The athletic director hiring committee hosted community forums for four candidates Nov. 26–29 in order to hear feedback and collect evaluations from student-athletes, faculty, administrators and staff. According to Dean of Students, Interim Athletic Director and Co-Chair of the Athletic Director Hiring Committee Rob Flot, the evaluations from these sessions will be integral to the ultimate hiring of a candidate.
“It’ll be critical,” Flot said. “We wanted to have the opportunity for as many people in the community to meet with the candidates as possible, which is why we had the one open forum where anybody could attend.”
Professor of Kinesiology Marcella Raney ’01 and Flot are co-chairs of the committee that will ultimately decide who is hired. The committee is comprised of 12 students, faculty and staff members. Because the four candidates may not have informed their employers about their interest in the college, Flot asked that the campus refrain from sharing candidate details. The Occidental thus decided to omit this information from the article.
According to Flot and Raney, in addition to these forums open to the general Occidental community, there were also sessions specific to multiple groups on campus, including the search committee, athletics, coaches, staff and student-athletes.
“About a quarter of our students are [part of] athletics, 500 students, you know the impact on the community is significant,” Flot said. “From admissions to the athletics themselves, to the classroom, to the residential experience, and so it was just important to have as many people as possible contribute to the assessment of the candidates.”
According to Joshua Greaves (junior), quarterback of the Occidental football team, the student-athlete forum was important because the athletic director position is one that affects everyone on campus.
“[I’d like] someone who doesn’t only support the athletic program but supports student-athletes and supports us academically, in the post-college life, and is someone who is willing to talk to alumni and be able and get money and fundraising for the programs,” Greaves said.
Carolyn Brighouse, dean for student academic affairs, emphasized the importance of collaboration in an athletic director.
“I’m looking for people who can collaborate across the school,” Brighouse said. “I think something that makes an institution strong is when you have trust built between the different parts of the institution — you know, academics affairs trusts what students affairs is doing, student affairs trusts what admissions is doing. We’re all in these different roles but we need to trust that we’re all doing our jobs well because the end result of all of those jobs is student success.”
The previous athletic director, Jaime Hoffman, left the college Aug. 17 prior to filing a lawsuit against the college on 16 counts of action, including harassment and discrimination on the basis of gender, sexual orientation and disability; intentional and negligent infliction of emotional distress; failure to prevent, investigate or remedy discrimination, harassment or retaliation; and wrongful termination. The school has since responded to the litigation, with the suit currently entering the discovery phase. Since Hoffman’s departure, Flot has held the role of interim athletic director.
“My experience as interim athletic director has afforded me the opportunity to be directly involved in the day to day of athletics, whether that’s individual interactions with coaches, understanding facilities, budgets, recruiting, the SCIAC,” Flot said. “I think the interim role has enriched my understanding of Oxy athletics in particular, which certainly will help to inform my review and evaluation of candidates.”
Since Hoffman’s departure from Occidental College was heavily embroiled in Title IX, Flot said he believes it is important for the candidates to be familiar with Title IX and the college’s policies.
“There are a set of experiences that we want candidates to have, and having familiarity and experience around gender equity and athletics is an important aspect to the role,” Flot said.
According to Flot, Raney was chosen to be his co-chair because it was important to have a faculty member involved in the decision-making process.
“Professor Raney (Class of 2001) has an extensive history with Oxy Athletics,” Flot said via email. “She was a two-sport athlete here, and has remained closely connected to Athletics in various formal capacities as a faculty member.”
According to Flot, students may hear about the hiring of the new athletic director as early as the end of finals week.
“Consistent with the timeline that we set out at the beginning of September, our hope was to bring candidates in by the end of November, which we’ve done,” Flot said. “Now begins the process of evaluating those visits, reviewing evaluations, meeting with the search committee, meeting with athletics next week and others to get their feedback, reference checks for the candidate that we want to offer the position to, reference checks for more than one candidate potentially and then making and negotiating the offer. My hope is to do so prior to the end of finals week, but it’s a situation that can’t be rushed necessarily.”