Following the release of an external report, La Casa Cultural — along with two other cultural centers — has begun its search for a new dean to replace its current interim director.
On Sunday afternoon, roughly 30 students gathered at La Casa Cultural to provide the newly established dean search committee, which met for the first time on Friday, with their thoughts on the new dean. The committee is slated to recommend a candidate, who will replace the current interim director Amanda Lynn Hernandez MED’16 who has been in place since the fall, to Holloway by the end of the school year. American studies professor and chair of the search committee Alicia Schmidt Camacho headed the discussion, while students articulated their visions for La Casa and proposed potential questions that candidates could be asked.
“We want to hear about your vision,” Camacho said. “What are the important qualities in a director?”
The search for a new La Casa dean follows an external review of all four cultural centers, which was released in February by Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway. The report concluded that Yale’s cultural centers have an important role in campus life, but it also found significant deficiencies in the amount of administrative support provided to them.
On Sunday, Camacho gave a broad overview of the process for hiring a new dean. Thus far, the committee has begun reviewing applications to select candidates who will be invited to Yale in April, Camacho said. Once on campus, candidates will have an opportunity to meet with students and get a sense of the job.
Several other members of the committee were also in attendance, including the committee’s student representatives Cathleen Calderón ’17 and Miguel Paredes ’18, Associate Provost James Antony and Director of Student Affairs Hannah Peck.
“I want candidates to express why these cultural spaces are important. The new dean should have the language to express this and to advocate for the cultural center,” Catalina Brennan-Gatica ’15 said. He or she should also be good at accumulating stories and building networks that they can share with other students, she added.
Several students echoed this sentiment, adding that the dean should act as an advisor to students at La Casa. Many also voiced the need for discussions surrounding mental health issues, sexuality and sexual misconduct within the cultural center. Cristina Moreno ’16 said the new dean should address the unique situations of undocumented and first-generation students.
The role of student advisor, however, seems to be in tension with the role the dean would have to serve as an administrator, Antony said — because they would have to both represent students and work with the higher echelons of administration.
“A lot of our issues have been about connecting the students with the administration, and I want to see someone who can stand up and speak up in a room and advocate for us,” George Ramirez ’15 said after the meeting.
Throughout the discussions, students also provided specific characteristics that they would like to see in the new dean, such as the ability to speak Spanish — a suggestion that was met with laughter and general agreement.
Additionally, students focused on how the dean should think about the Latino identity. The new dean will hopefully be someone who has a very elastic idea of what being Latino is and is cognizant of the fact that Yale has a very multifaceted, diverse community of Latinos, Christopher Melendez ’15 said.
Ramirez said he thinks that it is also important for the new dean to have a grasp on practical issues like the house’s finances.
“In the past we have had issues budgeting correctly, and it is crucial to have someone who has an understanding of how to use money in an efficient and smart way that still accommodates all the students, groups, while remaining respectful of what the administration is giving,” Ramirez said.
As the meeting came to a close, Camacho encouraged students to continue providing feedback throughout the search process by email.
Ezra Stiles College Master Stephen Pitti, who is part of the Native American Cultural Center dean search committee, also encouraged students to think of themselves as in “recruitment” mode.
“You should be doing everything you can to help the committee and to make the best recommendation about the dean,” he told the audience. “Be your best selves, and represent the excitement of La Casa when the candidates visit.”
La Casa Cultural was founded in 1974 and moved to its current location at 301 Crown St. in 1977.