Thorndike maintains campus safety title, but sees increased role in student life

Jean Thorndike, long a familiar and trusted figure in the College administration as director of campus safety, has recently taken on an even more active role in shaping student life at Williams. Although Thorndike’s title has not changed and she remains at the helm of Security, her role on campus has expanded to encompass new duties related to the development of the College’s residential life program.

Thorndike’s role on campus began to shift with the arrival of the current administration in 2000 and the beginnings of the College’s strategic plan, which included a reevaluation of residential and social life at Williams. Thorndike has worked closely with the administration in developing a staff devoted exclusively to residential and community life.

“When Nancy Roseman became the Dean of the College, we talked about the College’s strategic plan, campus programming and residential life,” Thorndike said. “I was very interested in these issues and wanted to be more involved.”

Thorndike now supervises the College’s four Community Life Coordinators (CLCs), positions created as part of the larger reform of residential life. The CLCs are each assigned to a region of campus and work with the Housing Coordinators (HCs) in their area to facilitate social events and streamline funding and other logistical processes. Each CLC has additional responsibilities pertaining to a specific aspect of student life, such as community service, minority affairs and event planning.

Thorndike is also an administrative advisor to All Campus Entertainment (ACE), the large umbrella social programming group created at the end of last year. According to CJ Bak, Chief Financial Officer of ACE and the business editor of the Record, “Jean has served as the all-important link between ACE and the College’s senior staff. Her influence has been significantly felt from the financial end in that she secured funding for security officers at all campus parties. More importantly though, Jean’s vision for the social scene on campus has and will likely continue to greatly influence the weekend experiences participated in by so many students. It’s great to have an efficient working relationship with the head of a department that is inextricably linked to the majority of the events that ACE produces.”

In order to make room for these new responsibilities, some of Thorndike’s duties related to Security operations and management have shifted to David Boyer, associate director of Security.

Thorndike and Roseman emphasized that the residential life program at Williams is still evolving, and its final form has not yet been determined. According to Roseman, the Dean’s Office is “currently undergoing a review of its structure” to determine how best to administer the residential life program.

“There are many models out there and whether we end up with a director of residence life, or a dean of students and residence life, or some other kind of model, is completely unknown at this point,” Roseman said. “There are distinct differences in these models in terms of the kinds of work they do, and I have to decide which will better serve Williams.”

Neither Roseman nor Thorndike would comment on whether Thorndike’s official role in the administration might change as a result of these adjustments.

Although some of Thorndike’s responsibilities are new this year, they reflect a longstanding interest in student life and a continuation of her work with the former social programming groups in her capacity as director of campus safety. Last year, Thorndike was actively involved in the House Presidents Council’s (HPC) development of the Housing Coordinator proposal and served on the HC selection committee in the spring.

“Because Jean attended House Presidents and Social Chairs meetings, combined with being the Director of Campus Safety, she had a perspective on what was and was not working on campus,” Roseman said. “As a result, she had a vision on how to improve things. I think many of the improvements we have made on campus recently are in no small part due to Jean’s work and the fact that students trust Jean and know that her efforts come from wanting to help students.”

“I saw a natural connection between the philosophy of my department and the development of a residential program,” Thorndike said. “I’ve always enjoyed working with students and there seemed to be a good relationship to build a foundation for the residential program.”

Thorndike has also been given a measure of credit for the development of ACE. According to Drew Newman ’04, ACE General Counsel and a founder of ACE, Thorndike organized weekly meetings of the heads of social planning groups in order to address the lack of coordination in campus social programming and a rise in the number of alcohol-related visits to the Health Center and the hospital.

That group, later dubbed “Jean’s Commission,” met every week from February 2001 until the end of last year, when it was replaced by the ACE executive board. According to Newman, “Jean’s Commission” was responsible for a number of innovative social activities on and off campus – including Williams Takes Montreal, trips to the Red Sox and the Regurgitator – as well as the restructuring of social programming itself.

“Throughout this time, Jean went above and beyond the call of duty as director of campus safety by organizing these meetings, taking notes, coordinating a master social planning calendar, finding money and working with us to improve social life at Williams,” Newman said.

Students and administrators alike expressed glowing praise for Thorndike’s involvement in student life.

“Jean, due to her long service with the College, has a unique perspective on student life,” Roseman said. “All she does on this campus comes out of a deeply felt desire to improve the lives of students. You would be hard pressed to find someone more dedicated to that goal.”

“I enjoy working with [Jean] as she is a wonderful resource and is quite knowledgeable about Williams and its community,” said Nate Gill, one of the four CLCs.

“Jean provided tremendous amounts of support to me and the rest of our team during the four months last spring when ACE was being developed,” Newman said. “Jean genuinely cares about the student body and has worked very hard to improve social life at Williams.”