This academic year has begun with a re-arrangement of responsibilities at the dean’s office.
According to Dean of the College Peter Murphy the responsibilities of the former dean of first-year studies have been temporarily distributed among the other deans. However, starting in January, Associate Professor of Classics Kerry Christensen will take over as associate dean for the academic program. As associate dean, she will assume many of the responsibilities of the former first-year dean, although other deans in the office will continue to be involved in working with the first-year entries.
“We decided to do away with the title dean of first-year studies and to divide equally the responsibilities between the rest of the deans while still having one of them keep track of the major issues concerning the freshman students,” Murphy said. “The difference in the two positions is mostly administrative. The structure of the office will basically be the same once professor Christensen joins. Until then we have spread around, and each associate dean works with one or several frosh entries and the corresponding JAs. The system will most probably go on like that when Professor Christensen joins in. The entry division is okay for now.”
The dean of first-year studies has traditionally handled problems concerning junior advisors and first-years, such as the issuance of academic warnings and course withdrawals.
“Even though I will not be a dean of first-year studies, some of the duties that Dean Edwards had I will still perform,” Christensen said..
Explaining the reasons for the shift, College Registrar Charles Toomajian noted that, “The problems of the first-year students are not so peculiar and different that only one person should handle them.”
“We treat the first-year students as all other students at the College,” Murphy added. “I don’t see a reason why only one special person should deal with them.”
Toomajian and Murphy also pointed out some of the difficulties in having only one dean deal with all the first-year problems.
“In six weeks warnings about academic problems will start to come out,” Toomajian said. “If the only person who has to deal with a list of probably 40 students is the dean of first-year studies, he is never going to be able to handle all the work.”
Murphy said he hopes the position will enable a flexibility that the old system precluded.
“I think the new arrangement is an improvement in the dean’s office,” he said. “I hope this position can grow into being a curricularly active one, dealing with advising on both personal and academic problems and student-initiated programs.”
Christensen said she is looking forward to beginning her administrative job.
“I talked a lot about the position with Dean Edwards and Dean Murphy and that helped me a lot to get an understanding of the issues and problems my position will be concerned with,” she said.
However some junior advisors have had negative responses to the new system, suggesting that there has been a lack of communication between the deans and the first-years.
“There has definitely been a lack of communication between the deans and the frosh entries up to now,” said Nelson Hioe ’00, a junior advisor in Morgan East.
Christensen said she hopes some of these difficulties will be ironed out when she assumes her new role.
“Once I take over my new administrative job in the dean’s office, I’ll start meeting with the junior advisors and get a connection between the dean’s office and the entries established.”
However, other students have had positive responses to the new system.
Julia Brown ’00, for example, noted that it will be nice for first-years to have an opportunity to meet all the deans instead of just one.