Verbum Ultimum: Open the Door and Listen

by The Dartmouth Editorial Board | 4/12/12 10:00pm

In recent months, Dartmouth students and alumni have discussed ad nauseam the role of the College's administration in addressing issues facing student life. Many members of the community have directed their criticism toward College President Jim Yong Kim and his handling of the recent hazing scandal and his nomination to the World Bank presidency. Although we agree that Kim's leadership regarding issues of campus life has been unsatisfactory at times, other members of the administration have also mishandled student concerns. In particular, Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson, who is specifically tasked with serving as the go-to administrator for undergraduate students, has done an inadequate job of addressing campus issues thus far.

We are disappointed that Johnson has not taken the lead in addressing many of the numerous pressing concerns of Dartmouth students, such as hazing, student health, LGBT life and sexual assault. Amidst recent negative media attention, Student Body President Max Yoeli '12 criticized Johnson for a lack of vision and direct action, which has left students "without outlets or direction" ("Administrators remain disconnected, some say," April 12).

Johnson has served as dean of the College for nine months, yet we have not seen her take significant action on anything beyond sending brief campus-wide emails expressing concern and hosting forums that produce few tangible results. We ask that these messages actually produce meaningful change. Chairman of the Board of Trustees Stephen Mandel '78 has sent three campus-wide emails since March 23, and while we appreciate his open communication with the student body, we wonder why administrators on campus supposedly involved in student life issues are not the ones informing students of important events affecting the College community.

We are also concerned that Johnson has not been visible or accessible to students. This past week, students criticized Johnson for leaving early from "Talk It Out," an event dedicated to discussing the challenges facing LGBT students ("Students shed light on homophobia," April 9). Johnson responded with a letter to the editor published in The Dartmouth, stating that she is eager to speak with students about their concerns and that her door is always open ("Vox Clamantis," April 10). Despite this assurance, we have not found this to be the case.

Students, particularly campus leaders, have been unable to meet with Johnson after many attempts, and groups such as Student Assembly and Palaeopitus Senior Society have expressed frustration with attempting to work with her. The Dartmouth Editorial Board has tried repeatedly over the past three months to schedule meetings and interviews with Johnson to discuss campus issues and has been unsuccessful. It is clear that students are making a concerted effort to have their voices heard by the administration. As dean of the College, Johnson has not done her job of listening to them.

If Johnson wishes to have a successful tenure as dean of the College, it is essential that she become more visible and available to students and strive for more engagement with the campus on an individual level. Only by stepping through her open door and away from her computer can she begin to make a concerted effort to get to know students and take action on their behalf.

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