by the Task Force
on the College and Student Life
Presented to Sheila Blumstein
Provost of Brown University
April 30, 1998
Colleges ideally are places where faculty members and students come together to live the life of the mind, not merely in the classroom, but in the various venues that comprise their existence. The university/college model espoused by Brown further implies that the faculty members are actively engaged in the creation of new knowledge while continuing to share their insights directly with the current generation of students. In theory, all else is supposed to contribute to the achievement of these goals. The intellectual life of the university, however, is not something separate from the other dimensions of individuals' realities. Social, developmental, and political concerns, for instance, continue to inform dynamically both the generation of knowledge and its transmission. The decision to create a residential environment for students also implies a belief that the pursuit of understanding extends beyond the classroom and permeates all aspects of life.
No simple model can begin to organize the complexities that now define an institution older than the very nation in which it exists. Hundreds of faculty and staff members work together in a community with thousands of students, most of whom go about their daily business while interacting with only a small fraction of the other members of the community. The diversity of the university mirrors, to some degree, the diversity of society, and the centrifugal forces that strain the fabric of society are sometimes magnified in a community where thousands of young people are living, often for the first time, without the restraining bonds of family and tradition.
The continuation of creative and collegial interaction in a residential college has depended from the beginning on guidance by individual members who took on the special responsibility of ensuring that the community remain whole, that it keep its special mission in focus, that community members not unduly coerce others, and that they fulfill minimum expectations to remain a part of the community. When institutions were small, when faculty members were few, and when expectations were simple, the dean, a term borrowed from medieval ecclesiastical governance, discharged these responsibilities. Even today, many administrative units are headed by deans, but the days of the dean have long passed. Brown University currently has a Dean of the Faculty, a Dean of the Graduate School and Research, a Dean of the College, a Dean of Medicine and Biological Sciences, a Dean of Student Life, a Dean of Chemical Dependency, a Dean of Undergraduate Counseling, a Dean of Special Studies, a Dean of Summer Studies, and more than three dozen associate and assistant deans. Two-thirds of the associate and assistant deans report to the two deans whose offices are the subject of this report: the Dean of the College (15) and the Dean of Student Life (10). Six directors (two of whom are also deans), two coordinators, and one senior fellow also report to the Dean of the College, while two directors (one of whom is also an associate dean), two co-directors, one coordinator, and one student life officer also report to the Dean of Student Life.
Three decades ago, before the introduction of the "New Curriculum," Brown had three deans: the Dean of the College, the Dean of Pembroke College, and the Dean of the Graduate School. The deans of the College and Pembroke College were supported by 8 associate and assistant deans (along with four faculty members who were assistants to various deans and a Dean of Admission, Pembroke College) and offered leadership and advice to just under 3600 undergraduate students, whereas today the Dean of the College and the Dean of Student Life together with the 25 associate and assistant deans in their offices are responsible for assisting slightly less than 6000 undergraduate students.
The growth in the number of deans mirrors the increasing complexity of coping with the multitude of issues confronting us in a more diverse and more contentious educational climate. It is worth noting that most other University departments have also grown more rapidly than has the number of students in the past three decades. Even the Graduate School doubled its number of associate deans while the number of graduate students remained constant, and the number of faculty members has grown at a higher rate than has the number of students. The increase in the number of undergraduate deans is in fact relatively modest compared with the growth of other key administrative departments, but still it has been significant. The Dean of the College has always born special responsibility for formulating and implementing an educational vision that guides undergraduate study at Brown. For this reason alone it is appropriate for the University to be concerned about how the office most responsible for the success of the College is faring. The Office of Student Life was established with the recognition that there were a number of campus life responsibilities that could be best handled by professionals devoting their full energy to them, including many new ones imposed on the University.
We begin with a review of the individual points we were charged with examining along with brief responses to each. The full charge, along with a list of the Task Force members, is attached as Appendix 1. We were asked to:
- review the mission statements of the Office of the Dean of the College and the Office of Student Life.
Both mission statements (Appendices 2a and 2b) reflect the shared responsibility that the two offices have for the academic and personal development of students, and both seem to the Task Force to describe the central missions of the two offices accurately. Of course, as new responsibilities and areas of interest come into focus, they are not always obviously related to the mission statements, and thus mission statements are apt to need periodic updating. We urge that both statements be brought up to date. Furthermore, it might be appropriate for both offices to include some reference to the necessity of working together with the other office in the interest of enhancing the unity between academic and non-academic life which we seek to encourage. Indeed, it could be useful for the offices to devise a joint mission statement supplemented by statements from each office defining what specific responsibilities it assumes and how these contribute to their shared goals.
- assess the extent to which the mission statements and associated activities of the two offices complement each other.
According to its mission statement, the Office of the Dean of the College aims to "facilitate the intellectual and personal growth of students," while the Office of Student Life would "foster the common enterprise of learning in all of its members." While further statements also describe more specific responsibilities that differ, it seems evident that the two offices understand that they share a common core of responsibility.
- identify any areas of overlap and evaluate whether such overlap is appropriate or problematic.
