What we need in a Dean of Student Affairs

As our liaison between the student body and the administration, Carnegie Mellon’s new Dean of Student Affairs should be willing — and prepared — to roll up his or her sleeves, work hard, and become a genuine advocate for the students. As former dean Michael Murphy did, the new dean should become familiar with student organization leaders, attend student events, and exhibit more than just a superficial concern for the daily needs of the Carnegie Mellon campus.

Since Dean Murphy was promoted to associate vice-president last April, Carnegie Mellon students have largely found this relationship with Interim Dean Jennifer Church. Though she is serving only temporarily, Church has already established rapport with students by attending student events and remaining easily accessible. The challenge is to find another figure equally invested in Carnegie Mellon’s student community.

As it stands now, the most visible members of the Carnegie Mellon community are the guys who sell used books in the University Center. Our campus shouldn’t go much longer without a permanent figure to connect the students to their administration. The students need someone who is present in their everyday lives, with whom they are well acquainted, yet who is just as acquainted with the upper tiers of the administration.

The new dean should waste no time in developing a long-term vision for campus. He or she should dive into student life, learn Carnegie Mellon’s unique culture, assess its strengths and weaknesses, gather student input, and then act.

For instance, an area that needs attention is the sophomore slump — that is, first-years get the royal welcome to the Carnegie Mellon community, and sophomores are left out in the cold, not necessarily feeling unwelcome but perhaps needing assistance adjusting to upperclassman life. Also, the role model system in residence halls needs extra energy and resources in order to be successful.

Luckily for the new dean, Murphy set a stellar example of how to be a visible, approachable figure on campus. On the other hand, he set the bar incredibly high. The new dean will enter a community eager for his or her arrival — and we students won’t have to spend too much time or energy acclimating to a new, proactive Dean of Student Affairs. Rather than anticipating another administrator who will join the campus community only to be holed up on the sixth floor of Warner Hall, we excitedly await a dean who will continue in the footsteps of Murphy and Church. In terms of proactivity, we are going to meet the new dean halfway.