Search for deans grows complicated
Dean candidate Ramon Gutierrez left campus indignant this week after he was informed that two faculty liaison administrators may be cut from the Dean of the College’s office or shared with the Office of the Provost.
In a meeting of the committee charged with choosing next year’s College dean, Gutierrez related a conversation in which he was told that both associate dean positions would be eliminated next year, according to committee members.
News of the possible cuts have spread to the general faculty.
“I have heard from other faculty that the second candidate for the position of dean of arts and sciences, Ramon Gutierrez, said that he had been informed that the Dean’s office was to be reduced in size,” said Politics Department Chair Ben Schiff.
Schiff added that, to his knowledge, no final decision has been made about the cuts.
Though the administration maintains that these are merely rumors, the rapidly spreading reports of cuts are particularly unnerving to some faculty as these positions serve as a line of communication between faculty and administration.
“It is unimaginable to me that the dean could get by without two associate deans,” said former associate dean Bob Geitz, now a computer science professor.
The six member dean search committee was formed after Clayton Koppes vacated the College dean post to assume the position of provost and Jeff Witmer was named replacement on an interim basis in September 2004. Gutierrez was one of three finalists selected by the committee to visit Oberlin during the past two weeks.
The search committee was itself unaware that the elimination of the associate dean’s was being considered until told by Gutierrez, according to the committee members. None of the members agreed to be attributed for this article, as they felt it would jeopardize the already-fragile search process.
Gutierrez, who would also be given automatic tenure in the history department if hired, was also said to have expressed similar concerns at history department dinner given in his honor. In conversations with faculty members, he discussed the possibility that the dean position would be split between the dean’s office and the office of the provost.
Members of the committee have said incoming provost Alfred MacKay was involved in discussion of cuts.
Such a move would dramatically increase the power of the provost position within the administration.
Current provost Koppes denied any knowledge of such a plan. He is resigning his post after this semester and will be replaced by philosophy professor MacKay.
“I have to say that I have no knowledge of any changes,” Koppes said.
When first contacted, Dye said no such decision had been made.
“Any potential change in the structure of the dean of the college’s office would need to be discussed and agreed upon with the candidate who accepts an offer from the President for this job,” she said.
However, when asked at a later time if changes will be made, Dye would not deny it.
“That’s all I have to say,” she said. “No changes have been made so far.”
Gutierrez, a history and ethnic studies professor at University of California, San Diego could not be reached for comment Thursday afternoon.
Associate deans, often converted faculty members, are the faculty’s voice within the administration. They lead the faculty curricular committee, hire visiting and adjunct faculty members, help design the course catalog and serve as a convenient intermediary between the faculty and administration
Of several administrative position seeing turnover this summer, the dean of the college of arts and sciences position most directly impacts the faculty. While the provost office, Residential Life and Dining Services and dean of students office are all seeing a changing of the guard over this summer, the dean of the college of arts and sciences position is considered by many professors to be the dean of the faculty.
The faculty search committee, elected by the faculty to advise the president, began a nationwide search.
“We had a national search and the committee decided to look at three outside candidates,” said Nelson De Jesus, chair of the search committee and the acting chair of the department of French and Italian.
“The job offering was posted on the web site but we also did a national publication search,” he added. “We also had several nominations from alumni and faculty.”
After narrowing down the search, there were three final outside candidates, who were approved by the committee for on-campus visits.
The first candidate, Robert Hilborn, the Amanda Lisa Cross professor of physics at Amherst College, visited Oberlin last week. Hilborn is also a former professor of physics at Oberlin.
Gutierrez, the second candidate, visited at the beginning of this week.
The third candidate, Harry Hirsch, is a professor of political science at