Specific areas of overlap include, in addition to general responsibility for student development: disability services, alcohol and drug dependence, diversity, women's issues, peer counseling and academic advising, grants and awards. Overlap is both appropriate and problematic. It is appropriate because the lives of students cannot neatly be bisected into academic and non-academic components. It is problematic because programs and areas of focus have often developed out of the interests and abilities of individuals rather than out of rational decisions about which office has primary responsibility in a given area. Under these circumstances, current cooperation between the two offices is dependent on the goodwill and cooperativeness of individuals, and future cooperation, and even attention to the particular area of concern, is not guaranteed when individuals leave.
- identify any gaps in the activities or services provided to undergraduate students by either/both office.
Students continue to feel that there are important gaps in the academic advising system, but this issue is currently being reviewed elsewhere and we do not address it except in passing in our report. The most important gap, in our view, is that the two offices have drifted further apart over time, and the sense that they share important responsibilities, while still present, is no longer as central as it once was.
- review how effective communication is within each office, between the two offices, as well as to other constituencies throughout the University community.
The importance of communication between the two offices was acknowledged by the Deans of the College and of Student Life, but both also noted that it was an area where more needed to be done, and we agree. Communication within the Office of Student Life seems to function very well, while that within the Office of the Dean of the College appears to need improvement in key areas. Graduate students are concerned that many services currently provided for undergraduate students are also needed for graduate students. Even when such services are available to graduate students, they are currently not always aware of this.
- evaluate the rationale for the different offices that report to the dean of the college and the dean of student life and indicate whether the reporting relationships are configured in the best possible way.
One conclusion we want to emphasize is that if there is a "best possible way" to (re)configure reporting relationships, we have not found it. Reporting relationships have typically developed out of the specific history of the units in question, they are usually justified by rationales that suggest that the current relationship is the best possible one, and units often function very effectively with relationships that probably make no sense to an outside analyst. We think that reporting relationships could be reconfigured in some cases for the sake of organizational clarity, but we also think that attempts at reconfiguration will not be greeted with great enthusiasm by those affected and may cause more disruption than they are worth.
- consider whether the organizational structures currently in place are optimal for realizing the academic and student life needs of the undergraduate student body and recommend any appropriate changes to those structures.
On this point, our thoughts are much the same as those on rationales and reporting relationships: there is no optimal organizational structure, or at least none that we have identified. Each has its advantages and disadvantages. We are going to propose two models for further consideration, both of which retain significant elements of the current structures while also proposing some changes, but we have no illusions that either is "optimal."
The Task Force on the College and on Student Life was appointed by the Provost at the beginning of February. It met with her on February 12, 1998 to receive its charge. Since then it has been meeting every Thursday afternoon. It held an additional evening session on March 17, added a second Thursday session beginning on March 17, conducted two open meetings on April 1, met three times on April 23, and assembled again on April 28 to work out final details of the report so it could be presented by the end of April. The Task Force has thus met 20 times in slightly more than two months (Spring Break fell in the middle of its deliberations). The Task Force has collectively interviewed twelve staff members (many of whom submitted written materials to support their oral testimony) and eleven students representing the peer counseling programs. We sent out a letter inviting written comments to 47 staff members from the two offices we were charged with examining and other related ones. We have received seventeen written communications from interested parties. In addition, the Chair has met with 20 staff members, including some who also provided written comments, and has received further information via electronic mail or telephone messages from another six people. In each case, he has attempted to report the gist of these conversations to the Task Force. A list of those with whom we have spoken or who have submitted comments is attached as Appendix 3. The public forum for faculty and staff was well-attended and generated a range of important comments that helped us in our deliberations. The student forum, by contrast, drew only two graduate students. While we had a productive interchange with them, we realized that we had not succeeded in reaching undergraduate students, so each member of the Task Force made a specific effort to speak with students whom they knew to generate at least a larger sample of student opinion. The charge of the Task Force was also discussed at meetings of the Undergraduate Council of Students and the undergraduate members made a special effort to speak with numerous students, given the poor attendance at the open forum. We are grateful to everyone who contributed to the process, both those specifically named and those who contributed informally in conversations with members of the Task Force.
We have tried to collect as much information as we could within the limited time available to us to complete our report. We are acutely aware that in our rush to finish we may have overlooked some important perspectives or failed to speak with individuals who might have been able to guide us in other directions. For that reason, we think that this report should be viewed as the beginning of a process that will continue for some time during an extended period of transition rather than as a comprehensive blueprint for immediate changes. This is even more true with the announcement on April 20, 1998 that Brian Hawkins, Senior Vice President for Academic Planning and Administrative Affairs, will be leaving Brown on June 1. Opportunities for further reconfigurations may now arise, but the Task Force does not address them in any detail in its report, both because this would delay the process and because it would go beyond the original charge to the Task Force.
Resistance to change. The most striking finding, though perhaps not a surprising one, was that virtually everyone we interviewed felt that their particular office currently was located at the proper place in the University hierarchy. This was true even of individuals who expressed particular concerns about how their office was currently functioning. This is important to consider if any changes are contemplated. Changes may be disruptive simply because the initial reaction of people affected by them is apt to be that they like things the way they are and perceive change as a negative evaluation of their performance. Brown University is, indeed, a very conservative institution when it comes to its operational structures. The conventional wisdom seems to be: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." However, we think there are also good reasons for us to imagine how things could be done better in the future rather than to have us be contented merely with what has worked in the past.
