President Veitch announced to the campus community via email Oct. 21 that former Dean of Students and Vice President for Student Affairs Barbara Avery would be leaving Occidental at the end of the month to take up an administrative position at another college. In the same email, Veitch announced that a search committee for her successor is currently being formed.
In searching for a successor, the college has the opportunity to significantly improve administrator–student relations. As a dean, whose priority should be operating in the best interest of the students, the position would be best filled by a candidate who is communicative, personable and, most importantly, accessible.
The job of the dean of students revolves around students’ nonacademic lives, everything from providing health services to social programs and events, which makes up a significant portion of students’ college experiences. In her time here, Avery supported many programs across campus, as Veitch pointed out in his email — including the Student Success Team and Partners and Excellence — and increased resources for organizations ranging from the Emmons Wellness Center to the Intercultural Community Center. We thank her for that. But for the next dean of students, we not only need someone who supports these programs and organizations, but also interacts more directly with students affected by them.
At a college of approximately 2,000 students, this is a reasonable request. Time specifically set aside for informal student meetings is the most straightforward and expedient way to break down the barrier that students may feel between them and an administration that has become increasingly cordoned off by a thicket of administrative obligations. By offering office hours, the dean of students can provide students an avenue for actual one-on-one interaction.
The next dean of students should adopt an office hours policy to amend the status quo and to appear more open to the campus, instead of seeming to be hidden behind a closed door.
Yet on the other side of this doorway, students need to take advantage of such a situation to make the efforts of such a dean of students worthwhile. To repeatedly call for transparency and not take advantage of increased accessibility to a new dean of students would impede productive dialogue as well as endanger the longevity of an open relationship.
Without an Office of Student Affairs whose leadership maintains strong, personal and steady relationships with the faculty and student body, there will be a continuous divide between the administrators, faculty and students.
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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