Faculty meeting discusses faculty involvement, Dean of Students’ responsibilities

At the faculty meeting held today, members of the Knox faculty discussed two key resolutions as they pertain to recent campus events and concerns. One resolution was regarding sexual assaults and another was regarding the responsibilities of the Dean of Students. Several students were also in attendance, though Professor of History Penny Gold made it known to faculty that the students were only present as observers.

Last week, an e-mail was sent out from President Roger Taylor, first to faculty and then to students, that said, “As some of you may know, Dean [of Students Xavier] Romano is away from campus on leave. In his absence, Debbie Southern has agreed to serve as Acting Dean of Students. She will be a member of the Senior Staff and report to Dean Breitborde. Associate Dean of Students Craig Southern also will report to Dean Breitborde for the time being. Please join me in thanking Debbie for her willingness to serve.”

There has been no further comment from the administration regarding this e-mail.

Regarding the first resolution about sexual assaults, Professor of Educational Studies Diana Beck said, “Members of FAScom, [the Faculty Affairs Subcommittee], thought that we could show support for our students, hence the genesis of this resolution.”

This resolution passed unanimously. It stated that the school should become more transparent and that it improve its grievance procedures toward sexual assault.

The other resolution, regarding the responsibilities of the Dean of Students, was put forth in order for members of the faculty to vote on whether to move it forward to the Student Life Committee (SLC) for discussion and to be voted upon in May of 2010 by the faculty. Dean of Students Xavier Romano is also currently an active member of SLC.

Beck said, “We wanted to give everyone a chance to have their voices heard before we pass it as a motion.”

Regarding the job of the Dean of Students, Chair of the Gender and Women’s Studies Department Magali Roy-Fequiere said, “In the past two years, the position has been abused by the person who currently holds it. What we would win from this [resolution] would be some kind of control over the position.”

The discussion also addressed changing the role of the Dean of Students, for whoever holds the position, to a role that is not synonymous with the advisor for Greek organizations on campus.

While the problem with getting a full-time Greek advisor is the issue of funding, Chair of the Biology Department Stuart Allison recommended that the Greek population of Knox seek outside funding to make the position a reality.

“Staffing is really the biggest problem,” Allison said. “If we fund a full-time Greek advisor, that means there’s something else that we can’t fund.”

Student Senate President and senior Heather Kopec, while in favor of a full-time Greek advisor, said, “I disagree with the feeling of a conflict of interest. Let’s just stop attacking the Dean of Students. He does a lot.” She recommended that others refer the issue to SLC.

Kopec also said she thought the motion “is even more ridden with ulterior motives than it would’ve been in the past” and that “addressing it at a later time would be a better idea.”

Many faculty members showed their support for the motion.

On the resolution of the Dean of Students’ responsibilities, Professor of English Robin Metz said, “If we’re going to make this change, I hope we do it because it makes institutional sense … The most rational position is that faculty members should chair faculty committees.”

In terms of always having a faculty member on committees, there was also much debate surrounding how involved faculty members should be in the lives of students.

Some felt that professors had over-reached into the lives of students in the past, while others said they had heard the word “oversight” being used to describe faculty-student relationships.

The opinion was also voiced that having the Dean of Students available but not be the chair of any committees gave students more options of who they could discuss issues with because the Dean of Students would not have control over any certain committee more than any other.

Senate Vice-President Liesl Pereira said, “I respect the idea of faculty governance. I think that faculty have every right to be involved.”

Professor of Psychology Frank McAndrew said, “I’d like to feel less responsible for student life as a faculty member, not more.”

“I think it’s a tremendous assumption for people to make that faculty are not concerned with student life. I feel slightly offended that this notion is out there,” said Roy-Fequiere.

While the motion on the resolution regarding the responsibilities of the Dean of Students passed to move the issue forward to SLC, the resolution itself has not been passed.

Draft of resolution regarding the responsibilities of the Dean of Students

“Resolved that the following policy recommendation be referred to the Student Life Committee for discussion, to report back to the faculty by the May 2010 faculty meeting:

The Faculty recommends that the Dean of Students not assume formal duties as advisor to a particular student constituency, where that role could give the appearance of compromising the Dean’s ability to be an impartial mediator and supporter of the wellbeing of all students and student constituencies.

Rationale: Since the Dean of Students is frequently required to serve in mediating and “appeal” roles in a wide range of issues regarding the student body and, in order to fulfill this role effectively, must be perceived as being impartial and evenhanded with regard to all student constituencies, the Faculty recommends that the Dean of Students not take on any position that is centrally concerned with promoting the concerns and interests of one particular constituency. The particular instance that prompts this motion concerns the Dean of Students’ role as advisor to the Inter-fraternity Council, but the problem could also arise with responsibilities regarding other constituencies. Since the allocation of specific administrative job responsibilities does not fall within the purview of faculty governance, this motion asks for the formulation of a recommendation rather than adoption of a policy.”

Resolution regarding sexual assault

“Whereas: the safety and welfare of our students is of paramount importance to Knox faculty;

Whereas: the faculty, under the college by laws (IV.3.b), has responsibility both for academic policies and for policies concerning extra-curricular activities;

Whereas: students have made it clear – through various campus forums, statements before faculty committees, letters to and conversations with individual faculty members, student newspaper articles, and other venues – that they have serious concerns that have been brought into sharp focus by recent incidents of alleged sexual assault, and whereas said concerns merit serious consideration and action;

Be it resolved by the Knox College Faculty, on this day, March 8, 2010: that we are recommitting ourselves, as a body and as individuals, to the promotion of policies, practices, and a campus culture that discourages violence and intimidation in all of its forms, and fosters an environment of support, compassion, and justice for survivors of sexual assault. Specifically, we pledge to work toward:

1. Assuring timely and supportive campus response for survivors of sexual assault in areas such as counseling, medical attention, advice regarding legal options, and a more transparent campus grievance process.

2. Fostering a campus culture that promotes healthy social interaction among students, through ongoing workshops and programming (for students, faculty, and staff), diverse opportunities for student entertainment, and discouragement of alcohol and drug abuse.

3. Strengthening the institutional assessment process to foster ongoing feedback and dialog concerning college policies and practices put in place to address the concerns regarding campus response and campus culture discussed in points (1) and (2).”

Annie Zak

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