Peer counseling, diversity, and community. Three peer counseling programs co-exist at Brown: Residential Counselors, Women's Peer Counselors, and Minority Peer Counselors. Each are available for all first-year students, but questions are often raised as to whether we need three separate peer counseling programs or whether issues of gender and diversity should not be addressed within a single program. Specialized training could be given to those who choose to obtain it. Advocates for greater unity within the peer counseling system can readily be found at Brown, and it is a view particularly commonly articulated by outside observers and by staff members from the Office of Student Life who are charged with managing two of the three peer counseling systems. Arguments advanced in favor of a more unified system include administrative efficiency and concerns that the programs as now structured work against a desire that we frequently heard for fostering a sense of community among students.
Yet each program has its own history, including the oral history passed from one generation of students to the next, and each has articulate and loyal defenders in the present generation of leaders. The Minority Peer Counseling program, in particular, takes fierce pride in its independence as a student-initiated, student-run program. The Task Force finds the arguments for greater coherence among the programs appealing at one level, but the program coordinators persuaded us that more might be lost than gained by any attempt to let organizational logic override decades of history. Indeed, we see the peer counseling programs as a good example of a larger issue at Brown: the University has worked hard for many years to encourage diversity, yet it also expects that after diverse individuals assemble on campus, they will readily be shaped into a harmonious community. Just as we think that a diverse community might require a more sophisticated definition of community than a piece of clothing or other overt symbol of belonging, so also we might expect that the continued existence of a complex peer counseling system is a reflection of the complexity of the Brown community. Seemingly anomalous structures often arise in complex organizations to address particular needs at particular times, and the structural anomaly in itself seldom determines how effective the relevant units might be.
The staff advisor to the Minority Peer Counseling program is the Director of the Third World Center who, unlike the advisors to the other peer counseling programs, reports to the Dean of the College and also serves as an academic dean. More integration among the peer counseling programs could follow from having the Third World Center report to the Dean of Student Life, a move that is resolutely opposed by supporters of the Third World Center who see its primary mission as being academic. We will return to this issue when we discuss possible models for restructuring.
Increasing specialization and philosophical differences. We have heard concerns about increasing specialization as one of the factors driving the two offices apart. In part this is an inevitable result of the different responsibilities of the two offices, in part it is simply not true, and in part it would probably be less of a problem if there was more interaction between the two offices and between Student Life and the Brown faculty. We do not offer specific recommendations in this area because the leaders of both offices seem to be aware of the problem, but we encourage them to give it more attention.
Perceptions of hierarchy. Many people have noted, some approvingly and some disapprovingly, that the Office of the Dean of the College is regarded as being more prestigious than the Office of the Dean of Student Life at Brown. Those who approve think that the College should be held in higher esteem because of its academic mission. But in our view, the work of the two offices is complementary, both have crucial assignments in promoting a stimulating and productive environment for student development, and Brown would be strengthened if collaboration between the two offices could be strengthened.
Still, there is little doubt that the two offices are currently perceived differently by large segments of the University, and this is nowhere more clear than in the desire of centers to report to the Dean of the College rather than to the Dean of Student Life. Indeed, we also share the view that the Dean of the College has a special mission at Brown to provide leadership for undergraduate education. We will return to this issue when we discuss models for restructuring. But it also needs to be emphasized that the lives of students are not made up of discrete academic and non-academic components, and the work of the Office of Student Life is ultimately just as important to the Brown community. We think that creative ways must be found to build links between Student Life and the Faculty, that Student Life and the College need to work more concertedly, and that ways have to be found to keep Student Life from being little more than a crisis response center.
Graduate students. Academic departments have traditionally viewed themselves as being the main providers of advice and support for graduate students enrolled in their programs, while the Graduate School has dealt directly with graduate students primarily through the Graduate Student Council or in matters of financial aid or compliance with University regulations. Yet many of the non-academic problems faced by graduate students do not differ much from those of undergraduate students. This has already been acknowledged by Carla Hansen's split responsibilities as Associate Dean of Student Life and of the Graduate School. She feels, however, that the time she has available for graduate students is insufficient for her to reach out actively to those who might benefit from services already available. The Task Force believes that as the University embarks on a program to strengthen graduate education, the non-academic needs of graduate students also require attention.
The creation of the Community Directors program, which places graduate students in undergraduate residential units, is an important initiative towards building bridges between graduate and undergraduate students while also adding a new source of support for graduate students. The relationship between peer counselors and community directors is still being worked out in practice, but we think that the program is a promising initiative and could become an even more successful one if it could help strengthen the role of Faculty Fellows in the residential units. We wonder if the closer link to the Office of the Dean of the College which we will propose as one way of reinvigorating the Faculty Fellows Program might not provide a way of adding an important connection to the academic programs of the University. The initiative currently underway under the direction of Deans Shaw and Reed to establish clusters of Meiklejohn and faculty advisers could conceivably even be reconfigured to link such groups to Faculty Fellows and perhaps thereby provide a way to bring Meiklejohn Fellows into contact with residential units. We do not have detailed notions as to how this could be done, but we offer it as an idea for further exploration, one that could also lead to productive cooperation between Student Life and the College.
