The sudden resignation of Ed Willis, the
former Dean of Students, has left most students scratching their
heads and wondering, “Who is Ed Willis?” While Willis
was deeply involved with a number of student and faculty committees
and adored by many who knew him, he executed his duties with little
fanfare or recognition. As a result, despite his unrelenting
dedication to students and the University as a whole, his departure
is leaving most students unaffected and unconcerned. Considering
the importance of Willis’s former position, this apathy is
troubling; The search for his successor is an opportunity for
students to get more involved with the administration, and it
should not be overlooked.

Mira Levitan

Since the Dean of Students clearly deals with issues of distinct
salience for students, it is merely logical that some students
participate in the selection process. Michigan Student Assembly
President Jason Mironov understood this when he asked that an MSA
representative participate in finding a new dean. However, Mironov
did not go far enough: involving one MSA representative would be
symbolic at best. There should be a significant student role in the
selection process. Multiple students, MSA representatives as well
as outsiders, should be given seats on the committee that the
University administration will inevitably form to recruit
Willis’s replacement.

This need for a diverse group of student participants cannot be
understated. Because the Dean is responsible for dealing with a
wide range of student issues, a wide range of students should be
allowed to evaluate a candidate’s fitness. The power given to
the student committee members must be met with qualified students.
Unfortunately, determining which students are qualified poses a
problem. Although the student body has their misgivings about MSA,
it is the most legitimate body of representation for the students
and therefore MSA, not the University, should be charged with the
task of selecting the student members who will participate in the
search for a new Dean. The pool of students should not be reserved
to only assembly members, but include student leaders across
numerous groups and disciplines. The best choices will be dedicated
students hoping to enhance the University’s relationship with
students instead of ones looking for power, prestige or a chance to
pad their resumes.

Willis’ relative anonymity amongst the student body is a
reflection of the perceived detachment between the University
administration and the students. Although we are sad to see the
departure of a well-liked, albeit relatively unknown, faculty
member, his departure presents an opportunity that should not be
missed. In light of this year’s debacle regarding changes to
the Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, as well as the
controversy caused by frosty relations between University President
Mary Sue Coleman and activist group Student Voices in Action, this
increased participation will hopefully ameliorate tensions between
students and administrators. This is a unique chance for students
to bridge the schism by actively participating in the selection of
an administration official. The increase in student input would be
beneficial to both the University and the student body by not only
creating a legitimate administration but also enabling more
effective University policies.

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