On April 6, 2011, students met in the basement of Babcock Residence Hall to discuss the current process of selecting a new dean. The students chose to meet because they felt like students were not being thoroughly included in the dean selection process. They were told students would be meeting with the dean candidates, but only certain students were chosen, and by a relatively unknown process. These students thought there should be more student involvement in the selection process.
The Salem website stated that to be a dean, a candidate must have administrative experience, a private liberal arts education, and an understanding of adult programs, especially with the education of women in a contemporary society, but the students thought other qualities were equally important.
During a series of three meetings, students discussed what qualifications they wanted to see in a dean of Salem College. They thought a dean should focus on creating women leaders and cultivating the strengths and abilities of Salem students. A dean should also work with the students to determine what they wanted in their school. They wanted to ask the candidate how active they were in their previous positions (what campus events they would attend, etc.), how they would promote diversity on campus, and how they would balance being active on campus with being a responsible dean. They felt that issues that were especially important on Salem’s campus were diversity, tradition, and how they would adjust the policies of a socially progressive campus that focused on women’s issues.
The students also had several questions for the administration. First, why weren’t students given more information about the selection of their new dean, why did they feel the need to meet in secret to discuss this? Second, it was rumored that a committee of professors chose the students who met with the dean candidates. Was this a real committee, and, if so, who were they? How were they chosen, and how did they choose the students? Third, why weren’t students sent information about each of the dean candidates? Why did students had to Google the first dean candidate to find information about him?
The students closed the first meeting by making various forms of signs and banners to place around campus the next morning, when the first candidate was arriving. These signs expressed some of the discontent discussed during the meeting, and called for more student involvement in the process. Later that morning, an email was circulated to the student body, inviting all students to two separate meetings with the candidate. These meetings would be continued with the other two candidates.
The students were thankful for the response of the administration, but wanted more significant action to occur. At the second and third meetings, they talked about the first dean candidate, saying his tone was patronizing and seemed uncomfortable with questions about the diversity of the student body. President Pauly thought he would be a great dean for Salem, concerning students because she would be a significant part of the final decision. The students decided that the next steps would be to continue working on their version of the “95 theses” to present dean requirements while brainstorming ways to have a stronger voice on the issue. They wanted more accountability in the dean selection process as well as more student participation when meeting with the next two dean candidates.
When given the opportunity, many students ate lunch with the dean candidates and went to the evening question and answer sessions. They provided feedback through evaluation forms and personal emails, and discussed the candidates with faculty as well as fellow students. Many students expressed favorable opinions of one or more of the candidates, and felt that the search would end with one of the three being selected. When another email circulated from President Pauly, thanking students for their feedback, but stating “the search remains open” and mentioning steps that would be taken if a replacement dean was not found by the end of the academic year, some students were surprised. They wondered why the search continued when students had expressed such favorable opinions of more than one dean candidate. The students were excited about the opportunity to determine the future of Salem, and took an active part in the process, and were consequently disappointed when their feedback was seemingly disregarded.
In the following posts you can read transcripts of meetings with the first two candidates, Jeffrey Fager and Judy Siker, recorded by students Kari Ross and Lindsey Herman. What do you think of these candidates? Should the search have remained open? What do you want the administration to keep in mind as the search continues? Leave your thoughts in the “Comment” section below, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org