Geography. Finally, we want to point out that the location of offices matters. It was interesting for us to discover that a number of students who attended Brown in the early nineties observed that Student Life and the College were still one office when they entered Brown but were split before they graduated. In fact, the offices were split in 1979, and what happened in the early nineties was that Student Life moved to its present location at 26 Benevolent Street. We also note that the Dean of Student Life has commented on how much office morale improved after the move into a single location (while also emphasizing how cramped they were in their present quarters). Still, from the perspective of students, the offices were united as long as they both seemed to be located in the same building (In truth only the Dean of Student Life had an office in University Hall. All other units were dispersed in different buildings, e.g., Rhode Island Hall and Health Services). Now students have to figure out for themselves whether to go to University Hall or to 26 Benevolent Street. The decision may seem simple to the people in the offices, but we have collected ample evidence to suggest that it is not obvious to students. Of course, the assignment of office space is always contentious and we do not propose specific changes. Furthermore, the incorporation of all the centers and individuals reporting to both offices in one gigantic building is unrealistic and would no doubt seem highly undesirable to those happy with their present quarters. It might, however, be useful to think about ways to create mental maps that point people easily and reliably in the right direction and emphasize interconnectedness rather than separation. What is more, the mere presence of the Dean of Student Life in University Hall gave the office a centrality that has been lost. We make no specific recommendations, but some of us would welcome seeing the Office of Student Life (excluding of course Health and Psychological Services) in University Hall instead of some of the current units that seem less central to the academic mission of Brown.
After having summarized some of our observations and findings, we would like to address two overriding concerns that grew out of these discussions and also that guided us in the formulation of two models described in the next section.
Separation between the two offices. There is a pervasive sense among staff members that the Office of the Dean of the College and the Office of the Dean of Student Life have drifted apart in recent years, both in terms of their underlying philosophies and in terms of interaction between the two offices. Most, but not all, staff members see this as a loss and would like to see more interaction. Indeed, both deans indicated their awareness of this problem and discussed measures they had taken or were planning to take to bridge the perceived gap. A few staff members see it is as the inevitable result of the different missions of the two offices and see no reason why things should be different. The majority, however, recognizes that the lives of students cannot neatly be divided into the academic and the non-academic. This particular polarization is currently being exacerbated by organizational structure and much of our report is concerned with ways to lessen the polarization.
During the last two months we have accumulated an overwhelming amount of evidence that the two offices have drifted apart. We believe that steps are required to restore a stronger working relationship. As noted, a few of the individuals with whom we spoke thought that this was a natural outgrowth of the different missions of the two offices, but we think that there are powerful reasons not to adopt this viewpoint. Most people are forced to divide their adult lives between work and pleasure, between what they do to make a living and what they do when they control their own time. We think that a sharp distinction between academic and non-academic life implants in young people the notion that the life of the mind is like work and the rest of life is like pleasure. Most people who choose academic life in fact do so in part because they see their lives as more whole than the lives that many of their fellow citizens are forced to live, and we want to convey this message to our students, namely, that whatever they choose to do, they should strive to have their work enhance their lives and to have their life experiences enhance their work. Hence we feel that it is absolutely essential that student life and student academic life be part of a unified whole. Again, we think of the Faculty Fellows and the Community Directors as an important potential link between academic and residential life that has potential for further growth.
Many positive suggestions for increased cooperation came out of our discussions (e.g., regular joint staff meetings, staff meetings focused on an issue of interest to those participating, rotation of individual deans through a period when they attend staff meetings of the other office, assignment of joint responsibility around particular issues, collaboration on specific projects) some of which are already being implemented. Much of the concern about separation between the offices derives from the perception that collaboration is closest among those who have been here longest, that is, those who worked together before the offices were separated. Yet, these are the individuals who will be retiring in the years ahead, and thus we think that additional steps need to be taken now to keep the split from growing larger.
Communication and leadership. It is probably inevitable that some units will feel that their interests are not high priorities within their reporting structures. Leadership requires that priorities be clearly justified to staff and to the community. We discovered serious misunderstandings in this regard among the staff of the Dean of the College. Accordingly, the Task Force recommends that communication within the office receive appropriate attention. Staff morale in the Office of the Dean of Student Life is generally high, and complaints voiced in one area or the other seldom reflect problems of communication within the office.
Furthermore, priorities change as the needs of students change and as new program ideas are implemented. Staff members in both offices expressed frustration at what they felt was a tendency for programs to be added, thereby increasing workloads, without either increases in staff or identification of areas that should receive reduced attention or should be phased out entirely. In many cases, the increased workload results less from program initiatives than from requirements imposed from outside, e.g., compliance with statutes, disciplinary cases, or demands for new services. We suspect that this is a problem not exclusive to Brown, but it is one that requires vigilant leadership.
