A recent campus-wide e-mail announced the dates that three candidates for the soon-to-be-vacant dean of students position will arrive on campus.
Xavier Romano, Susan Hopp and Glenn Smith will visit Linfield in May to meet with students, faculty and staff, along with hosting open forums for the community, in an effort to become the new vice president of student affairs and athletics/dean of students. Dave Hansen, the current dean and professor of economics, will retire from his administrative role at the end of the school year. He will stay on as a part-time professor.
Romano, dean of students for Knox College in Galesburg, Ill., will be the first to visit campus May 10-11.
Romano has been dean of students at Knox for the past 11 years. However, this past year has proved tumultuous for the dean, as he has been the subject of criticism at a recent student forum that raised questions about how college authorities handled sexual assaults on campus.
Approximately 100 students attended a forum to discuss sexual assault at Knox on March 1. According to The Knox Student, the independent student-run paper of Knox College, “Main concerns about how the administration deals with sexual assault include whether victims are given the option to take their case to the Galesburg Police Department, whether there are sufficient consequences for those who commit sexual assault, whether having the same person be a Greek advisor and the Dean of Students presents a conflict of interest and whether there are enough services provided by the college to aid sexual assault victims.”
Romano is both the dean of students and adviser to the Inter-Fraternity Council for Knox, which students have asserted creates a conflict of interest. Students have complained that the university does little in the way of curbing sexual assault on campus, instead just sweeping it under the rug when such incidents happen.
To make matters more convoluted, Romano has been on a leave of absence since March, “dealing with issues relating to his father’s health and exploring his life post-Knox,” TKS stated.
“The past few months have not been representative of Romano as a dean,” Laura Miller, the editor-in-chief of TKS, said. “However, it only takes one incident.”
However, students at Knox have been kept in the dark as to why Romano left, prompting an ambiguous sit-in by students, curious editorials from the newspaper and vague answers from administration.
According to a TKS editorial, “These are the things we know for sure: An e-mail was sent to all students on March 4 explaining that then-Dean of Students Xavier Romano would be on leave and Associate Dean Debbie Southern would take his place. On March 8, the Faculty Committee voted on resolutions that would separate the Dean of Students from automatically chairing the Student Life Committee, and the resolution was sent to SLC for comments. On March 28, Student Senate President Heather Kopec sent an e-mail to Greek presidents stating that Romano was ‘terminated’ from his position. On March 30, Kopec and other students held a ‘sit-in’ in support of Romano and administration transparency.”
The editorial went on to argue that it is unduly difficult for students to feel one way or the other without knowing the facts.
“We weren’t surprised when we found out he’d be leaving, as he had not been on campus for a month at that point,” Miller said. “When we got the first e-mail, though, we were kind of shocked. We’re not sure what prompted the initial leave, and that’s part of the problem.”
Miller said students have not received any official announcement regarding Romano’s extended absence or the reasons behind it.
Knox President Roger Taylor was reported in TKS saying, “There is frustration when I don’t share all the information that maybe you’d like to know about, but there are times when it’s not appropriate. There are times when sharing information might be hurtful to other parties. I know it probably doesn’t lower your level of frustration. There are just some things that would be inappropriate for me to talk about.”
Miller said, as a whole, students have not had problems with Romano as a dean but that these issues represent a faulty process in the Knox administration system.
“He’s always been extremely accommodating for the newspaper,” she said. “For lots of students, he has been a great dean.”
The other candidates, Hopp and Smith, will be on campus May 13-14 and 18-19, respectively. Hopp has been the dean of students at Bucknell University for the past three years.
Smith, the vice provost for student services and enrollment management, has been at Concordia University for 17 years. The Review was unable to contact either candidate before publication.
The Vice President for Student Affairs and Athletics/Dean of Students Search Committee has been responsible for reviewing applicants for the post. The candidates’ applications letters and résumés will be placed on reserve in Nicholson Library.
Editor-in-chief Dominic Baez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org