YCC speaks on dean search

Members of the search committee assigned with finding a replacement for departing Dean of Student Affairs Betty Trachtenberg met Monday afternoon with Yale College Council representatives to discuss what qualities students think are important in the new dean.

The new student affairs dean should strengthen the institutional guidance offered to fledgling student organizations, streamline the process of organizing annual campuswide student events, and work to increase ties between Yale College and the University’s graduate programs, YCC members said at the meeting.

Associate Dean of Yale College and committee chair Jane Edwards said the committee met last week and finalized a 10-page position statement, which describes in detail the student affairs dean’s various responsibilities. The committee hopes to begin interviewing finalists for the position in the first week of May in order to make a recommendation to Yale College Dean Peter Salovey by the end of the month, she said.

The new dean should reach out to students in order to explain to them what is involved in forming campus organizations and to guide them through the process of securing University funding, YCC Vice President Steve Engler ’07 said. Although Trachtenberg is helpful in working with students who come to her for direction, many students do not know where to begin, he said.

“It’s the nature of the job that she only has limited time, but I think most students feel like they don’t see [Trachtenberg] unless they’re in trouble,” Engler said. “It would be helpful to have information sessions on getting funding and starting an organization, so that the dean is more of an opportunity-creator.”

Engler suggested that the new dean or somebody under the dean’s supervision arrange “open hours” at which leaders of student organizations could ask questions without setting up a formal meeting.

YCC Treasurer Dave Roosth ’09 said the new dean should work to improve the coordination of events such as the Fall Show and Spring Fling, which take place every year but are always organized by a different group of students.

“These are events that take place every year, but the turnover in the YCC is immense,” he said. “I think we can do a better job of working with the dean’s office to streamline the process so that they can tell us who we need to talk to and what we need to do.”

The committee should seek out candidates eager to work with administrators in the graduate and professional schools to coordinate logistical issues, especially the use of University theaters for rehearsals and performances, YCC Secretary Zach Marks ’09 said. The new dean should be someone who actively involves himself in campus activities even after the workday has ended, Marks said, as Trachtenberg did when she attended this year’s Winter Show last month.

The committee has hired a firm that helps organizations vet applicants, in part because Yale’s dean of student affairs position is different from similar posts at other colleges, Dean of Undergraduate Education and committee member Joseph Gordon said. Yale’s residential college system, with its masters and deans, allows the dean of student affairs to focus on issues of undergraduate life not related to living and dining arrangements — areas which occupy student affairs deans at many other schools, he said.

“The search firm is helping us figure out what the job is like at other schools,” Gordon said. “At most other schools this person would not be known — certainly by first name and last initial — to most students.”

The committee is looking at candidates both from within the University and at other schools, Gordon said, although the names of the candidates have not been made public.

In addition to Edwards and Gordon, the committee includes Assistant to the President Nina Glickson, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies Maria Trumpler, African-American Studies Department chair Robert Stepto, Josh Williams ’08 and Alexandra Suich ’08.

Marks said he hopes the committee will continue to solicit input from student groups on what characteristics the new dean should possess, since it is hard for a committee that includes only two students to capture the wide array of undergraduates’ concerns.

“The deans and the members of the search committee were very receptive to our comments,” he said. “But two students are just two students. It’s impossible for them to get across everything that people are thinking about.”

The committee received about 40 applications for the position, Edwards said. Trachtenberg announced in November that she will be stepping down at the end of this academic year, after 20 years of work at Yale.

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