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Dekker of English named to new slot overseeing graduate policy
STANFORD -- English Professor George Dekker has been appointed to the new position of associate dean of graduate policy, effective Feb. 1. He reports to Dean of Research Charles Kruger.
In some ways, the position is intended to fill the gap left when the position of dean of graduate studies was eliminated in a reorganization 18 months ago. Since then, many faculty and graduate students have complained that no one individual is charged with monitoring graduate education issues.
However, Dekker's duties will not be the same as those of former graduate dean Elizabeth Traugott. In announcing the appointment, Kruger said that President Gerhard Casper and Provost Gerald J. Lieberman deliberately selected the title "graduate policy" rather than "graduate studies" when they created the slot two months ago.
"It sends a signal," Kruger said, "that there is no plan or mandate to reverse decentralization of the departmental administration of graduate studies."
Duties for the new associate dean have not been spelled out in detail. Kruger said that he and Dekker "look forward to working out in consultation with the community the specific responsibilities and activities of this new position."
However, Kruger did say he expected Dekker to monitor existing graduate policies, in the process clarifying what is actually policy and what is generally accepted practice. The new associate dean also will make recommendations to the Academic Council's Committee on Graduate Studies and others about proposed new policies or modifications to old ones, Kruger said.
Dekker said he sees his role as that of mediator and channel of information.
"I expect to have quite a lot of interaction with graduate students," he said, adding that he would share concern for their welfare with Mary Edmonds, vice provost for student affairs, and with the deans of the schools, especially Humanities and Sciences.
"There is a need," Dekker said, "for an identifiable university officer whose job is to maintain an overview of the many interactive elements of graduate education that were parceled out to schools, departments and administrative units during the decentralization of graduate studies."
Among the types of issues he expects to study in conjunction with the Committee on Graduate Studies are how expansion in the number of master's students affects the housing supply and whether it is positive from an academic standpoint, Dekker said.
He said he also is particularly concerned about the long- term impact of probable changes in tuition remission on not only research assistants but also teaching assistants across the university.
Dekker's appointment is half time, but he said he expects to work full time for the first few months while learning the job. He will continue teaching his graduate seminar on American Historical Romance.
A specialist in American literature, Dekker is the Joseph S. Atha Professor in Humanities. He is working on a book-length study about Henry James.
A graduate of the University of California-Santa Barbara, Dekker received his master's degree from Cambridge University and his doctorate from the University of Essex. Before joining the Stanford faculty in 1972, he taught American literature at Essex and at the University of Wales (Swansea). At Essex, he served as dean of the school of comparative studies - the largest and most complex of that university's four schools.
At Stanford, he has twice served as chair of the English department, from 1978 to 1981 and in 1984-85. He was twice elected to the faculty Advisory Board, and frequently serves as a Humanities and Sciences representative to the Faculty Senate. He also served on the senate Steering Committee.
Dekker has chaired review committees for graduate programs in modern thought and literature, comparative literature, and humanities, and chaired the undergraduate interdisciplinary program in American studies for several years.
He was very active last year in the university-wide budget review process, being the only person to serve on both the Faculty Senate's ad hoc Committee on Education and Scholarship at Stanford, and the Cabinet Committee on Budget and Strategic Planning. He continues to serve on the Provost's Committee on Budget Implementation.
Dekker also headed a committee that successfully argued in favor of retaining the University Press when officials were considering closing it.
In January, Dekker's colleagues elected him as one of three steering committee members for the new Humanities and Sciences Faculty Council.
Kruger, a professor of mechanical engineering, said he "came to know and admire" the English professor while they worked together on budget committees.
"All of the graduate students and faculty with whom I consulted in the process of making this appointment," Kruger said, "were extremely complimentary of George's abilities and his concerns for this university and its students."
Dekker is a "highly respected member of the community who will serve it very well in this new role," Kruger said.
Looking back historically, Dekker lightheartedly noted that his appointment continues a 30-year tradition of the English department sharing responsibility with the statistics department for graduate student affairs:
In 1963, the late Virgil Whitaker, former executive head of English, was appointed associate provost and dean of the graduate division. He was followed by Lincoln Moses of statistics, who was called dean of graduate studies. Then came Bliss Carnochan of English with the title of vice provost and dean of graduate studies.
The job went back to statistics when Gerald Lieberman (also associated with operations research) was named vice provost and dean of graduate studies and research. Serving as Lieberman's associate dean of graduate studies was the English department's Albert Gelpi. Next came Elizabeth Traugott of English and linguistics as vice provost and dean of graduate studies.
Dekker's graduate policy office will be in room C-8 of Cypress Hall in Jordan Quad. He can be reached there at 723-9222.
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