shutterstock_119370265According to a recent email blast, it was announced that Columbia won’t hire anybody to be new Dean of Undergraduate Student Affairs for Columbia College and SEAS. Instead, Deans Valentini and Boyce opted to restructure the department to provide “the best experience” for undergraduates.

After the changes, Community Development and its associated offices will become the Office of Student Life, and everyone who would report to the Dean of Student affairs will report to Deantini and Dean Boyce to “better integrate student services.” CC and SEAS will then start a new search for a Dean of Undergraduate Student Life who will be tasked with leading the “units now located in our office of Community Development, including Multicultural Affairs, Residential Programs and Student Engagement.” This search is in addition to one for a new Executive Vice President of Student Affairs who will report directly to PrezBo.

While we appreciate Columbia’s effort to shave down the levels of its bureaucracy, it is difficult to know what this change will mean on a practical level. If those who used to to report to the Dean of Student Affairs now report to both Valentini and Boyce, it might become unclear which dean is responsible for what. Given the vague language of the press release, however, it seems that the University isn’t entirely sure either.

Because of the restructuring, we’re suspicious that the “very productive” search brought two “qualified finalists,” and suspect that the renaming happened only after they couldn’t find anyone they liked. Nobody knows for sure exactly what the job of the new Dean of Student Life will involve, but it seems like it would require a similar set of skills as the Dean of Student Affairs.

The academic headhunters Storbeck/Pimentel and Associates began the search to replace Ke$ho (and interim dean Terry Martinez) in November, which was rumored to cost Columbia University around $75k. However, according to documents that Bwog FOIA’d at the beginning of this semester, Columbia only has to pay the professional fee and expenses if they cancel the search.


Here’s the press release they sent:

Columbia College Dean James J. Valentini and Columbia Engineering Dean Mary C. Boyce have announced that, after a comprehensive examination of student affairs services during the recent search for a Dean of Undergraduate Student Affairs, they will instead restructure Columbia Student Affairs, the joint division that supports undergraduate students through advising, student engagement, residential life, and other co-curricular programming.

“We are deeply committed to providing the best experience for you,” the deans said in a message to students, “so we have decided that this moment in time offers us the perfect opportunity to improve our organizational structure with a system that will be more responsive to the students we serve.”

In order to better integrate student services within the two schools, the functions that currently report to the Dean of Student Affairs will report directly to Dean Valentini and Dean Boyce.

The deans say the search brought up good questions about the structure of Columbia Student Affairs, which prompted their decision. The decision is even more timely because President Lee C. Bollinger announced earlier this month a new University Executive Vice President for Student Affairs position. In addition, Interim Dean of Student Affairs Terry Martinez will be leaving the University at the end of May.

The Dean of Undergraduate Student Affairs Search Committee considered and interviewed many candidates and brought in two qualified finalists this year, but Deans Valentini and Boyce decided a more successful approach would be to reorganize Student Affairs to serve each school more directly.

“We think the search process was very productive,” the deans said. “We learned about other schools’ structures and how they support and engage students, and that, in turn, encouraged us to think about what we could do differently to provide an even better experience for our undergraduates today.”

As part of the changes, the Office of Community Development will become the Office of Student Life. Columbia College and Columbia Engineering will commence a search for a new Dean of Undergraduate Student Life, who will lead the units now located in the office of Community Development, including Multicultural Affairs, Residential Programs, and Student Engagement. Deans Valentini and Boyce will also be directly involved in determining the responsibilities of the new University Executive Vice President for Student Affairs position.

The direct reporting structure is consistent with relationships that already exist in several offices, including Admissions and Financial Aid, the Center for Career Education and the Office of Global Programs, which currently serve students in both schools.