Professor of Mathematics Dennis Schneider can boast over 35 years worth of institutional experience and knowledge. But to him, that alone cannot make a good leader.
Since Professor of Theatre and former Student Life Committee chair Elizabeth Carlin-Metz is on sabbatical this term, Schneider has been appointed by the Executive Committee to take her place as head of what he calls one of the major faculty standing committees.
Among the major agenda items for this term are revising the social event policy, considering the issues of Greek affiliated students applying for theme housing and the academic culture at Knox.
Schneider takes great care in approaching these issues.
“One always has to be careful not to use the power of the chair to push through your personal agenda,” Schneider said. “It’s impossible to be an effective chair and not have opinions. What would you be? You would be just this impartial mediator running a faculty meeting.”
Schneider pointed to that as a necessary quality of any chair, either of a committee or a department. And he takes that seriously when it comes to his new responsibility with SLC.
“I would hope to be able to argue as a member of the committee the particular position that I have, but I would not try to force the committee to agree to my position,” Schneider said. “I would like to argue it just like any member of a committee should argue for a belief that they have.”
Schneider is particularly concerned with the issue of how the culture at Knox treats the necessary balance between academic and extracurricular, or “co-curricular,” life. To him, for the average Knox student to have an abundance of extracurricular activities is not necessarily a good thing.
“I’m very happy with the reception that the committee has had to this question of culture,” Schneider said. “What is the culture at Knox and how can one aspect of that culture support or not support another aspect of that culture?”
He made the point that much of life is about finding the right “proportions.”
“How do the non-academic activities on campus support or hinder the academic endeavors?” Schneider asks. “We are primarily here to learn and to become educated people … But that’s not to the exclusion of having a good time.”
Schneider also commented on trends of faculty interest in student life throughout his time teaching here.
“I think what’s happened over the years is that the faculty, myself included, would rather sit here and do mathematics or write poetry than deal with the question of whether we should have a local fraternity,” Schneider said. “[But] we’re charged with this issue, and we ought to take that charge seriously. I think we’re beginning to see a lot more faculty involvement in the life of the college than we’ve had in quite some time.”