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Edmonds unveils plan for Student Affairs reorganization

Vice Provost and Dean for Student Affairs Mary McKinney Edmonds on Rriday, Jan. 14, unveiled a major reorganization plan for her unit that includes the proposed appointment of a faculty dean of residential education.

Pending approval by the provost, the new half-time dean will oversee the academic activities conducted in student residences, including the integrity of residence-based courses taught by faculty resident fellows.

The dean - who would report to the provost - also would help to recruit resident fellows and encourage faculty to become increasingly involved with students outside the classroom.

At the same time, "round-the-clock" residential services, including housing and dining services, the graduate housing office, and the Housing Center - as well as a newly named Office of Residential Life (currently the Office of Residential Education) - would report to Keith Guy, director of student housing, dining and residential programs.

Among other changes Edmonds has presented (see chart):

Dean of Students Michael Jackson will continue to oversee the Judicial Affairs Office, student community centers, Tresidder Memorial Union and new-student orientation planners.

The Cowell Student Health Center and the Haas Center for Public Service will continue to report directly to Edmonds. With Guy, Jackson, Montoya and Printup, that gives her six direct reports.

Unwieldy unit

Edmonds has been trying to reorganize the unwieldy student affairs unit since she arrived at Stanford from Bowling Green State University in 1992.

The unit, which has approximately 580 employees and an annual budget of $114 million (including $38 million in financial aid), had 11 centers and offices reporting directly to Edmonds, not including her own support staff.

Edmonds initially considered appointing an associate vice provost who would assume responsibility for the majority of the academic support units. However, the potential for as much as 5- to 10-percent budget cuts in Student Affairs each year for the next three years, coupled with the ongoing reevaluation of residential education and advising by the Commission on Undergraduate Education, convinced her to set aside that idea and design a leaner organization.

"This new organization allows us the flexibility to meet the recommendations of the commission," Edmonds said. "Even if the commission recommends changes in residential education and advising, the organizational structure can stay the same."

Implicit in the restructuring, she said, "is the reality that we may not serve our customers as well [or even meet the present expectation for services] or as efficiently as we did in the old environment" due to the need for budget cuts.

"Students will be taking more responsibility for some of their needs, which may have a positive effect on their ability to problem solve," Edmonds added. "With reduced staff, we will not be able to serve the needs of faculty as well as we do presently."

Edmonds stressed that the exact roles of various players in the new organizational framework - particularly the role of the proposed dean of residential education - will have to be defined over time.

"I anticipate confirming the conversations started last Friday with the resident fellows," she said.

The new Office of Residential Life "is not a merger but a new organization," she said. "I hope residential education will be enhanced and students will be served better.

"Some issues cannot be resolved totally until the president announces his position vis a vis the Commission on Undergraduate Education's report on residential education," she added.

Mixed reaction

Staff members and resident fellows who learned of the plan Jan. 14 had varied reactions to the plan, particularly to the idea of placing the Office of Residential Life in the same unit as housing and dining services.

"I support the creation of the dean of residential education; however, I firmly oppose splitting the organization," said Andrew Lisac, assistant dean of summer session and continuing studies and resident fellow in Muwekma-tah-ruk.

"As presented, I cannot see that it saves the university any money, in fact it seems to spend more. It doesn't help the confusion over the residential education mission, [and] finally it seems to push an agenda for residential education that is disharmonious with the history and traditions of Stanford University."

Lisac said he would prefer placing "the entire [Res Ed] organization as it is now constructed under the direct supervision of the new dean of residential education, leaving the post of Residential Life director vacant, and working out some new administrative structure with the current and very capable staff."

However, other resident fellows and staff - including Guy, new director of student housing, dining and residential programs - see advantages to grouping the organizations together.

"My overall reaction is that this organization pulls together in some very logical ways the various portions of the student residences system that have previously been separate," Guy said.

"It gives us the chance to make the connection formally between the service delivery elements of the system and the people who are doing programmatic things. That hasn't been done before."

He is particularly excited about bringing together graduate and undergraduate residence administration together within the same unit.

"The separation of organizations seemed to be somewhat inefficient," he said. "This plan will bring the graduate program into a family of units that can provide additional resources. I'm hoping that there can be some synergy here of ideas and energy that would bring both programs up to a higher level."

Montoya sees advantages to bringing the two components of admissions and financial aids together, as well.

"The model is similar to that of Harvard and Yale, with a dean of admissions who also has overall responsibility for the financial aid program," Montoya said.

"The advantages are that it brings together two highly talented staffs who may be able to work more closely together in meeting the needs of prospective and currently enrolled students.

"It also allows for more thoughtful conversation about the future of financial aid and its impact on the university's ability to attract the nation's brightest and most talented students; and it provides for the possibility of a more efficient and effective program in relation to administration resources."

He stressed that the combining of the two offices would have no effect on Stanford's policy of admitting students without regard to their personal finances.

"Stanford remains committed to need-blind admissions policy," he said. "Applicants will not see a difference in the way we currently operate."



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