Next Dean of Students Must Continue Tradition of Student Collaboration

Earlier this month, President Carmen Twillie Ambar announced that Meredith Raimondo will be stepping down from her role as vice president and dean of students at the end of this semester. This sets into motion a national search for the next dean of students, where a committee will interview candidates from a range of backgrounds. As the committee hears about the candidate’s qualifications and their vision for themselves in the role, we hope that a commitment to student collaboration remains at the fore.

Facilitating discussion with student leaders and organizations is a major part of any dean of students’ job, but this holds true at Oberlin especially. The College is defined by its history of activism, and students put an immense amount of care and effort into pushing this school to grow. One of the dean’s primary tasks is helping student leaders navigate the structures of faculty governance and administrative bodies to best accomplish their goals. 

If the next dean is an outside hire, they must understand that Obies care deeply and cling steadfastly to their missions. In certain moments, this type of passion can be hard to work with; Obies can be idealistic to the point of stubbornness. But we hope the hiring committee will find a dean who understands that student insight and engagement also one of Oberlin’s strengths.

The dean of students has many responsibilities; the Division of Student Life encompasses a vast array of offices including the Office of Residential Education, Campus Dining Services, the Career Development Center, the Multicultural Resource Center, the International Student Resource Center, Student Health Services, and the Counseling Center, among others. But the heart of the dean of students’ job is overseeing the experiences that we have as Obies. While the new dean seeks to support and strengthen the offices, student perspectives will provide valuable insight.

Students know the ways our school needs to grow. For over a decade, students have pushed the Conservatory to create a plan to increase diversity and equity of Oberlin’s music education. It was students who pushed the College to launch the Africana Studies program in 1969; and it was students who created co-ops, the ’Sco, and many other corners of campus life that define Oberlin.

We’re also hopeful to have a dean who will integrate student opinion and collaboration while continuing the implementation of the Presidential Initiative on Racial Equity and Diversity. The commitments brought forth through the initiative have been impressive and deeply necessary. Following the Board of Trustees’ ongoing conversations about the Presidential Initiative and their panel discussion with students about the Black experience at Oberlin, we look forward to seeing continual opportunities for growth. 

The potential for these efforts to manifest in the division of student life are particularly exciting. This year, the Career Development Center has centered diversity, equity, and inclusion in its programming for off-campus second- and third-year students, challenging Obies to tackle complex systemic problems with creative, entrepreneurial solutions. We are excited to see how this energy can be brought to other offices and facets of campus life. Our hope is that the next dean of students will make these kinds of progressive initiatives a priority across campus. 

Current Obies know that students and the Office of the Dean of Students can have meaningful collaboration. This year, the OC Votes campaign collaborated with student leaders and was supported with work from OC Democrats members, who spent hours registering voters and driving students to their polling location. A future dean should prioritize this type of engagement with student organizers and leaders. 

Letting students have a voice in shaping our school is paramount to how Oberlin has traditionally functioned, especially given the passion that characterizes an Oberlin student. More than any other administrator, the dean of students should be an active advocate for, and leader in responding to, the most crucial student issues. To be frank, we know Obies ask for a lot, and we know there are moments where we are difficult to work with. But we also know that this kind of meaningful engagement is worth it. As Oberlin transitions out of a difficult year and evolves to face new challenges, this work is more important than ever.