Letters to the Editor

“They Choose the Dean, Not Us” (2/22)

To the Editor, I was surprised last week to read Jacob Shack’s commentary “They Choose the Dean, Not Us.” Although it goes without saying that the “administration…[and] not the students” should select the Dean of Students, not even asking for students’ input is just silly. Shack admits that students’ input was “surely helpful in the selection process,” yet then goes on to say that because students get no say in the faculty hiring or student admission processes, they should also have no say in choosing the Dean of Students. Why ignore advice that is “surely helpful”? Merely to maintain the status quo? Contrary to the implications of the attached cartoon, selecting a Dean of Students (or any other administrative position) is not a democratic process. As such, feedback from those students who believe a potential dean is “cool” or “giv[es] especially lenient penalties to preferable students” can simply be ignored. But the administrators involved in choosing a new dean are certainly intelligent enough to discern what comments are based on perceived leniency and what are based on legitimate opinions. Many colleges – well, my college anyway – actually do solicit student input when hiring new faculty members. The department in question has a few candidates come to campus, have lunch with some students, then give a talk. Students don’t make the actual hiring decision, but their input is taken into consideration by those who do. Andover is not a college, of course, and this particular process might not adapt as well to the different setting. Most high school teachers, even at Andover, do not do serious research, and so a talk might be less worthwhile; in any case, a good public speaker may not be a good teacher. But students might be able to detect someone who they feel will be a pleasure to have in the classroom, or someone who gives them bad vibes. What’s the worst that could happen? Nobody is denying that “faculty and administration ultimately should be the ones making the verdict.” But when selecting a new faculty member, or a new Dean of Students, would listening to students’ opinions really be so terrible? Dougal Sutherland ’07 dougal@bluelink.andover.edu