The Dean of the College is one of four academic deans, along with the Dean of the Faculty, the Dean of Biology and Medicine, and the Dean of the Graduate School, who sit on major committees and councils and help shape the future of the University. He or she does not, however, control a significant academic budget that determines which faculty members or graduate students will be part of the University community. The Office of the Dean of the College is widely perceived as being the office with primary responsibility for maintaining the integrity of the undergraduate curriculum and it does an excellent job of fulfilling this mission in concert with faculty committees. The leadership role is ultimately dependent on the ability of the Dean to articulate a vision of what a Brown education is, should be, and can become under the Dean's leadership and to use the limited resources of the office wisely to implement this vision. The University needs to keep this in mind whenever reorganization is undertaken.
Several models emerged from our discussions and our examination of structures at other institutions, but in the end we decided in favor of describing two models, one retaining our present dual structure but increasing collaboration between the two offices (collaborative model) and a second which unifies the two offices under a newly-defined Dean of the College position integrating all aspects of the undergraduate experience, curricular and extra-curricular (New Dean of the College model).
The collaborative model. Under this model, the present two-office structure would be retained, perhaps with some redefinition of reporting lines, but linkages would be created over specific issues to ensure that the two offices worked together in ways that could draw strength from the anticipated collaborative synergy. The Dean of the College would continue to have primary responsibility for undergraduate academic affairs and the Dean of Student Life would continue to have primary responsibility for student life outside of the classroom, but issue areas would be identified in which working groups would be established drawing on personnel from both offices, groups which could be reconstituted as personnel changes. Furthermore, job descriptions for new appointments to either office would be filed only after consultation with the other office. The directors of centers that have particular interests in the issue areas would also become members of the working groups.
In addition to encouraging increased collaboration between the two offices, we want to urge that ways be devised to increase faculty participation in these collaborative activities. The most obvious example would be a revitalized Faculty Fellows Program, a natural link between the two offices and the Faculty. Existing Faculty committees with related interests could also either become advisory committees to the working groups or could occasionally meet with them, depending on how closely related their work was. Indeed, we suspect that there are other forms of productive collaboration not yet imagined. Above all, it is important to emphasize that we do not envision these linkages as the creation of a new layer of bureaucracy. We see it as acknowledgment of work already occurring and encouragement of more such collaborations, drawing on personnel from both offices and also involving other segments of the community. Above all, we see it as a way of ensuring that collaboration between the offices will continue even when personnel changes.
At first glance, we can envision working groups in the following areas, though we think that such a list needs further study, and its creation could become a joint charge to the two offices (related centers and faculty committees are given in parentheses): public service (Swearer Center), orientation, disability services, alcohol and drug dependency, women's concerns (Sarah Doyle Women's Center, Faculty Committee on the Status of Women), diversity issues (Third World Center, Faculty Committee on Minority Faculty Recruitment), peer counseling and academic advising (Career Planning, Faculty Committee on Student Life) spiritual concerns (the Chaplain's Office), violations of the Tenets of Community Behavior (University Disciplinary Council, Committee on the Academic Code), international living (Office of International Programs; Foreign Student, Faculty and Staff Service), and, perhaps highest of all on the list of priorities, community building (e.g., the Community Directors Program, the Faculty Fellows Program, the Community Building Workshops, the Convocation Series, the Faculty/Student Dinners).
Our proposed model does not specifically address one problem that requires some attention, that of overly flat administrative structures in the two offices (too many reporting lines going directly to the deans). The Dean of Student Life identified this problem herself when she appeared before the Task Force. It has not to our knowledge led to loss of office morale, though it may be reducing the efficiency of the office by drawing the Dean into crisis management more than might be necessary. In the case of the Dean of the College, all associate and assistant deans in University Hall report directly to the Dean, as do the directors and coordinators of affiliated centers. This has become an essentially unmanageable administrative structure, and we think that a new structure needs to be implemented to reduce the number of reporting lines, perhaps by identifying several major areas of work and putting one associate dean in charge of each, with only these associate deans reporting directly to the Dean of the College, even if the degree of autonomy currently enjoyed by individual associate deans is thereby reduced and even if the amount of direct administrative control exercised by the Dean of the College is reduced. We also think that each of the two deans would benefit from having a major administrative assistant to take over more of the day-to-day administrative tasks and to leave the dean with more time to devote to larger issues, a position that we think might be created through internal reorganization. The collaborative model would also require centers to work closely with both offices and might reduce concerns about the appropriateness of their particular reporting line.
The "New" Dean of the College model. In contrast to the dual collaborative model, we offer as an alternative a model that would redefine the position of Dean of the College by making it one of the major administrative as well as academic positions in the University.
There could be three reporting lines to the New Dean of the College: a Dean of Campus Life which would incorporate not only present Student Life functions, but also, e.g., Athletics, the Chaplain's Office, Residential Life, and Police and Security, with an appropriate administrative infrastructure. A Dean of Undergraduate Programs and Advising could incorporate much of what is now done by associate deans of the College, perhaps with the addition of, e.g., the Faculty Fellows Program and Summer Studies (this position would most closely resemble that currently defined as the Dean of the College). Finally, a Dean of Academic Services could supervise programs that have undergraduate education as their major focus but also provide important services to other segments of the University such as Career Services, the Writing Fellows Program, the Sarah Doyle Women's Center, the Third World Center, the Swearer Center for Public Service, and the Wayland Collegium. The list is not intended to be exhaustive, and we are not strongly committed to a particular list. It is supposed to be illustrative of the principles underlying our model.
