Students Demand Representation in Search for Pomona Dean of College

Pomona College has been conducting an internal search for a Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of the College. The Faculty Search Committee did not include a student representative, but due to a recent request from a group of students, a student chair—Aaron Sege PO '18—was added to help solicit feedback from students. However, even with Sege's involvement, the Faculty Search Committee still does not have students participating in the decision-making process.

Pomona President David Oxtoby, the chair of the Faculty Search Committee, said that the internal search includes current and former members of Pomona's faculty as well as current faculty members of the other Claremont Colleges. The search committee has asked for nominations from the faculty and is beginning to interview nominees.

“The goal is to select hopefully three finalists, and then it will be a public process involving presentations to different groups,” Oxtoby said.

The first stages of the search process have been confidential and have involved only faculty, but Oxtoby said that student participation was “always intended [at] certain stages.”

The current interim dean is Besty Crighton, who began her term in January. Jill Grigsby served as acting dean in fall 2014 after Janice Hudgings was dismissed in November as the Dean of College.

According to Sege, who is leading the student portion of the search, the VPAA/Dean serves as the chief academic officer and “is responsible for coordinating and supporting academic programs, teaching, and research.”

Sege said that the school made no announcements about the search process in its initial stages.

“I was frustrated with the lack of transparency of how this process was happening,” Sege said.

A group of students, including Sege and Christina Tong PO ‘17, the Associated Students of Pomona College (ASPC) commissioner of academic affairs, reached out to the faculty search committee last month to seek student involvement in the process.

“We realized the search was already underway and there wasn’t any student input in the process,” Tong said.

The faculty search committee “replied very quickly” to the request of student participation and was “very open to it,” she added.

Tong sent an email to the Pomona student body inviting students to participate in the search process. Around 20 Pomona students responded. The group then met on Oct. 25 and 26 to develop a standard interview rubric, which some of the students will use to interview the final three candidates on Nov. 15, 16 and 17. A core group of five to 10 students is expected to attend all three interviews, while the other students will participate depending on their availability.

“When the school makes big changes such as selecting a major administrator, students should always be involved in that process,” Tong said. “We are stakeholders. The school needs to remember that and ask us. Secondly, as students, we have unique views on academic affairs and how those policies directly affect us, so what the administration and faculty are looking for in the candidates is not going to be identical with our needs. We want whoever this new person is to also be someone who we think will respect our wants going forward.”

According to Oxtoby, the faculty search committee values student perspectives in the search for the new dean and had intended to reach out to elected student representatives in the process.

According to an email Tong wrote to Pomona students inviting participation, the Dean of the College “oversees programs including study abroad, Oldenborg, the Pomona College Museum of Art, the Writing Center, Athletics, SURP [Summer Undergraduate Research Program] as well as other research funding, the Pacific Basin Institute, the Queer Resource Center and the academic cohorts. This person also oversees the process of recruiting, hiring, and promoting faculty, and sets the vision for Pomona’s academic future.”

Sege said that the students involved in the search process will need to consider the needs of future Pomona students as well as current Pomona students.

“So many of the students who will be affected by this next dean of the college are people who don’t go to Pomona yet, people who don’t have an opportunity to have a voice in this process,” Sege said. “I think that makes it a very serious job for students who will be interviewing the candidates to think hard and make sure we get someone good because we have to represent folks who aren’t even in the room.”

According to Sege, each student will submit feedback to the faculty committee after meeting with the candidates. Students will not be directly involved in the final decision-making process, but their input will be taken into account.

“From how quickly and receptively they agreed to have us involved, I think they do care about our opinions,” Sege said.  “I hope the committee will give serious weight to the students' thoughts.”

Correction: The article originally indicated that Aaron Sege PO '18 was serving on the search committee. He is notrather, he will elicit feedback from students that will then be presented to the committee.

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