Claremont McKenna College Vice President for Student Affairs Jefferson Huang will serve as the college's acting dean of students for the remainder of the academic year during a search for former Dean of Students Mary Spellman's replacement, CMC President Hiram Chodosh announced in an email this morning, Nov. 16.
Spellman resigned this past Thursday, Nov. 12, after she faced calls to resign from students who no longer believed that she could properly represent the interests of all students. This action was spurred by an email Spellman sent to Lisette Espinosa CM '15 that implied that certain students did not fit the “CMC mold,” which became a rallying cry for some students of color who felt unsupported by the college's administration.
Prior to holding his current position, Huang served as CMC's dean of students from 2003 to 2010 before being promoted to vice president of student affairs, as noted in Chodosh's email.
“Dean Huang has taken on this role at a very important time for the College,” Chodosh wrote. “He will be in close touch on our immediate and long-term plans across the spectrum of student services, enrichment, and personal and social responsibility.”
According to Chodosh, Huang will continue to serve as vice president of the college, overseeing student affairs, admissions and financial aid, but his responsibilities in the position will be reduced in order to accommodate his new responsibilities as acting dean of students.
Huang recently came under fire in an open letter to the CMC community from Nathaniel Tsai CM '17 for “standing idle” while Spellman faced calls to step down from student activists.
“You have as much to answer for to the students of this college as Dean Spellman, and we are disappointed in the lack of your response to any of the events occurring,” Tsai wrote in his open letter. “We have not received a single email or note from you, yet you are supposedly one of the most powerful voices on campus.”
Following Chodosh's announcement, Huang emailed the following statement to CMC students:
Dear CMC Students,
I am writing to discuss President Chodosh's decision to ask me to move back to the Dean of Students Office for the rest of the academic year.
Everyone in the field of Student Affairs has some kind of story – some moment or series of moments that brought them into this field. I wanted to tell you a quick version of my story so that you’ll understand my motivation.
I entered the field of Student Affairs over 25 years ago not to become a distracted administrator who makes cavalier decisions about students' lives. I entered the field of Student Affairs because I thought I could do some good in the world by helping college students see things that they didn't see, connect and support them, and help them grow and develop. As the child of an immigrant father and a non-traditionally-college-aged mother, I had experiences that awakened profound feelings in college. I could not have afforded to attend a college similar to CMC if it were not for Financial Aid. I can remember times when I was flat broke, academically adrift, and offended by insensitive actions by my peers, all at the same time. I can distinctly remember times when I felt isolated, confused, and even desperate.
I can also remember one person that I turned to because I was ready to quit college: my Dean, Susan. Susan counseled me and helped me go forward. I don't remember exactly what she said, but I know that she believed in me. Without her, and others like her whom I eventually found, I would not have graduated from college.
So I decided to work in the field of College Student Affairs, and I became one of those people who liked it a lot. I'm an advocate for students, and I want to support all CMC students. And today, I have an added source of inspiration: my own kids, who are in high school now and (hopefully) headed to colleges where some Dean will believe in them.
This is the time for CMC to heal and move forward. What I need from you now are three things: I need a chance to work things out, I need your best ideas for how we can improve the CMC student experience for all students, and I need your support and acceptance, even through my mistakes. What I'm offering in return is someone who will work with you to find some great new staff members to augment the talents in the Dean of Students Office, advocacy for student needs, and a genuine effort to heal and improve our community.
Please know that I always try to keep your best interests close to my heart.