The New Dean of the College would of course have to combine managerial talents with intellectual vision. That such people exist is evident from the ability of institutions to find provosts and deans of large schools within universities. This model appeals to us because it would provide the Office of the Dean of the College with control over a substantial segment of University resources and thereby provide the gravitas that has previously been missing from the office. Such a Dean of the College would have the opportunity to implement an academic vision not by changing what academic departments do but by spreading ideas throughout the fabric of University life. This model entails greater risk for the University. A New Dean of the College who was not up to the challenge of the office would be just as calamitous to the University as a Provost, a Dean of the Faculty, or a Dean of the Graduate School who was not up to the challenge. Similarly, the Dean of Campus Life would have enormous responsibilities, both fiscal and intellectual ones. On the other hand, we also think that these position might attract outstanding candidates who would have the opportunity to develop their talents in new and creative ways. The rewards could also be great for the University and could bring us into the next millennium with a new sense of purpose. Indeed, we would see the adoption of a New Dean of the College as a commitment to a new conventional wisdom at Brown: seize the opportunity for improvement, even if it entails risk.
We have offered two models for restructuring. As a body, we are not overwhelmingly committed to one in preference to the other, because one thing we have learned at Brown is that there are many ways to achieve common goals. In fact, most people whom we asked think that we are currently doing quite well, and nothing disastrous is likely to happen if we make no structural changes at all. Still, we do think that we must make renewed efforts to integrate the academic and social life of students and to reinforce the notion that Brown needs a vigorous proponent of undergraduate education, especially as we embark on the path of strengthening our graduate programs.
We also think that no organizational chart will ever be completely logical nor will the redrawing of organizational charts lead to better functioning of the organization if it is accompanied by excessive distress on the part of the units reorganized. Indeed, we have resisted the temptation to draw sample organizational charts because we fear that they might short-circuit thinking: readers would go straight to the organization charts without considering the rationales behind them. Still, some reporting lines seem more logical than others, and we would like to point to several of them that at least raise questions, without insisting that they need to be changed. The Third World Center currently reports to the Dean of the College, and vigorously justifies this on grounds of its role in academic affairs, yet much of what it does seems closely related to activities usually associated with student life. The Sarah Doyle Women's Center currently reports to the Dean of the Faculty, and vigorously defends this reporting line on the grounds that it provides services to faculty and staff women as well as to students, yet we doubt that it would exist without its central role as a support resource for undergraduate students. The University Chaplain currently reports to the Provost, and vigorously justifies this reporting line on the grounds that much of the work of the chaplaincy also involves support for faculty and staff members, with the additional caveat that the reassignment of chaplains to student life offices has usually been a harbinger of their elimination at other institutions. We acknowledge this but still think that the major role of the chaplains is to provide spiritual support for students. We could extend the list, but we would rather argue that the reporting lines of all centers and programs be reexamined as part of a larger restructuring, if indeed this is to take place.
Finally, if the Offices of the Dean of the College and the Dean of Student Life, and any other units of the University for that matter, are reorganized, we would warn against excessive zeal in striving for organizational perfection. One member of the Task Force noted that anomalies are not necessarily flaws. We wholeheartedly subscribe to this view, provided we also keep in mind that the elimination of anomaly is also not necessarily bad just because it changes an ancient tradition, and we urge the Provost to keep these two points in mind in recommending possible changes.
April 30, 1998
Appendix 1: Charge and Membership
Task Force on the College and Student Life
Brown University has had a long-standing commitment to undergraduate education, and, as such, it has provided support for both the academic and non-academic life of undergraduate students. In 1979, the Office of Student Life was created and separated from the function and authority of the Dean of the College. Thus, Brown has a unique administrative structure Ò an office of the dean of the college (including the deans of the college and other offices which report to the dean) which is responsible for the academic life of undergraduates and for articulating and supporting the Brown curriculum, and office of student life (including the deans of student life and other offices which report to the dean) which is responsible for the non-academic life of undergraduates. There has been no formal review of the relationship between the two offices since 1979. Now 19 years later, it is time to implement such a review to ensure that we continue to provide the best quality educational experience for our undergraduates. To that end, the Provost is appointing a task force with the following charge:
- review the mission statements of the Office of the Dean of the College and the Office of Student Life
- assess the extent to which the mission statements and associated activities of the two offices complement each other
- identify any areas of overlap and evaluate whether such overlap is appropriate or problematic
- identify any gaps in the activities or services provided to undergraduate students by either/both office
- review how effective communication is within each office, between the two offices, as well as to other constituencies throughout the University community
- evaluate the rationale for the different offices that report to the dean of the college and the dean of student life and indicate whether the reporting relationships are configured in the best possible way
- consider whether the organizational structures currently in place are optimal for realizing the academic and student life needs of the undergraduate student body and recommend any appropriate changes to those structures.
