Daren Mooko Announced as new Dean of Students

Chris Hankin, News Editor

After an arduous search process, Whitman College announced earlier today that Daren Rikio Mooko will become the new Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students. Mr. Mooko previously filled a number of positions at Pomona College and has worked throughout the country’s higher education institutions.

Serving Pomona since since 1997, Mr. Mooko has worked as the Director of the Asian American resource center, Associate Dean of Students for Student Development and Leadership, and from 2015 until now, as an Associate Dean, Title IX Coordinator, and Diversity Officer.

Mr. Mooko brings years of experience working within the Liberal Arts community, and a nuanced understanding of sexual violence on college campuses.

Mr. Mooko visited campus on February 7th and gave a presentation to assembled students, faculty and staff. In the presentation, he identified what he saw as the five top issues facing students affairs in higher education. Alcohol and drug use, mental health and advocacy, sexual violence, diversity and inclusion, and accountability made his list.

The presentation concluded with a question and answer session between Mr. Mooko and the audience. Below is a transcript of three of those questions and the response from Mr. Mooko.

Question: I’m curious to know what you as a College administrator envision the position of a Liberal Arts College like ours should be in regards to protecting undocumented students on campus?

Daren Mooko: Let me answer that in two ways. In a practical way, on the ground, I would want to know where our leadership is on the issue. I can’t go out and make promises that aren’t going to be supported or backed by the institution. Should the leadership ask me what my recommendation is, my recommendation would be to support the undocumented students to the extent that we can. That could mean a number of things. Financial support, if the institution is willing. Emotional support, academic support, we would need to find out how we support students who feel like, at any time, their lives might change… I’m coming from Pomona College, who have kind of gone out on a limb with undocumented students. Of course it is circumstantial, Pomona is in a position where it can do something. But I do think that there is a political will there, to resist any efforts by the federal government to do anything to undocumented students.

Question: I think that one of the significant differences between Whitman and Pomona has to do with the residential status of our students. My understanding is that at Pomona, 98% of students live on campus. At Whitman it’s about 60%. It seems to me that at Colleges where upper-class students live off campus it changes the dynamic. I was hoping you could talk about that, and talk about the pros and cons with the label “residential campus”.

Daren Mooko: At Pomona we tried to make living on campus more attractive. But, of course, that means building more buildings because we just didn’t have enough beds. We built two new residence halls and now we are able to do that. One thing that we’re seeing is that because we have upperclassmen living on campus, we are finding that they are assuming a lot of leadership positions on campus. I think that they are buying into the campus culture, and the bond is just that much stronger. Living on campus is a part of their role.

Question: How do you balance the two sides of policy, one side being discouraging irresponsible behavior, and at the same time encouraging students to call for help if they are participating in irresponsible behavior?

Daren Mooko: For, me, it’s all about the ways that the policies are implemented and executed. We have a “Good Samaritan” policy, and that means that if you find someone in need, and you call for help, no one gets in trouble. For us the health of students is more important than disciplinary action. There are obviously caveats to that. Once their health is secured, its all about talking. Meetings with a drug and alcohol counselor, those sorts of things. It’s all about execution. Our RA’s, their instructions are not to be the junior police squad. What’s most important for us is that they can identify problematic behavior. We are less interested in busting a party, and more interested in making sure that students are not developing unhealthy or unsafe behaviors.