Search committee for new dean seeks input
Approximately 15 students attended an open forum regarding the selection process for the permanent dean of the College on Wednesday. Members of the 12-person search committee, who led the forum in Silsby Hall, said they will focus on selecting an individual who can balance administrative challenges with continuous involvement in student life.
Although the forum provided a way to involve students in the "incredibly important" process of choosing a permanent dean, the lack of participation hindered its efficiency, according to Anise Vance '11, one of the coauthors of a Jan. 18 e-mail regarding the search process' lack of transparency and a participant in the forum.
"The dean of the College is a huge position for staff, students and faculty alike, and if you have a stake in Dartmouth and Dartmouth's future, you have a stake in the next dean of the College," Vance said in an interview with The Dartmouth. "I think it would have been more successful if more students were here, but there is nothing that the search committee can really do to force attendance."
Last month, students called for greater transparency surrounding acting Dean of the College Sylvia Spears' decision not to be considered for permanent deanship in a letter e-mailed to campus on Jan. 18. The letter, which included an online petition, was signed by approximately 600 students, The Dartmouth previously reported.
Several members of the search committee, including Dean of the Faculty Mike Mastanduno, Chief of Staff David Spalding and the four student members of the committee Student Body President Eric Tanner '11, Panhellenic Council President Anna Sonstegard '11, Uthman Olagoke '11 and Julie Dossantos '13 moderated the forum.
Finding potential candidates who understand the dynamics of the College and the student body is essential in the search process, Sonstegard said in the forum.
"I'm personally looking for someone who is accessible to students and who develops a deep understanding for what we care about," she said. "There needs to be someone to advocate within the administration for us."
Advocacy for students is a common priority among the committee's student members, according to Olagoke. The future dean must be willing to work "one-on-one" with students while also addressing complex issues at the College, Olagoke said.
Throughout its search, the committee will aim to find a candidate who strikes a balance between passion and experience, according to Mastanduno.
The new dean must have "savvy" managerial skills, but must also be comfortable interacting with students on a regular basis, Mastanduno said.
The candidates will need to bring their own ideas to campus while also working within a broader agenda, Mastanduno said.
"We have [College President Jim Yong Kim] who's setting the priorities for the institution, and we need someone who would have good chemistry there," he said. "We need a good navigator who is cognizant of everyone's priorities while bringing their own into the mix."
Often, the type of candidate the committee is looking for is "already happily employed at an institution," Spalding said.
"We need people who are already doing this type of work and have this type of skill set," he said. "They may not even yet be thinking of leaving [their current institution]."
The process of drawing from candidates employed at other institutions may present a conflict between the candidates' desire for privacy and the College's interest in conducting an open search process, according to Mastanduno.
"People who are good candidates might not want people at their home institutions to know they are participating in the search process," Mastanduno said. "We need to balance the privacy of these candidates with the need for our students, faculty and staff to have exposure to these candidates, and we just can't say how these interests will be balanced at this point."
In order to reach out to potential candidates, the search committee has employed Parker Executive Search, the same firm that helped bring current Athletic Director Harry Sheehy to the College from Williams College last summer, according to Spalding.
"The firm has great connections across a wide range of institutions, and can offer us a broad range of candidates," he said. "They help us find the candidates that might not have even been thinking about Dartmouth but could be sold on the prospect."
In response to student concerns regarding diversity in the hiring process Mastanduno said, the issue is one of Parker Executive Search's top priorities.
"We've already discussed the issue of diversity with the search firm and they're very sensitive to it," Mastanduno said. "In fact, they raised it right off the bat."
Interaction with the student body at large has enabled all of the committee members to represent the broader spectrum of students on campus, according to Tanner.
"I'm not here to represent any group other than the student body," he said. "Sure I'm a white, affiliated male, but that doesn't mean I don't talk to people who are not affiliated, white males. When it comes down to it, we're four students who go to class like everyone else and have diverse groups of friends like everyone else."
All student members of the search committee are "active students that participate in different groups on campus" and who have "good access to the student body," Sonstegard said.
Student members of the search committee have already begun participating in the search process, Dossantos said.
"[Olagoke] and I were already able to participate in a conference call with Parker, and as a committee we've met several times so that if there's ever a conflict between us we know how to work to resolve it," she said. "Now we need to make sure the committee is publicized to the entire student body and ensure that student's perspectives are represented."
There are many opportunities for the students to make themselves heard in the search process, according to Sonstegard.
"In addition to attendance at forums like these, I've spoken to other students about writing letters to the committee," Sonstegard said. "I would encourage anyone on campus to put together a letter from a certain community or for a certain interest so we can get input from the entire student body."