Dean of Students’ Return to Office Provokes a Mixed Responseby: Andrew Stoddard '14, Associate Editor
On February 23, a couple hundred of students gathered on the lawn in front of Venable Hall to protest a proposed drug policy as well as actions by the Dean of Students Office related to the policy. The following day, Dr. David Klein, Dean of Students, was put on temporary administrative leave and temporarily replaced by Thomas Shomo, Director of Communications.
About two weeks later, this situation is still a hot button and divisive topic amongst members of the student body. Regarding the policy itself and its content, students for the most part have no big problems. For example, sophomore Ryan Raybuck believes that the policy “is fair, gives you several chances and allows for forgiveness.” Other students, however, pointed out what they believed to be flaws in the proposed drug policy.
“While the policy is not completely unfair, I don’t think students should have to pay for drug testing, especially students with great financial needs,” said sophomore Drake Bishop. Senior Patrick Young’s noted that “[the policy] is sound, but that it should allow for punishments to be made by student court and an appeals process.” Sophomore Ben Durham also put in his two cents, stating that he believes the “content was a too draconian and haphazard at times; for example, underage drinking being an automatic suspension.”
Students are more widely opposed to the way the Dean of Students Office handled this situation than they are to the policy itself. “Based on what we’ve learned [since the protest], I’m very upset with the Dean of Student’s Office and believed they handled the situation pretty poorly,” Bishop added. Another student, who wished to remain anonymous, felt that the “[Dean of Students Office] were kind of shoving [the proposal] down our throats a little bit.”
While most students disapproved of the recent actions of Dean Klein and the Dean of Students Office, others came to his defense on the matter. “I have a good personal relationship with Dean Klein, and I think the problem was more of a lack of communication with students and administration,” Durham said. Raybuck, meanwhile, said that “since the accusations, [Dean Klein and the Dean of Students office] have handled the situation professionally in my opinion.”
This controversy was reignited by a campus-wide e-mail sent by President Chris Howard on Sunday, March 4. In the e-mail, Howard wrote that “after a full investigation of the matter, I have concluded that a gross miscommunication occurred between the parties involved [and that] I see no need for Dr. David Klein to remain on Administrative Leave. I have asked him to resume his duties as Dean of Students effective [this past Monday].”
As with other aspects of this issue, the students were greatly divided in their opinions of Dean Klein’s reinstatement. Raybuck supported the decision, citing that “over the last 30 years, he has done countless good things for this college and one mistake shouldn’t condemn him.” On the other hand, another student speaking on condition of anonymity had some suspicions, stating that he was “intrigued by the short-term investigation” and believes that Dean Klein’s “quick reinstatement won’t reestablish trust [between students and administration].”
It is hard to predict where it will all lead since events continue to unfold. However, it is easy to label this as one of the biggest student vs. administration controversies Hampden-Sydney has seen in recent years.