Although Shelly Lowe, former director of the Native American Cultural Center, left Yale last spring, the search for her replacement has barely gotten off the ground.
Lowe announced she would leave the University last March, when she was named director of the Harvard University Native American Program. Kirk Hooks, special assistant to the dean of student affairs for intercultural and intergroup relations, took over as acting director of the Native American Cultural Center in July. But three months later, the University has yet to begin the search for a permanent director.
Students in the NACC said they hope the University can speed up the process in order to provide Native American students with academic counseling.
Gentry said Monday that Human Resources had not yet authorized the posting of the job online — a delay he attributed to budgetary constraints. As of Thursday, the job had still not been posted. Even so, Gentry said he does not doubt the posting will be approved.The initial dean search was postponed until this fall, when history professor Ned Blackhawk, a scholar of Native American studies, joined Yale’s faculty, Gentry said.“He’s coming to teach here at Yale, and we’re going to wait for his input,” Gentry explained in March. Blackhawk said he is confident University officials will now prioritize the search and expects them to post the job within a few weeks.
“Dean Gentry and [Yale College] Dean [Mary] Miller have told me they are pushing for this,” Blackhawk said. “I am optimistic. It makes no sense to rush it, but in my mind, it needs to happen soon.”
Blackhawk said he has been asked to be a member of the search committee, which has not yet been officially formed.
Still, Skawenniio Barnes ’10, a member of the NACC Advisory Board, said she thinks the process should start as soon as possible.
“It is crucial to have somebody in place to direct our cultural center, someone that will be consistent,” Barnes said. “The earlier, the better.”
Barnes said she thinks Hooks is doing the best he can, given that his is not a permanent position. But she added that the presence of a stable dean could make students more comfortable in approaching the Center for support. She said she thinks it was likely difficult for Hooks, as an acting director, to grow accustomed to the position and make long-term plans.
“The Native American community has a very unique background,” Barnes said. “He may not have enough experience handling us, but he is still a great mentor.”
Hooks could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
When NACC undergraduate student coordinator Michael Honhongva ’12 heard the news of Lowe’s sudden departure, he said, he was told by Gentry and Miller that the position would be promptly filled. Now, Honhongva said, he thinks Hooks will remain as acting director for the remainder of this year. He said he thinks the NACC is no longer able to offer the counseling Native American students expect from the Center.
“For Native American students, the outlet Shelly provided is no longer there,” Honhongva said. “There is now a lack of academic guidance for us.”
Once Human Resources puts together a job description for the position, a search committee composed of University faculty and officials will begin evaluating applicants, Barnes said. She added that students are included in the process as well, and are given the opportunity to submit their own feedback about the candidates.