After two of the college’s most trying years, Yale College is in desperate need of a dean who prioritizes student welfare. It was announced on Jan. 27 that Dean Marvin Chun will step down to return to his work in his cognitive neuroscience laboratory. We hope his replacement will work towards reassessing the priorities of the Yale administration. 

Additionally, in a college that has not always given students a voice in choosing their leadership, we hope that there will be a concerted effort within this committee to ensure that the new dean reflects the best interests of the student body over whom they will be presiding. 

The Editorial Board therefore would like to suggest the following goals for the next dean:

1: A commitment to student wellness

The past two years at Yale College have been some of the most challenging in recent memory. The combination of the raging pandemic and its disruption to campus life has left students confused, unmotivated and in need of more attentive and accessible care than Yale College typically provides. When this community was at its lowest in the spring term of 2021, Dean Chun’s response was tone-deaf: “If you ask for support, you will get it.” We, as a community, have been frustrated by the dean’s inadequate response to students’ mental health demands. 

However, we acknowledge Dean Chun has laid some groundwork for an expanded wellness infrastructure. During his tenure, he initiated academic reform at Yale college by openly advocating for better Credit/D/Fail guidelines and adopting Universal Pass/Fail for a semester in response to  campus-wide student advocacy campaigns. Chun also advocated for wellness reform through the introduction of Yale College Community Care, which expanded University Mental Health Care to include short-term treatment with licensed mental health clinicians as well as wellness specialists. While Dean Chun’s contributions were a step in the right direction, there is still a long way to go in achieving adequate administrative support for students’ mental health needs. However, a commitment to wellness extends beyond mental health resources. On this issue, Yale lags behind Harvard and other peer institutions in its commitment to ensure our generation evades life under the worst potential impacts of climate change. Not to mention, the inconsistent policies with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic have left students feeling at risk while on campus and skeptical of Yale’s ability to tackle this crisis. The next dean must devote themselves to improving student welfare by utilizing administrative resources to fully respond to student concerns. 

2: Transparency 

Many students recall admission tours around Yale’s campus during which guides spoke at length about a wonderful concept called “Shopping Period.” We arrived with starry-eyed expectations of said “Shopping Period,” only to be informed that it was being “phased out”and replaced with fewer options, more rejections and more interviews and applications to get into classes. This is just one of several examples of Dean Chun and other Yale administrators’ lack of transparency on matters greatly affecting student life. These include lack of transparency on donor influence, administrative bloat and COVID-19 policy

With the onset of the pandemic, it has become clear that the dean’s role should be facilitating clear communication between students and the administration. As an outward-facing figure, the Dean of Yale College’s responsibilities and jurisdiction should be made clearer to the student body. Without such transparency, the ability of students to advocate for change and for themselves is obstructed by the confusion of administrative channels. Who is in charge of this issue? Who has the power to enact change in this situation? A more clearly laid-out administrative structure will be beneficial to all, and we hope the new dean will be clear about their role and their intentions in filling it.  

3: Commitment to post-pandemic transition:

We expect the next dean to make informed policy decisions grounded in national recommendations, and better justify decisions where Yale’s policies significantly differ from those of peer institutions and government regulations. Why have the arts been subjected to stricter regulations than athletics? Clearer reasoning behind policy is necessary for a student body that feels confident in following guidelines meant to benefit everyone. Following the emergence of the Omicron variant, it is clear that Connecticut is entering a new phase of the pandemic, one that the CDC and state officials believe warrants a change in policy and approach. On Feb. 28, the state is set to lift its school mask mandate, just weeks after Yale College students were asked to refrain from patronizing local restaurants and had classes over Zoom. What does a changing statewide — and nationwide, considering similar moves by New York, California and New Jersey — approach to the pandemic mean for Yale College, a uniquely young and vaccinated population? What does it mean for the greater New Haven community in which we reside? 

In addition to these recommendations, the Editorial Board encourages students to speak up in as many ways as possible. Student demonstrations and activism have been critical of many of Dean Chun’s greatest accomplishments, such as the implementation of Universal Pass/Fail. Ways to continue to speak out include publishing an Op-Ed in the YDN about your vision for the role of dean and/or submitting your thoughts through this survey provided by President Salovey’s office. We look forward to reporting on the selection process, and, in a few months’ time, welcoming a dean who, we hope, will keep Yale’s focus on the students, where it always should have been.