Students left confused by delay in announcing Lively’s resignation

Organizations that work closely with the Dean of the College are frustrated by the lack of administrative communication.

by Lauren Adler | 7/30/21 5:05am

by Michael Lin / The Dartmouth Senior Staff

Following the announcement of sociology professor Kathryn Lively’s resignation as Dean of the College — which was delayed by nearly three weeks after her apparent departure date — students expressed that the administration’s belated communication was a source of confusion. 

On July 19, interim Provost David Kotz wrote to the student body announcing Lively’s resignation as of June 30 and that the search process for an interim dean had begun. Lively has started a two-year sabbatical, but will be returning to the classroom and to her research in 2023. 

Kotz said that the announcement was delayed due to the time it took to organize the internal communications process used to write the July 19 email.

“It took a while for us to get the announcement together and to have Kathryn and us and our communications team all agree on the text, so it came out when it came out,” he said in an interview this week.

In the weeks-long period between Lively’s resignation and the announcement, some students in organizations that work closely with the Dean of the College’s office were left confused as to why Lively had not been responding to emails or meeting requests. Palaeopitus senior society co-moderator Brandon Zhou ’22, said that while normally the group meets with the Dean of the College — who serves as the group’s advisor — about once per month, the society had not yet met with Lively this summer, even though some members have been active and on campus.

Zhou explained that while Palaeopitus is usually inactive over the summer because its members often pursue off-campus opportunities before their senior year, there are more rising seniors on campus this summer, which has allowed the society to conduct operations. According to Zhou, this summer has been more of “a limbo stage” for the organization as it determines its priorities for the upcoming school year. Although the absence of their advisor has not directly affected the society’s planning for the upcoming year, its members have been left without a clear point of contact within the administration.

“This does not totally disrupt our plans: it’s not causing chaos in our organization or anything like that,” Zhou said. “But obviously, it’s always nice and beneficial for any campus group — but especially, I think, ours — to have a point of contact, and to have someone who can support us administratively, from the College administration, whether that be a faculty or staff member.”

The Student and Presidential Committee on Sexual Assault had also been working closely with Lively on a restorative justice initiative, according to Madeline Gochee ’23, a summer executive for SPCSA. She said that it is “frustrating” that the organization will have to work without a dean’s input for at least the next several weeks. Gochee said the group had hoped to update Lively on the initiative’s progress and introduce her to the summer SPCSA executives, but when they reached out to Lively’s office at the beginning of the term, they never got a reply; executives were preparing to send a follow up message when they received Kotz’s announcement.

“She’s been a great resource for us, but we were just very much left in the dark,” Gochee said. 

Kotz said that until his office appoints an interim dean, he will take over responsibilities in the Dean of the College and Student Affairs divisions, including meeting with the Dean’s management team — which includes administrators like associate dean of Student Affairs Katherine Burke, associate dean and director of the Undergraduate Dean’s Office Anne Hudak and associate dean of residential life and director of residential education Michael Wooten — twice per week. Kotz is not currently advising student groups that work with the Dean of the College, but he hopes that an interim dean will be appointed soon enough to handle those responsibilities. He said that he is also reviewing candidates for the interim dean position on a daily basis.

Kotz said that there is no formal search process for an interim administrator, as that person’s main task is to “keep the trains running.” However, the search for a permanent dean could take as long as multiple years.

“We need a [permanent] dean as soon as we can find one … but it takes many months to finish the process,” he said.

Kotz said that the search for a new dean will involve a preliminary screening process of both internal and external candidates, followed by a more thorough round of interviews, before a recommendation is made to Kotz about a potential candidate. If the candidate is hired, they will likely have to finish out the academic year in their current position before starting in their new position at Dartmouth over the summer.

Kotz also said that students will likely have the opportunity to get involved with the search process for a new dean, whether as members of the search committee or by giving feedback on a short list of potential candidates. He noted that there are currently student members on the search committee for the new provost, and that there have traditionally been students on presidential search committees.

Zadriana Smith ’24 said that she hopes that the search committee will identify candidates who “make it a priority — and even seek out — the concerns of the student body,” as she feels that over the past year much of the College’s operations have occurred “behind closed doors.”

“I feel like a lot of the decisions made this past year, whether it be on the COVID-19 policies or otherwise, were made without considering the implications that it would have on students,” she said. “I think someone who values student input and actually takes that into consideration as part of the administration’s decisions would be great.”

In addition to someone who is “willing to advocate on behalf of students,” Gochee hopes that the new interim dean will “have the passion and also just legwork to get things done.”

“Something that we’ve really found with deans and administrators is they love what we’re doing, but then we’ll send them memos and recommendations and that never gets done,” she said. “It’s great to have meetings with people who really care and are very interested, and that’s certainly a baseline expectation that we would have about the interim dean. But more than that, we really want someone who is willing to put in the work on our behalf to ensure that our policies and project proposals are effectively communicated to the administration and actually implemented.”