As the University prepares for the opening of two new residential colleges — and does so with a host of new administrators just settling into their jobs — an internal examination of the Yale College Dean’s Office aims to more clearly define administrators’ roles in a period of institutional change.
On Friday morning, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway announced to the roughly 240 members of the YCDO that in the coming months, the office will undergo an internal review. Holloway explained that given the loss of institutional memory accompanying the departure of many seasoned University administrators, now is an important time to gain greater clarity on the role of the YCDO as it moves forward with several new initiatives.
“It is a crucial time to undertake a review, given the fact that there are new institutional structures in place and the prospect of the new colleges,” said Deputy Dean of Yale College and Dean of Undergraduate Education Joseph Gordon, who himself will depart in January 2016. “Given all this, it is not a moment for business as usual.”
The review will be run internally, and staff members will have the opportunity to contribute suggestions via an anonymous web portal. Holloway said that following the announcement on Friday, staff members present seemed receptive to the idea.
Director of Strategic Communications for Yale College Paul McKinley said the timing makes this review a “once-in-a-generation opportunity” for the YCDO to reaffirm and strengthen the services it provides for Yale College students.
Holloway added that the outcome of the review will be largely issue-dependent. Some concerns identified by the evaluation may be easily resolvable within a semester, he said, while others may be part of larger YCDO processes that are less likely to change.
One goal of the review is to clearly differentiate different administrators’ roles. Holloway acknowledged that while some newly formed administrative structures — such as Tamar Gendler’s position as dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, introduced last summer — are easily differentiated, other roles are more easily confused. For example, Holloway said, he hopes the review will bring greater clarity on the responsibilities of the administrators working on issues of student life.
“The student life piece is something that we have to sort out,” Holloway said. “Where does one job begin and the other one [end]?”
In particular, there has been some confusion surrounding the potentially overlapping roles of Yale College’s Dean of Student Affairs Marichal Gentry and University Secretary and Vice President for Student Life Kimberly Goff-Crews, who oversees University-wide affairs. The geographic locations of their workspaces may also speak to this distinction: Gentry’s office is located in Sheffield-Sterling-Strathcona Hall, in the YCDO, whereas Goff-Crews works in Woodbridge Hall, just up the stairs from President Peter Salovey’s office.
Former Director of the Teaching Fellow Program Judith Hackman, who retired at the end of January, said that while many aspects of student affairs are seemingly being put under the purview of Goff-Crews, Gentry and Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and Director of Graduate Student Life Lisa Brandes GRD ’94 also seem to hold similar responsibilities in Yale College and the Graduate School, respectively.
Gentry did not speak to the division of responsibilities between himself and Goff-Crews, but said he supports Holloway’s decision to host an internal review, given the upcoming introduction of two new residential colleges under the leadership of a new administration.
Goff-Crews declined to comment, citing the college-specific nature of the review.
Still, Gordon said shared responsibility is not necessarily a bad thing, as collaboration can pose new questions and offer innovative responses.
“Giving students multiple paths to access information and find support should work to their advantage,” Gordon said. “One just wants to be sure that everyone understands that the system is deliberately built that way.”
McKinley also said the review provides an opportunity for the YCDO to consider its relationships with other University centers, such as the the Office of Career Strategy and the cultural centers.
Additionally, some of the YCDO’s responsibilities will need to be reconsidered in response to the new Center for Teaching and Learning, Holloway said. The center, which opened last August, was created to consolidate all of the tutoring and instructional resources available to undergraduates, graduate students and faculty.
Jenny Frederick, the center’s executive director, explained that with the launch of the CTL, some responsibilities — such as tutoring services for science and quantitative reasoning — have shifted away from the YCDO. But others, like research fellowships, will continue to be administered by Yale College.
The Writing Center and the Center for Language Studies have also become part of the center but are still in the process of transitioning out of their former organizational structure within the YCDO, Frederick added.
Hackman told the News in January that she did not feel adequately informed as to why the Writing Center and Center for Language Studies, formerly part of the graduate school, had been shifted away. There may have “really wonderful reasons” behind the changes, she added, but they were unclear to her.
Holloway said he has been considering the idea of an internal review since December, and announced the plan to his assistant and associate deans about a week before making it public to the entire YCDO.