Leadership Changes Shake OBSA

André Larry PO ’13 was critical of an unexpected change in leadership of the Office of Black Student Affairs (OBSA) last semester. Now he says the new Dean of OBSA has grown on him.

“It definitely has helped with just being able to talk with him and him being open to it,” Larry said. “At first, myself and maybe some other students didn’t know him. At first, he wasn’t going to be as approachable. Once we got to know him, he definitely was here to listen and to want to get to know us.”

Interim Dean of OBSA Clayburn Peters CM ’69 stepped in last October to replace Hughes Suffren, who was Dean for 11 years, after a confidential investigation by the Claremont University Consortium (CUC). The unexpected transition to new leadership elicited criticism from students concerned about the future of the 7C resource center. Students such as Larry thought CUC and college administrators failed to keep students updated on the issue and to inform them about the future of the OBSA.

Larry, who works at the OBSA and was president of the Black Men’s Forum—a 5C student-run organization—last semester, said at the time the loss of Suffren was a “heavy blow” to many black students at the Claremont Colleges.

“Not only was he a dean of students, for many of us he went beyond that call,” Larry told TSL last semester. “He would tell us that as our dean of students for OBSA, he would be by our side any time we needed him. He would be the one person that we could rely on every time.”

In addition to Peters’s arrival as Interim Dean, last semester also marked the hiring of Jason Howie PO ’13 as the OBSA’s Academic Skills Coordinator and the promotion of longtime staff member Kim Gadlin to Acting Assistant Dean for Black Student Affairs from her former position as Coordinator of Student Leadership Programs.

Denise Hayes, CUC Vice President for Student Affairs, wrote in an e-mail to The Student Life that the change in leadership has been accepted by the students.

“The staff members of Black Student Affairs (OBSA) are continuing the goals of OBSA which are to provide academic, social, and emotional support to the students of The Claremont Colleges,” Hayes wrote. “Students are utilizing the services and attending OBSA programs which suggest we are on the right track. We will continue to evaluate programs and assess our effectiveness.”

Larry said that Jason Howie has been especially effective with students at OBSA. Howie provides one-on-one academic assistance and holds workshops for students.

“He definitely has been very helpful and definitely a great asset,” Larry said. “Especially with a lot of us who want different points of view on how to deal with our academics, or just to get information about opportunities that he knows from his experience and also from his time away from the college.”

The CUC is currently selecting nominated students, faculty, and administrators for the search committee for the new Dean of OBSA, and the committee will start reviewing candidates in February or March, Hayes said. The search is scheduled to be completed by the end of the semester.

The CUC has also hosted forums to address student concerns about the direction of the OBSA. Two were held last semester and a third Jan. 23, Hayes said.  

“As far as the outlook of this office going forward, it’s actually interesting because we had another forum where they updated us on what is being done and what has been planned over break,” Larry said. “It was nice to see that we were able to get all of the deans-of-students of all of the five undergrads along with some other CUC staff at the meeting as well. Even though it wasn’t so much of a discussion-based meeting as it had been prior, just to see them in person was great. To see that not only is [CUC] trying to [influence the direction of the OBSA], but that they’re bringing support as well, was definitely a great feeling.”

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