In an email to the campus community Sept. 30, Barbara Avery announced her transition from serving as both dean of students and vice president for student affairs to only retaining the latter position. The change took effect the following day. The short notice, combined with Avery’s brief email of explanation and lack of invitation for open dialogue are the latest examples of inadequate transparency at Occidental.
Insufficient communication is not an issue singular to the Dean of Students Office. This semester, students also made calls for increased transparency in regards to the college’s recently modified Alcohol and Other Drugs amnesty policy. Though it was changed to allow greater application of amnesty to students attending a medically-compromised peer, the adjustment was not widely broadcast until an email was sent to the Occidental community Oct. 14.
While certain elements of the work done by the Dean of Students Office necessitate confidentiality, such as student feedback, misconduct and disability services, the department ought to be as forthcoming as possible about personnel changes because they directly affect the entire student body. After all, the office is the organization most prominently entrusted with ensuring students’ physical and emotional well being.
In Avery’s Sept. 30 email, the use of vague language to describe her future with the college, saying she wants to pursue “strategic initiatives in higher education,” obfuscates unnecessarily.
Even student groups are not immune to this critique. Last spring, following the impeachment of the president of the Associated Students of Occidental College (ASOC), ASOC Senate came under fire for failing to disclose their grounds for the decision directly after the vote. Instead, the group emailed a statement on the situation to students two days later.
To Senate’s credit, however, it has since made repeated efforts to improve communication with the campus as a whole, including approving an amendment encouraging cooperation between the four ASOC branches and making its members available for any student questions or concerns. This makes it a good example to point to for ways in which organizations can remedy these issues.
Because the need for transparency extends to every part of the college, we as students also must make it one of our top priorities — especially if we criticize other departments or individuals for not doing the same.
Across Occidental’s campus, no component of student life should be opaque. Not only has the student body made clear that transparency is preferred, but the institutions on campus, both student- and administrator-run, need to take a serious approach to being open with the campus community.
This editorial represents the collective opinion of the Occidental Weekly editorial board. Each week, the editorial board will publish its viewpoint on a matter relevant to the Occidental community.
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