Verbum Ultimum: Adding Administrative Bloat
On April 13, Provost Carolyn Dever announced in a campus-wide email that interim Dean of the College Inge-Lise Ameer will serve as the College’s first vice provost for student affairs, effective July 1. Dever confirmed that this was a “change of title” for Ameer, as nearly all of her responsibilities will travel with her to her new position. Meanwhile, the Dean of the College’s role will be significantly reduced — the next dean will mainly be in charge of academic initiatives, including the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” plans for academic programming in residential life.
It is troubling that the College saw fit to create a new senior-level administrative position, and we have serious doubts as to the intentions and expediency of this decision.
The manner in which Dever chose to communicate this decision is unusual in and of itself. Announcing major changes to the responsibilities of the Dean of the College and the migration of most of its functions to a new position as a fait accompli obscures the details regarding how the decision was made. Moreover, since no apparent search was held to fill this position, it is likewise unclear why Ameer was selected in particular. It would appear that Dever has essentially circumvented the traditional process of selecting a new dean by appointing Ameer to this new position, where she will, for all intents and purposes, serve as our next dean. Dever has yet to provide details regarding the compensation for the vice provost and dean positions. We wonder whether, amid concerns of rising administrative costs, introducing yet another top-tier administrative salary would be prudent.
We also question the significant changes to the Dean of the College position that result from the creation of this vice provost position. The new dean will oversee the implementation of the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” residential housing system, consult with the provost on admissions and financial aid and address diversity and inclusion in the academic experience — in total, not a particularly compelling job description for a top College administrator. Seemingly, the Dean of the College’s primary responsibility is now a residential life program that does not yet exist and whose long-term viability remains untested. Perhaps the College should have instead created a vice provost in charge of implementing the “Moving Dartmouth Forward” initiatives, if they alone warrant a dedicated administrator. Asking the Dean of the College to “lead a process to help” with admissions and financial aid planning strikes us as redundant — unless the College has forgotten that we already have a dean of admissions and financial aid. As for the initiatives that the dean will “convene” and the “partnerships” they will build across departments, we look forward to finding out what those buzzwords mean in practice.
Moreover, the new Dean of the College will be selected from among current faculty. Given the sudden nature of this announcement, we wonder how thoroughly the College thought through this criterion. We have no indication of the number of faculty interested in taking on this administrative role or whether the College even sought faculty input. At the very least, we expect that the College spoke to a broad selection of potential candidates for the job — to get a sense of not only who exactly could take the new dean position, but who could excel in it.
This is a change that is directly tied to the undergraduate experience, and students deserve administrative transparency. And we cannot ignore the chief consequence of this change — a shell of its former self, “Dean of the College” will no longer be as distinguished a title. Even if our concerns are misplaced, this change allows Ameer to continue to perform the primary functions of her interim job via administrative diktat and bypasses any search committee process.