Members of the Task Force:
William Crossgrove (Chair), Professor of German Studies and Comparative Literature
Meera Viswanathan (Vice-chair), Associate Professor of East Asian Studies and Comparative Literature
Wendy Edwards, Professor of Visual Art
Ferdinand Jones, Professor Emeritus of Psychology
Katherine Lewis, University Registrar and Dean of Curricular Research
Carey Jaros, '00, Coordinator of Communications, Undergraduate Council of Students
Seth Andrew, '00, Vice-President, Undergraduate Council of Students
Deborah Vernon, Ph.D. candidate in Engineering, Treasurer of the Graduate Student Council
Office of the Dean of the College
The mission of the Office of the Dean of the College is to facilitate the intellectual and personal growth of students through programs of academic advising, curricular development, and social awareness. The Office plays a central role in the articulation, development, and continuing support of the educational philosophy of Brown University, a philosophy that emphasizes the acquisition of broadly liberal knowledge, the development of particular competence in a field of concentration, and the active involvement of students in their own educations. The Deans work in concert with the faculty of the University to ensure that the Brown Curriculum maintains this philosophy in a changing world. The Office's many programs guide students to make informed curricular choices and to be both introspective and aware of the world outside themselves.
The Office of the Dean of the College carries out this mission through six primary areas:
- enhancing the curriculum and fostering curricular development,
- developing Brown's academic advising programs,
- interacting closely with students, as well as facilitating communication among the many constituencies that make up the Brown community,
- monitoring students' academic performance and providing academic assistance,
- enabling students to have substantive learning experiences outside the classroom, and
- encouraging a sense of community marked by both diversity and tolerance.
The Dean's Office plays a central role in stimulating the development of the curriculum in response to changes taking place in the social and academic worlds. Through curricular initiatives such as the Great Books: Then and Now, Foreign Language Across the Curriculum, and Odyssey programs, the Dean's Office ensures that the curriculum remains responsive to new intellectual trends while also incorporating cultural perspectives not previously included in Brown's course offerings. Many of these initiatives are supported by outside funding secured by the Dean's Office. The College Curriculum Council (CCC), chaired by the Dean of the College, sets curricular policy and has oversight of the quality and completeness of the curriculum as a whole.
The Dean's Office maintains academic advising programs for students that carry them through their academic careers at Brown and address a variety of academic concerns. First-year students are matched with Academic Advisors; sophomores receive advice through the Sophomore Advising Program and Randall Counselors, and also are introduced to potential concentrations through Sophomore Class Meetings, an annual Concentration Forum, and departmental Open Houses. The Office provides written materials and regular orientation sessions for faculty members serving as advisors. Students at all levels speak with individual Deans about a variety of concerns including their personal courses of study, professional and graduate school plans, and career aspirations. Students also receive advice on their future plans, and assistance in realizing those plans, from the Office of Career Planning.
The Dean's Office also works to foster collaboration, communication, and personal interaction between and among students, faculty, administrators, parents, and the Dean's Office itself. Deans work with students on an individual level, and on a regular basis: they make individual appointments with students to discuss academic and personal issues, keep weekly open hours during which students can drop in to ask particular questions, work closely with students on academic committees and co-curricular programs, and often serve as regular academic advisors to first-year students and sophomores. Through such Dean's Office initiatives as the Meiklejohn Advising Program, the Undergraduate Teaching and Research Assistantship (UTRA) program, and the Writing Fellows program, students and faculty are brought together to work collaboratively in academic research, in teaching, and in advising undergraduates. Finally, the Dean's Office issues annual publications which inform students, parents, faculty, and other interested parties about Brown's academic philosophy and programs.
Through the Committee on Academic Standing (CAS) and through its role in administering the Academic Code, the Dean's Office helps ensure that all students make adequate progress toward their degrees and do so in accordance with Brown's standards of academic integrity. The Office offers tutoring programs, study skills workshops, and services for learning-disabled students so that students who need academic assistance are able to receive the help they require.
The Deans recognize that learning is deepened and enriched by work done outside the curriculum. Students are encouraged to shape their courses of study according to their particular interests through the creation of Independent Study Projects, Group Independent Study Projects, and Independent Concentrations. Through Odyssey projects and Undergraduate Teaching and Research Assistantships, students work with faculty as collaborators in the development of courses and the pursuit of research. The Resource Center, the Office of International Programs, the Center for Public Service, and the Deans apprise students of opportunities for leave-taking, academic internships, public service in the Providence community, employment opportunities through the College Venture Program, and study abroad in over 30 countries. The Dean's Office provides counseling and assistance for students eligible for internal and external fellowships, including Brown's Arnold, Baker, and Emory Fellowships as well as the Rhodes, Marshall, and Fulbright Scholarships.
In all these activities the Dean's Office works to develop a sense of community and a respect for diversity on campus. The Deans of the College work with other members of the Brown faculty and administration to engender a multicultural environment in which students learn to appreciate and celebrate differences in culture, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, class, and sexual orientation as well as to understand basic human commonalities. This process begins with a series of freshman class meetings on such issues as diversity, pluralism, and community values for all new students and the Third World Transition Program for students of color. These efforts continue during the year through the many activities of the Third World Center, curricular initiatives designed to expand the cultural scope of the curriculum, support of the Resident Counselor and Minority Peer Counselor programs, and cooperative programs with other offices such as the Chaplains and Student Life.
