Retirements, New Hires Herald Change in Student Affairs

Emily Lin-Jones

Besides undergoing renovation, Memorial Building has seen some significant changes over the summer. The departure and retirement of several long-time staff members, in addition to promotions and new hires, add up to a changing administration at Whitman College.

“The primary reason for change is staff leaving their positions,” said Dean of Students Chuck Cleveland, referring to the recent retirements of Associate Dean of Students Clare Carson and Director of Career Development Susan Buchanan.

Following Carson’s retirement from her position as associate dean of students, the college conducted a national search to replace her. Juli Dunn, formerly the director of the Academic Resource Center (ARC), was hired for the position at the end of June.

“I don’t think it’ll change too much for students, in terms of how I’m dealing with students,” said Dunn, who is still helping run the Academic Resource Center while it searches for a new director, as well as overseeing pre-major advising and working to promote student retention.

Dunn has also taken on Carson’s former role as Title IX Administrator. In this capacity, she’ll oversee the investigation of potential Title IX violations on campus.

Previously, Dunn worked as a Title IX investigator herself, but now she’ll oversee a growing team of Whitman staff and faculty trained to respond to Title IX allegations.

“It’s one of those things that requires a campus response, so the more people we have involved in that the better we can do at responding,” said Dunn.

One of these recently trained investigators is Noah Leavitt, who was recently promoted to associate dean of students from his former position as associate dean for student engagement. While Leavitt will still be overseeing the Student Engagement Center (SEC), he predicts that the two new staff hires the SEC made over the summer will give him room to focus on other tasks, including investigations.

According to Leavitt and Cleveland, most Title IX investigations are an involved process requiring extra time and flexibility that many higher-level administrators and faculty, even those interested in the job, simply do not have.

“I think it’s a demonstration of [Chuck Cleveland’s] commitment to taking these issues seriously, to free up senior administrators to do these investigations,” said Leavitt.

Leavitt anticipates handling more cases this year as Whitman refines its reporting process and trains more investigators.

“I’m coming into it a little bit new, being trained more than being an expert … For now, it’s hard to set goals besides being an effective and thoughtful participant in the process,” he said.

In addition to the faculty and staff members who have already been trained as Title IX investigators, Cleveland and Dunn plan to invite a representative from the athletic department to be involved in the process. They plan to meet regularly to review Whitman’s compliance with federal mandates.

“The schools that are doing well with Title IX tend to have a Title IX team. It’s best practice and we’re moving in that direction,” said Cleveland.

Meanwhile, Dunn hopes that bringing in outside training and making Whitman’s reporting process more accessible will improve Whitman’s Title IX process for students, faculty and staff.

“Part of the challenge at a small institution is that everybody knows each other. That can be really difficult, if we’re talking about faculty and staff, to have another staff member investigate you. We’re looking at a couple different models … we’d like to have a sustainable model we can use,” said Dunn.

Besides the training of new Title IX investigators and some new hires in the SEC and Residence Life, not many of the changes should affect students directly, noted Cleveland. But students can also look forward to meeting newly hired Chief Diversity Officer Kazi Joshua, who will come to work at the Intercultural Center in the spring.

The college also plans to begin another national search for a new ARC director, since the candidate hired in their August search declined the position. In the meantime, the managing of the ARC will be split between ARC staff and other administrators.

“It’s a challenge, and it’s put a little more on our plates … but we’ll get through it, and we’ll conduct another search in the spring,” said Cleveland.