They Choose the Dean, Not Us

The administration should select the Dean of Students, not the students. As many in the Andover community know, Associate Head of School Rebecca Sykes recently announced that Paul Murphy ’84 will be taking over at the helm as Dean of Students for the next academic year. Mr. Murphy is obviously well-qualified, ready to lead and experienced, as he was the cluster dean of Flagstaff for six years. Although most of us will no longer be students here the next time we prepare for a changing of the guard at the Dean of Students position, I feel it is necessary to offer some advice to the administration and Mr. Murphy on how to render the change most smoothly next time. There is one aspect of the process this year that bothered me a great deal and would be detrimental in coming years when this decision has to be made again. This is the unnecessary step of the administration asking for student input on the decision. According to Sykes, there were numerous opportunities for students to submit their input, but she was disappointed with the number of students who actually did so, based on her understanding of the amount of student interest there was in this. She arranged for the two candidates to meet with student government and also held a Head’s Table to discuss what she was looking for in the next Dean of Students. “I literally had to drag people over to the table. But overall, their input was valuable,” said Sykes. She heard ideas such as inspiring trust and confidence with students, developing a rapport with students and frankly, they wanted someone who liked kids. While these were surely helpful in the selection process, we must consider that students do not get asked their opinion when the school hires a new faculty member, or when the admissions department decides to accept or reject a prospective student. These decisions are made solely by faculty and administrative members, with no input whatsoever from the students. Why should this situation be any different? As much as students would like to have their voice heard as often as possible, there is in fact a reason why, in this case, that voice should be ignored. The job of the Dean of Students, as stated on page five of The Blue Book, is to “monitor all aspects of student life on campus.” This says nothing about being the “cool” person on campus or giving especially lenient penalties to preferable students. The job of the Dean of Students is exactly the opposite; it is not to be a friend to students (although the Dean should make an effort to be slightly friendly), but on the contrary, to enforce the rules of the school community and bestow appropriate consequences onto those who have broken those rules. Although this may make the Dean an unpopular figure on campus at times, a role like this in the community is vital in order to maintain the structure and sanctity of a trusting environment like ours. Therefore, the next time an executive decision like this has to be made, we should treat it like all the other important decisions that are made around here: with the utmost care and thought. Although students at Andover are outspoken, opinionated and very smart, faculty and administration ultimately should be the ones making the verdict. I can assure you that the Dean of Students is not one who wants to see students suffer. His or her whole job revolves around making student and residential life better, in terms of the overall campus atmosphere. It is impossible for the Dean to make choices that everyone is going to approve of or accept. However, I am sure that Mr. Murphy will do the best he can to fulfill the requirements of his job, and I hope that he will never compromise the administration’s integrity in doing so.