Office of Student Life
The Office of Student Life is charged with creating and maintaining a University-College community that fosters the common enterprise of learning in all of its members. This charge is based on the understanding that personal growth, development, and self-respect are enhanced in an environment that comprehensively teaches and supports an appreciation for the differences in others; and that learning best occurs in an environment which provides stimulation and support.
Student Life staff members are educators who support the broad goals of the University to teach students the knowledge of the world and to guide them in the process of discovery. They exercise their part of the University mission by offering support to students and by playing an interactive role between students and the rest of the University community. When it is necessary, they may be advocates for the student point of view or interpreters of the students' voice. Student Life staff members hence provide a vital communication link between community groups helping to represent each to the other, particularly in the establishment and articulation of community behavior expectations. They administer a wide variety of educational programs which promote psychological, social, and moral development, and a discipline system. They maintain services such as professional counseling, Health Services, Psychological Services, and Health Education. They also provide group programs, workshops, and occasions for community gatherings and interaction.
Student Life deans and other staff are the front line managers of the inevitable medical, personal, familial, and relational crises that occur in the community. In these roles, as well as in their capacity as disciplinarians, they are guided by the educational mission of Brown University.
An ongoing aspect of the Student Life mission is the assessment of the Office's efforts to insure that they remain consistent with, and advance, the aims and mission of the University.
Appendix 3: Individuals consulted.
The following staff members appeared before the Task Force: Kenneth Sacks, Dean of the College; Robin Rose, Dean of Student Life; Bruce Donovan, Associate Dean of the College and Dean of Chemical Dependency; Karen Romer, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; Thomas Bechtel, Dean of Undergraduate Counseling; Janet Cooper Nelson, Chaplain; Karen McLaurin Chesson, Director of the Third World Center and Associate Dean of the College; Margaret Klawunn, Director of the Sarah Doyle Women's Center; Arthur Gallagher, Director of Residential Life and Associate Dean of Student Life; Thomas Forsberg, Assistant Director of Residential Life; Donald Desrochers, Associate Director of Residential Life; and Carla Hansen, Associate Dean of Student Life and of the Graduate School. As noted in the report, many of those who appeared before the Task Force also supplied us with written materials.
Students who met with the Task Force representing Resident Counselors, Women's Peer Counselors, Minority Peer Counselors, and Meiklejohn Advisors include: Adrian Gardner, Xochitl Gonzalez, Kristalee Guerra, Vennette Ho, Rahul Nayak, Danita Parrish, Rachel Pearline, Anika Selhorst, Andrew Shin, Jasmine Waddell, and Gerrit Webbink.
Written communications were received by the Task Force from: Bruce Donovan, Associate Dean of the College and Dean of Chemical Dependency; Sheila Curran, Director of Career Planning; Robert Shaw, Associate Dean of the College; Stephen Smith, Associate Dean for Medical Education; Armando Bengochea, Associate Dean of the College; Rebecca More, Associate Director of the Sheridan Center for the Advancement of College Teaching; Clare Durst, formerly of the Office of the Dean of the College; David Inman, Associate Dean of Student Life and Director of Student Services; Colonel Paul Verrecchia, Chief of Police and Security Services; Kirstin Moritz, Associate Dean of the College and Director of the Office of International Programs; John Eng-Wong, Director of the Foreign Student, Faculty and Staff Service; Lynn Gunzberg, Associate Dean of the College; Robley Matthews, Professor of Geological Science; Stephen Foley, Professor of English; David Targan, Associate Dean of the College; Karen Romer, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs; and Kent Yrchik-Shoemaker, Assistant Director for Outreach in Psychological Services.
The Chair met with Perry Ashley, Associate Dean of the College, Armando Bengochea, Associate Dean of the College; Elizabeth Hart, Associate Dean of the College; Carol Cohen, Associate Dean of the College; David Targan, Associate Dean of the College; Joyce Reed, Associate Dean of the College; Leonard Perry, Associate Dean of Student Life; Lydia English, Associate Dean of the College; Jean Joyce-Brady, Associate Dean of Student Life; Robert Shaw, Associate Dean of the College; David Inman, Associate Dean of Student Life and Director of Student Activities; Bruce Donovan, Associate Dean of the College and Dean of Chemical Dependency; Sheila Curran, Director of Career Planning Services; Kise Takesue, Assistant Dean of Student Life; Belinda Johnson, Director of Psychological Services; Margaret Chang, Director of the College Venture Program; Susan Pliner, Coordinator of Disability Services; Vincent Harisaran, Coordinator of the Resource Center; Arnold Weinstein, Professor of Comparative Literature; Russell Carey, Executive Assistant to the President; and Peter Hocking, Director of the Swearer Center for Public Service.
The Chair also received less detailed but valuable comments via electronic mail or telephone from Kathy Spoehr, Dean of the Faculty; Robert Ripley, Associate Dean of the College; Peter Gromet, Chair of the Student Life Committee; Rhoda Flaxman, Director of the Writing Fellows Program; Leonard Schlesinger, Professor of Service Management at the Harvard Business School; and Ronald Brown, Student Life Officer.
Finally, the individual members of the Task Force solicited opinions about the two offices from students with whom they are acquainted, and we are grateful for their comments even though we cannot acknowledge their contributions by name.######