Octber 23, 2003



Antioch College restructures office of Dean of Students

Most colleges have a dean of students. Until recently, so did Antioch, but this past summer the college undertook a major restructuring of its Dean of Students office. Students who enter the office today will find themselves confronted with two deans: on the right, the office of the Dean of Student Life Jimmy Williams, and on the left, that of the Dean of Community Learning Cheryl Keen.

Williams, previously the associate dean of students, says the most significant change is the sharing of leadership between two deans, a change which abolished the hierarchy that previously existed between the dean of students and the associate dean. In a recent interview Williams said that despite these changes, “I’m still pretty much doing what I’ve always done here.” Though some of his responsibilities are different now, being an “advocate for the average student,” as he put it, is still a major part of his day.

The duties of the dean of student life include addressing students’ needs, responding to emergencies, monitoring community issues, handling student discipline, and dealing with dean’s loans, according to Williams, who also works closely with many other offices of the college and has a leading role in the Office of Multicultural Affairs. Williams is also responsible for affirmative action and maintaining community standards.

Keen has filled various administrative positions at Antioch, as well as being a part-time professor, but she’s new to the Dean of Students office. Her new responsibility of teaching the new first-year seminar, Introduction to Antioch, lets her get to know the new students better, she said but she still interacts with older students as well. She feels the new seminar is “helping people be better prepared for co-op” and improving their understanding of the campus resources.

As dean of community learning, Keen will have a leading role in offices and groups dealing with new-student orientation (including the Introduction to Antioch seminar), housing and hall advisors, the various health-related offices (including sexual offense prevention), the Center for Community Learning and environmental initiatives on campus.

Both deans are members of the college president’s staff group and are to work on cases in their areas of jurisdiction that may come before the Community Standards Board. Each dean will fill in for the other when he or she is absent.

College President Joan Straumanis first publicly presented the idea of restructuring the office in late May, at the first AdCil meeting of the summer term. Although Williams was acting as interim dean, Keen said the college was anxious to fill the vacancy left by Pat Whitlow, who had resigned in the spring after less than a year as dean of students. Whitlow’s resignation motivated the restructuring, but it also “occasioned an opportunity to look fresh at what we were doing anyway,” said Keen. Straumanis felt that the dean of students is too big a job for one person and that there was a need for someone in the office to cover housing and retention more thoroughly, according to Keen.

Straumanis then appointed a commission on restructuring, led by Adam Howard, which compiled a report of the community members’ opinions on the proposed changes.

Straumanis presented the final plan for the changes to AdCil in July. The title of the “Dean of Students office” was kept for reasons of clarity and continuity, but the position of dean of students was divided into the two new posts.

Although AdCil’s vote was divided, Straumanis chose to enact the appointments so the positions would be filled. All of the changes to the Dean of Students office were approved for this academic year, during which they will be evaluated by other deans in the Great Lakes College Association.

A few other changes have been made to the Dean of Students office in addition to dividing the dean’s role between two people. Campus security is no longer under the jurisdiction of the office; instead, the dean of student life acts as a liaison to securities. The dean of community learning now trains hall advisors, which was formerly the campus and residence life director’s job, and organizes the new first-year seminar. Both deans serve on PretCil, the new Permanent Retention Council.

Keen is hopeful about the prospects for the reorganized Dean of Students office. “I think the restructuring seems so far to be a good step to meet students’ needs and help retention,” she said.

Williams believes there’s still a lot that remains to be seen about the changes to the office. “Restructuring has probably been confusing for folks,” he said, but he expects things to get better as he and Keen find more opportunities to plan strategies for retention and ways to improve the quality of life on campus.

“We will come together,” Williams said, “and we will get better as we learn about each other.” Of the restructuring itself he said, “I think we could’ve made it work the old way, and I think we can make it work this way.” It’s the people involved who are most important to making a system work, he said. He believes things will work out well “as long as we don’t forget that we have to interact with each other.”

—Evelyn La Croix