This is an edited transcript of the student session with Dr. Judy Siker, the second candidate for Dean. The transcript is edited for sake of time, space, and clarity only; much of this record is quotes, which have been preserved as accurately and directly as possible. This is not an opinion piece; rather, it is a record of the original question-answer conversation so that students who were unable to attend may be informed and make their own judgment. If you would like a copy of the unedited version of the conversation, please contact Lindsey Herman (firstname.lastname@example.org ).
If you would like to read more about student participation in the dean selection process, click here.
Tell us about yourself.
- Native North Carolinian
- Attended Meredith College–double majored in education and religion
- Taught elementary school
- Masters/PhD in Religious Studies
- Taught at Loyola Marymount U and held administrative positions in several seminaries
- Expressed interest in teaching courses at Salem
Coming in as the dean, how do you plan on handling issues a student would have on campus?
- Get a sense of policy, organizational structure; understand protocol before addressing issues
- I want the faculty to know that they would have an advocate; I want students to know that you have an advocate. But it would be done in a fashion that is true to the institution you have here already. I would also try to see when things are not working, because sometimes things need to be changed.
What is your definition of a feminist, and do you consider yourself one?
- Yes, I consider myself a feminist.
- Being a feminist to me means having the best interests of whole persons at heart at all times, not just of women. I’ve lived through the very beginning of the “feminist” and I’ve watched the movement become more inclusive of all individuals.
- I’m very aware of how inadequate the early days of feminism were. We’ve come a long way from thinking that we are speaking for all women (different races, classes, etc.) Our levels of sensitivity have to continually be raised so we are not presuming to be speaking for someone else and we can understand other peoples’ places in the world.
We consider ourselves a student-run campus. One of the ways we are student-run is Judicial Council. Increasingly, cases here are being handled administratively and fewer cases are being brought to the student council. How would you find the line between administrative duty and a student-run campus?
- Salem claims to be an institution that values individuals, develops their skills, help enable them to change the world. Student-run councils are important to this.
- Handbooks may outline how things should/need to be, but only in speaking to people can we understand how things operate.
- Have you been given reasons by the administration that these cases are being handled administratively?
- I’m a big advocate for bringing people together over conflict/cross-purposes and trying to define what it is at the heart of the disagreement. We have to stay in the room past the point where we want to get up and slam the door.
Being here just 24 hours, what do you see that Salem lacks in regards to diversity, and what would you do to change that?
- It’s strange to me to be in a homogenous setting. The issue of diversity is really important to me. I think it needs to be a growing edge at Salem. [This statement was made unprompted at the beginning of the session]
- I should go to YOUR rooms tonight and get the real scoop about what’s going on! Maybe if I get to be the new dean we could have pajama parties now and then!
- One of the things that I noticed today was in the faculty meeting: the faculty is completely skewed [diversity]. Almost all faculties are; it’s a slow process to even get a faculty to reflect the student body, and it’s even harder to change a student body.
- Someone asked me today what I’d bring to campus. When I came to campus today and I thought, “I’ve come home.” I’ve met people today that have been so warm and so welcoming. It’s like a hand in a glove when you come home. You don’t always have that advantage when you take a new position; often you spend the first part of work figuring out where you are and what’s the culture, but that’s a given for me back home in NC. What’s become a given for me is being surrounded and enlivened by the diversity around me. I want to raise the bar here; that would feel very natural to me because I see how many doors that opens and how much that broadens our horizons. We have to prepare students for the world that we’re going to see.
Where do you view the line between formality and informality with students?
- I like appointments. I’m an orderly type of person and I do like them. However, I’d like to spend my first months here establishing the kind of relationship where people know I’m accessible. If someone bothers to walk to my office, I want them to be able to see me.
- I really enjoy getting to know the people that I work with, not so much as Dean to faculty or Dean to student, but as person to person. It won’t all be fun, but there are elements of it that are a lot of fun. I don’t always want to be relating to someone as the dean– I want to know you person-to-person.
- I will be one of the faces of Salem College when I go outside, and I want to have names and faces and experiences with you that I can share with them so that I can truly and honestly share what’s going on.
At Salem, we do have a lot of traditions, and the Deans are very active in these traditions. How would you find balance between keeping traditions and progressing forward?
- Can we value the traditions while still moving forward?
- I experienced lots of traditions at Meredith College. I believe some traditions are worth holding onto because they create a link between generations. I think it is also important to create new traditions. If you think there’s something that would more closely define what Salem is right now, then maybe we should try it out.
- We need open and honest discussion about what still holds meaning for you.
- What traditions should we honor? I wouldn’t decide that.
What have you done to advance the cause of women?
- I have fought for the rights of women in the church. That is very difficult. I am an ordained minister, and I do not take the rights that come with that lightly. I have worked very hard with my students to help open as many doors for them as I can.
- Advocacy doesn’t need to be national. It can be in our own spaces and community. I’ve done that in the church and in my profession.
- I chose a profession that not many women were in; I often sat in seminars as the only women. It’s one of the reasons I’m such a strong advocate for women’s colleges.
- I have worked very closely with many of my women graduate students to get them into places that have formerly been closed. I have a philosophy of working on ground level. Better to do something one person at a time than not to have it done at all.
- I would be devastated, humiliated, and angry if any of my four sons treated any women any differently than they treat anyone else. I have four feminist sons.
I want you to know that there’s one person on this campus whose email you can reach, whose phone you can call, and whose door you can knock on. I love being an advocate for students. It’s not for the power or money. It’s because someone entrusted me to make a difference for you and that is the best of all possible worlds.
If you would like to contact Dr. Siker: