During her tenure as dean of the College, Nancy Roseman hopes to expand student programming, improve student spaces, rationalize student group funding and maintain the College’s commitment to student autonomy.
“The dean of the College’s position is, I think, unique in that it oversees simply all areas of student life,” she said. “It’s a difficult job in the sense that you are putting on different hats all the time.”
Roseman, a professor of biology, began her term in July, taking over the position from Peter Murphy, a professor of English. The appointment spans three years, but professors have held the post for as long as five years.
Roseman’s main goal for her time as dean is to work on increasing student programming and improving student spaces. “I think the College needs to do a much better job at paying attention to what the students are doing the 23 hours a day they are outside the classroom,” she said.
“That’s why I’m co-chair of the Baxter Committee. It’s why I’m paying a lot of attention to what’s going on at the Log and at Goodrich,” Roseman added. “I think students need spaces that are really positive and nice. I think it is part of my job to try and facilitate that.”
Student government leaders have taken note of Roseman’s active administrative style.
“Dean Roseman is very dedicated to her new position and has approached it with a great deal of energy,” said Phil Swisher ’01, president of the Housing Committee. “She has taken a very hands-on approach to student life.”
“Her commitment to advocating for greater institutional priority of the importance of student life outside of the classroom is very encouraging,” said Todd Rogers ’01, co-president of College Council (CC).
“The definitive ‘Williams education’ exceeds simply the academic rigor and precision of our four classes per semester. An essential component is out relationship with each other. This seems to be an important theme about which the new Hopkins Hall is on the same page with the student body.”
Roseman plans on “picking up the things that Peter Murphy started, expanding them, improving them, putting more resources into them.”
“Fortunately, what I’ve inherited is an amazing group of very competent professionals from Dean Murphy, and I basically just walked in the door and everything keeps rolling,” she said. “I think that’s really a tribute to Peter Murphy. I think he did an extraordinary job in this position.”
With the College’s infusion of extra funding into CC earlier this year, funding of student activities has become an important issue on Roseman’s clipboard. “It concerns me that we have all these different student funding pots,” she said. “So if there’s a general crisis in student funding, it’s frustrating that we can’t solve it by just funding College Council.”
“I spend a substantial amount of my time, and so does the president, fielding requests for $300 or $500. It’s just silly,” Roseman added. “I don’t think I should be making those decisions. . .. I can do a little investigating and ask around but it’s still what do I know. . .I think we’re going to try really hard to put something in place next year that makes funding more rational and puts it more in the hands of students and out of the hands of Hopkins Hall.”
This lack of a centralized student funding setup has led to several disturbing trends, Roseman said. “Students are spending hours of their lives with their hats in hands looking for money,” Roseman said. “There’s ways that’s useful because it makes you talk to people. . .but I’m not sure if coming to the dean’s office and filling out a form is a useful experience.”
According to Roseman, overspending and fiscal irresponsibility have also resulted from the decentralized system. “I think there’s a culture here where you spend and the College will bail you out,” she said. “We’ve got to change that because there’s no end in sight. It is fiscally irresponsible and it doesn’t allow us to do any planning. Having a budget lets you do more intelligent planning.”
Roseman believes a more centralized funding scheme would make financial crises easier to fix and foster responsible student spending. Student groups will be allotted a budget, she said, “and once the budget is spent, that’s it,” she said.
Roseman stressed that she “didn’t want to be the principal” in her role as dean of the College. “I want to make it clear that students have an incredible autonomy and power at Williams College,” she said. “I understand and respect that and that isn’t going to change. I have no intension of changing that. I don’t think I could and no one wants to. But I think if there’s an issue of health and safety, it falls into a different area in terms of decision making.
“At a place like Williams College, at a liberal arts college, dissent belongs here â€“ dissent, controversy, dialogue,” she added. “If we can’t talk about difficult things at a place like Williams, where else in society can we? If we can’t provide an environment where we can agree to disagree, where else are we going to do that in society? I believe in allowing those things to happen and sometimes it’s going to be uncomfortable for the community.”
The combination of administrators is an important sounding board and support for Roseman. “One thing about this administration is that it’s very democratic,” she said. “Senior staff talks about everything. We all bring our areas of the College to the table and educate each other and talk to each other. It’s a refreshing way to do business.”
Recently inducted president of the College Morton Owen Schapiro has set the tone for the present administration, including the dean’s office.
“I think his [the president’s] priorities are very similar to my own and it made me comfortable,” Roseman said. “It allowed me to know that I would have his support to do what I have to do. . . I didn’t want to do this job unless I could do more positive kinds of work, like a new student center, more programming.”
Roseman hopes that her tenure as dean will be extremely productive. “I hope to look back three or four years from now and see a lot more student programming on campus than when I started,” she said. “I’d be really happy if I looked and saw a lot of scaffolding around Baxter.”
“It’s an interesting chair to sit in,” Roseman summed up. “And the bottom line is, it’s an incredibly interesting and challenging job, but I really enjoy it.”