Letter to the Editor

Dean of students is a vital position

Your article on administrative reorganization at Southern Oregon University attributed the primary rationale to student retention and job placement.

Both goals are sensible, generalized in the article as "enhanced student support service." It's unclear how this will be accomplished by lashing together an array of personnel described as "lower-level student support," but I wish them much luck with unmentioned pitfalls.

The only named casualty in the shake-up is that of Laura O'Bryon, current Dean of Students, who has fulfilled that post for some 15 years. Judging from my experience in a comparable job at the University of California, the SOU administration is taking a bold and (in my view) foolhardy risk by eliminating such an anchor position.

Modern-day student life requires a central manager who can cope around the clock with a steady stream of student crises. That person is called on routinely to make both quick and reasoned decisions in a full spectrum of emergencies that includes life threats and potential violence.

Not to trivialize the issues involved, but it often requires the wisdom of Solomon to know when, let's say, social isolation or breaking up with a girlfriend may be just part of the vagaries of life, or when they can lead to mental breakdown and set off untold tragedy. Only someone who hasn't read a newspaper or watched TV news for the past decade can dismiss such possibilities. I do hope that SOU has thought out these risks.

Robert Griffin


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