Letter to the Editor: Criticizing the process of selecting a ‘minority dean’ (Sept. 12, 1974)
The following was a letter to the chairman published in the Sept. 12, 1974, issue of The Daily Princetonian. It was signed by Chico Albert ’76, Quentin Easter ’75, Mary Miller ’75, Frank Sancho Reed ’76, Russell Smith ’76 and Sonia Sotomayor ’76, members of the undergraduate committee that served in an advisory capacity in the recently completed search for a successor to the former assistant dean of student affairs, Joseph Moore.
The making of a dean
In early June, a new Assistant Dean of Student Affairs was appointed to replace Dean Joseph Moore. As members of the student search committee our purpose here is twofold: 1) to present what we consider to be real problems with the selection procedure as it related to Dean Moore's replacement; and 2) to suggest a general outline of areas of improvement in the future. We wish to state at the beginning that our criticism is with the process, not with any individuals who may have been chosen by that process.
It is best perhaps at this point to recapitulate the events surrounding the selection of the new Assistant Dean. Early in the spring term, Dean Moore announced his resignation as Assistant Dean of Student Affairs whereupon Dean Simmons began the process of selecting a replacement. In his capacity as Assistant Dean and as a black person, Dean Joseph Moore was concerned primarily with minority affairs; consequently his successor would be also.
In an effort to broaden and legitimize the decision making procedure, Dean Simmons asked us as members of the various ethnic and racial minorities to participate. We were given resumes of each of the major candidates considered; we interviewed them; and we were asked to summarize our feelings as to their qualifications. As this procedure continued we grew more and more disillusioned — not with regard to the caliber of the candidates, but with the process in general. Finally, when asked to make our recommendations, we issued instead a list of our grievances and asked that a decision be deferred until they were answered satisfactorily.
In essence, our criticism dealt with two areas: 1) the aspect of student involvement, and 2) the position to be filled vis-a-vis the candidates themselves. Concerning the aspect of student involvement, we raised these questions: How was the search committee itself chosen? Dean Simmons did not consult with the actual membership of the various minority groups; rather, she appointed on an individual basis only those who raised concerns about Dean Moore ’s successor. What was our role as the student search committee? It was never clearly defined; consequently, we were led to believe that it would be more significant than it was in actuality. The only indication we received was a quote in The Daily Princetonian that Dean Simmons would not choose a candidate “unacceptable to the committee.”
With regard to the actual position of the Assistant Dean and its connection to the candidacies involved, we presented the following grievances:
1) There was deferential treatment. Some candidates were more highly considered than others — they saw top-level administrators which others did not; they were shown available university housing which others did not; and they were given different impressions and interpretations of the job. Candidates who received high ratings from students were not necessarily recalled for consideration while others were.
2) The job description placed a great deal of emphasis on the importance of minority concern yet the only candidates considered were Black or Latino. There were no Asian, or Native American, or other minority groups considered. The candidates for this position were scrutinized more closely than any other candidate for a comparable position. Was it because the position was labeled “minority dean”?
There were questions about the whole concept of minority dean — his/her status in the office of student affairs and his/her effectiveness. In addition to this, we sought the reasons for Dean Moore’s departure. Did he sense frustration or feel as though the university was unresponsive, and in the final analysis, not committed to minority students and their needs?
Because of these concerns, we were unwilling to make a decision. We felt that any decision at that time would be illegitimate.
Dean Simmons, notwithstanding our grievances, which were presented in letter form asking for a postponement of a decision, offered the position to David Evans, a Black freshman proctor at Harvard, who turned it down. She then offered it to Luis Garcia, a Puerto Rican and counselor at Rutgers University.
In closing, we raise the issue to begin discussion and reevaluation that will prevent such unfortunate actions in the future. As a start, we feel a definite policy on administrative appointments should be set forth in writing. For instance, regarding student involvement, a detailed policy on the area and extent of our involvement, should be delineated. Also, clear channels should be established to ensure legitimate student input when it is sought. And finally, concerning the appointment process, the procedure established should insure uniform treatment of all candidates. A candidate’s background or the position he or she seeks to fill should be no reasons for preferential treatment on the part of the university.
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