CC collects student feedback for new dean of the College

As Dean Merrill prepares to end her three-year term as dean of the College on June 30, the Faculty Steering Committee (FSC) and College Council (CC) have been working to solicit feedback from students, faculty and staff in the selection process for the new dean. President-elect Falk has the authority to make the final appointment decision and will be meeting with the FSC in the middle of February to receive its recommendations.

The FSC will present Falk with a summary of the campus input along with some recommendations of its own. The FSC has six elected members, with a junior and senior faculty member representing each of the three academic divisions. Christopher Bolton, chair of the FSC and associate professor of comparative and Japanese literature, noted that Falk will shape the selection process timeline as he sees fit after his meeting with the FSC this month. “This [process] is one of our most important responsibilities,” Bolton said of the FSC’s role. Bolton said that the only baseline qualification for the deanship is that candidates must be current members of the faculty, although visiting professors do not qualify.

In an all-campus e-mail last month, Bolton encouraged students to attend CC’s open meeting on Jan. 20 or to send their thoughts about Dean Merrill’s successor to either the CC representatives or himself by Feb. 1. “We’re particularly interested in the qualities that students think the dean should have,” Bolton said, although he noted that faculty and staff opinions also have strong influence.

The deadline was meant to give CC time to compile the suggestions, but according to CC co-President Mike Tcheyan ’10, only a few students sent their comments to CC via e-mail. “The suggestions were about the qualities they would like to see in a dean,” he said. “They were very helpful and we would like them to keep on coming.” Bolton also said that he received a few e-mails from students, and that any specific recommendations for candidates are confidential.

The rough notes that CC compiled from its own discussions includes roughly 20 considerations that should weigh into the FSC’s recommendation and, ultimately, who Falk chooses to appoint. Some of the student comments CC has listed are character-based, suggesting that the next dean be a “good listener” and “proactive.” Another recommendation on the list was that Merrill’s successor be a professor who has served on the faculty for at least six years, with the caution that having served for “too long-term” of a period is not desirable.

Other bullet points on CC’s list state goals, projects and interests the new dean should have, including “stress in students’ lives,” “shaping OCC policy,” “appreciation of the freshman experience” and a “good relationship with athletics.”

Merrill provided some of her own advice for the faculty member that will take her place. “For any of these jobs in which you’re moving from a faculty to an administrative position, the most important thing is to be a good listener – to everyone, not only to students, but also to the staff you’re working with who have experience that you don’t,” she said. Merrill added that she will remain engaged in the transition process. She noted that weekly meetings with Nancy Roseman, professor of biology and former dean of the College, facilitated her own period of transition when she was appointed three years ago in January. Bolton said that the FSC’s role in the appointment recommendation process is “very close” to the role it played in Merrill’s selection three years ago. According to Tcheyan, however, CC was not informed of the precedent for soliciting feedback. “We are unaware of the process that CC used in selecting Dean Merrill a few years ago, so we are not copying that model,” Tcheyan said.

The College will also be seeking a successor for Wendy Raymond, associate dean for institutional diversity, who will return to a full-time position as professor of biology on June 30. According to Bolton, the selection process for the next associate dean of institutional diversity will also funnel input through the FSC to Falk, who will make the final appointment, but the FSC is soliciting feedback about the dean of the College appointment first. Bolton explained that this procedural decision stems largely from the fact that candidates for the two positions may overlap. CC has not yet participated in the search for Raymond’s successor, according to Tcheyan.

Although a deadline for the new appointment decisions does not exist, Bolton said that the College plans to have faculty members to fulfill both Dean Merrill’s and Raymond’s positions immediately after their terms end.

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