved or stay informed may do so.
The members of the Dean Search Committee fielded an even broader array of questions about the dean’s powers, position in the greater university, and focus on academic versus student life, as well as questions on the opinion of the faculty. Most inquiries and comments were given thorough, informative responses. In the end, the Town Hall sufficiently demonstrated that the advisory board charged with nominating candidates for the next dean is well-composed of individuals who clearly care deeply about Columbia College as an institution and as a community.
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