Comm. fields questions about dean search

by Christine Huggins | 10/26/06 5:00am

Members of the dean of the College search committee answered student and faculty questions about potential candidates on Wednesday evening.
by Asafu Suzuki / The Dartmouth

The spot is vacant due to the departure of former Dean of the College James Larimore, who resigned last year to assume the post of Dean of Students at Swarthmore College.

The search committee for a new dean of College consists of several faculty members representing different departments and offices, as well as three student representatives. Eight faculty members attended Wednesday's meeting, although none of the student representatives were present.

Two committee members, College Provost Barry Scherr and Dean of Students Holly Sateia, discussed the group's current search criteria before opening the floor to suggestions and comments from the four faculty members and three students in attendance.

Sateia first noted the extent of the Dean's responsibilities and the scope of the job's demands.

"This person oversees a staff of 500 and a budget of $70 million," she said. "[The dean] is essentially in charge of the dining halls, the athletics and recreation, student life, health services, residential life, the Upperclass Deans' Offices and the First Year Student Office, Safety and Security, the golf course, the Skiway and the Academic Skills Center."

Scherr noted that the dean's position is one of mediation, and that the new dean must be able to navigate between different groups and factions on campus.

"We need a person who can work well with different groups, and someone who can be a presence on campus," he said. "This is a more visible position, and this person has to be willing to serve as a spokesperson."

Those in attendance largely expressed their hope that the committee would look for a dean who would place academic priorities first, value student and faculty research opportunities, be sensitive to increasing diversity at Dartmouth, understand the culture of the College, and be accessible to undergraduates.

"The reason I came to Dartmouth was because of the faculty's love of the school and their willingness to meet and interact with the students," Kelvin Quezada '08 said. He added that he hopes the new dean will leave room in his or her schedule to "meet with students because Dartmouth is very special in this respect."

Darrayl Cummings '08 requested that the committee look for someone who already had ties to Dartmouth and thus would be more likely to understand the College's culture.

"Is there anyone in the applicant pool who is already connected to Dartmouth?" Cummings said. "Or are we going to have to go through a period where he or she gets used to Dartmouth? And how long will this 'honeymoon period' of getting acclimated to Dartmouth take?"

Betsey Winslow '83, director of the Cohen Leadership Development Program at Tuck, suggested that the committee question applicants about their management style.

"For someone with 500 people under them, management is important," she said. "There are people who are hierarchal, and people who delegate. What type of leadership style are you looking for?"

Winslow went on to note that the new dean should be open-minded.

"Tolerance of ambiguity is important," Winslow said. "There are a lot of gray areas, and we need someone who is flexible both cognitively and socially."

Jeffrey Horrell, dean of libraries and librarian of the College, said that he hoped the committee would look for someone who had a "healthy respect for the academic mission."

"There is a broad range for the dean's duties from athletics to recreation, but we need someone who affirms the importance of academics," Horrell said.

The committee has contracted the search firm Spelman & Johnson Group, based out of Easthampton, Mass., to market the job to possible applicants and read through the initial applications.

"Someone from the firm has already visited the campus and met with numerous people here in order to write up a fairly accurate description of what Dartmouth and the position are like," Scherr said. "This helps people see if they are a good fit for the job initially."

Though the search firm collects the applications and conducts the initial readings, Scherr assured those present that all final decisions would be made personally by the committee. The search committee will start viewing applications in early to mid-November.

"Probably by late January or early February, we'll have people visit campus for interviews, and the new dean would start anywhere from mid-June to September," Scherr said.