New Dean of the College Appointment Allows for Student Voices to be Heard in Administrative Decisions

Drashhti Bilimoria, Layout Editor

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Last month, the Undergraduate Academic Board (UAB) held a forum for Clark undergraduate students to voice their opinions and concerns regarding the appointment of a new Dean of the College/Associate Provost. The forum was held as a Q&A session with candidate Betsy Huang, with student representatives across academic, media, cultural, and political fields in attendance to ensure all demographics of the student body were represented.

The forum began with members of the Undergraduate Academic Board introducing themselves and describing the nature of both their position and that of the Dean of the College. The Dean of the College, they explained, oversaw undergraduate matters at Clark. This involves administering undergraduate programs as well as being responsible for faculty development, among other responsibilities. Among these responsivities, the Dean of the College serves as a non-voting member of the Undergraduate Academic Board (UAB).

UAB board member Rohan Roger explained they are a voting body comprised of six faculty members, three CUSC appointed student members, and the Dean of the College. The UAB focuses on the academic experience of Clarkies, and their duties include approving new programs and courses, amending academic policies, and assessing existing programs and majors. The UAB has been influential in the past, with projects extending the course withdrawal deadline from the 10th week of classes to the last day of classes, working on the newly implemented DI requirement, and reviewing Clark’s standards of academic rigor versus that of busy work assigned to students. Though the Dean of the College serves as a non-voting member, they are still responsible for bringing proposed changes to the Board for discussion and voting; because of this, the UAB serves as the search committee for appointing a new Dean of the College.

To be a possible candidate for Associate Provost/Dean of the College, lecturers must have more than seven years of full time experience at Clark. Candidates must then go through a rigorous vetting process, including about 10 interviews with various members of the Clark community, from students and staff to LEEP Center and Student Affairs administrators. The UAB then meets and votes to recommend a  candidate to recommend to the Provost, taking into consideration comments from the various Clark constituencies.

While there is only one candidate in the running, the UAB intends to complete the process to ensure the best candidate is chosen.

After introductions, the UAB turned the floor over to Huang, who took a moment to thank all of the students in attendance, stressing the importance of students taking an active role in their education. Huang, who currently serves as a professor of English, then gave students a short summary of her numerous qualifications and achievements during her time at Clark, highlighting her positions as the Director of the Center for Gender, Race, and Area Studies (CGRAS) and the Chief Officer for Diversity and Inclusion 2013 – 2016. In addition, Huang has published a multitude of books and has taught a variety of classes, to freshman First Year Intensives (FYIs) to senior capstones.

Following her introduction, the forum diverted into a more straightforward Q&A session, with questions from both the students in attendance as well as those submitted to the UAB by students who could not attend the event prior to the forum.

One prominent concern among students – especially in those who were English majors or minors – regarded whether or not Huang would continue to t each if appointed to the new administrative position. Huang teaches the only Asian-American ethnic literature courses offered by the English department, which contributes greatly to the depth of courses offered by the department. Huang responded that she would consider continuing teaching (President Angel teaches an FYI while serving in an administrative position) with the assistance of PLA’s or TA’s for grading, but lamented how she would in turn lose the connection she enjoys building with her students. If she chose not to teach, Huang reassured students that she would find a replacement for her courses with similar specializations.

Another concern held by students (and Huang) regarded bettering communication between the undergraduate student body and administration. Huang admitted this was a priority for her, and proposed regular electronic communication either between the Dean of the College and individual students, or through the leaders of student organizations (such as Student Council). Huang also stated she would like to host more forums (not unlike this one) and open office hours each month.

Other issues discussed at the forum included the upcoming administrative transitions to both the President and Provost position, hiring more full-time faculty in place of temporary adjunct professors, aiding in the decolonization of courses, and improving upon LEEP as a curriculum instead of a marketing brand.