Let’s Be Careful Choosing A Replacement
Editorial printed in the February 18 issue of The Cowl
With the announcement of the new interim organizational structure of the Student Affairs Administration, it is imperative that Providence College search for a qualified permanent replacement for the position of Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students. The departure of Chris Fortunato presents a significant loss to the Student Affairs Office and searching for someone of the same caliber will require careful consideration.
Experience, training, and even additional educational degrees are not sufficient qualifications to fulfill the dynamic roles presented by this position. These backgrounds cannot substitute for the formal legal education obtained by individuals like Fortunato and other Deans of Students at peer Catholic Institutions such as Fairfield University, Loyola University and Notre Dame. Selecting a replacement with no legal background will create vulnerability among the department and students alike.
Lack of legal knowledge presents a gap that training and experience cannot fulfill. An administrator with this important position should have not have to pick up the phone to ask the College’s attorneys how to make a decision. The person selected for this position should have an autonomous background and appropriate legal decision-making skills, partly because we live in a society where it is all too common for disputes to be settled by the legal system. Selecting a replacement without the legal know-how will foster the insecurity present among other departments. As with the Office of Student Conduct (whose previous Dean was an attorney), the recent lack of properly qualified personnel has come primarily to the detriment of the students who must pass through its doors. If administrators who assume quasi-judicial roles without any modicum of legal knowledge deal with legal situations, it is the student who will undoubtedly suffer.
Though Providence College is a private entity with much more sovereignty than a public institution, it is still bound by the contractual obligations of the College’s message and the ideals marketed to prospective students and their parents. I hope that administrators can make the right decision in selecting a candidate that will be in the best interests of all students.