Dean of Students Position Eliminated

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Dr. Jonathon Hyde departs Pacific amid Student Affairs restructure

On October 11, Pacific University students and staff received an email from President Jennifer Coyle that VP of Student Affairs and Chief Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer Narce Rodriguez announced her plan to retire on December 15. Rodriguez’s retirement set in motion a flurry of administrative position changes and searches to fill positions inside and outside of Student Affairs. However, one position—the Dean of Students—will be eliminated entirely, and has already been vacated.

    On November 1, the President’s office sent another email detailing the interim appointments and candidate searches following Rodriguez’s retirement. First off, the Chief Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Officer position—created in 2017 during Rodriguez’s first year at Pacific—will become the Vice President for Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Accessibility; essentially divorcing that role from the VP for Student Affairs. Director of the Student Multicultural Center Jean Garcia-Chitwood will be stepping into the newly expanded position of interim VP for EDIA while continuing her current directorship. A national search for a candidate will begin this spring.

   With another national search starting in 2023-2024, the interim VP of Student Affairs position will go to current Dean of the College of Arts & Sciences and interim VP of Enrollment Management Sarah Phillips, who will temporarily pass her deanship to Professor Jaye Cee Whitehead, who will in turn pass her role as Director of the School of Social sciences to Professor Jim Moore.

   Whew! That seems like quite the merry-go-round.

   Add to that: About a week after these announcements, rumor began circulating that an internal memo sent to members of the Student Affairs office reported that the Dean of Students position was eliminated, and that Jonathon Hyde was no longer at Pacific University. In comments provided via email, VP of Marketing & Communications Jenni Luckett told The Pacific Index that the elimination was “part of an ongoing restructure of the Student Affairs unit at Pacific,” and that “Dr. Hyde’s departure was due to the elimination of the position.” When asked if Dr. Hyde was offered an alternative position at the university, Luckett replied, “There was not an alternative position available to offer.”

   According to Luckett, Dr. Hyde’s last day at Pacific was October 31. However, neither the elimination of the Dean of Students position nor Dr. Hyde’s departure were mentioned in the November 1 announcement of transition appointments or any other communication with Pacific students as of the time of the publication of this issue.

   Dr. Jonathon Hyde was relatively new to Pacific University, hired in summer 2021. Before the restructuring, Dr. Hyde oversaw staff in charge of student support, residence life and student conduct, the University Center & student activities, the Office of Transfer Students, Greek life, orientation, housing, and dining. In the Dean’s statement on Pacific’s website, Dr. Hyde summarized his role: “I strive to provide support, assistance, and opportunities for all of our students, on all of our campuses.” He added that he welcomed student input on policies and programs through the Student Senates and from individuals. The Dean of Students position acted as a network node not only for administering those functions, but also for the concerns and ideas of students—whether they were voiced in the Student Senates or the sororities.

   In a conversation with The Pacific Index about the restructure, Dr. Sarah Phillips said that she is still learning what roles the Dean of Students managed, and some of those roles will be split between the interim VP for EDIA and herself in her capacity as the interim VP of Student Affairs. Dr. Phillips said she would be prioritizing the positions within Student Affairs that are most “on the ground with students.” Dr. Phillips continued, “That’s where we’re going to be looking first—to see what we can do both to provide additional support for students and to provide some additional support for the supporters of students who have some pretty big workloads right now.”

   Some of the staff previously under the Dean of Students have been at Pacific for many years and have come to be responsible for perhaps more duties than they should reasonably be expected to carry out. With further retirements and transitions moving forward in the Student Affairs division, such as the retirement of Steve Klein at the end of the academic year, the restructure presents the opportunity to redistribute work loads within the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion and the Student Affairs division.

   Restructures of this magnitude don’t happen without cause. According to Dr. Phillips, the restructure is a result of several causes, a primary one being the new presidency of Dr. Coyle, and the process by which a new president determines who she will want by her side in the coming years. “[President Coyle] feels strongly about having a Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion that reports directly to her,” said Dr. Phillips. In her capacity as President of the University, Coyle appoints vice presidents. From there, the appointment responsibility trickles down: the Provost (a VP) appoints deans, and deans appoint school directors.

   For now, the VP appointments are interim, and national candidate searches are scheduled to proceed one at a time, with the search currently underway for a permanent VP for University Advancement—a position that has been vacant this academic year. Those searches are carried out by a search committee chaired by Provost Ann Barr-Gillespie.

   Dr. Phillips acknowledged that tight budgets and low enrollment are predicted for the 2023-2024 academic year, and that these constraints will shape the outcomes of the restructure. As part of the restructure, the elimination of the Dean of Students position may have been in part a budgetary decision.

   The reactions of Pacific students and faculty to the elimination of Dr. Hyde’s position has been a mix of confusion and frustration with the lack of transparency. While the personal details of Dr. Hyde’s departure may be protected, students are disappointed to learn about it through the grapevine—particularly when it was clearly omitted from the multiple university-wide communications about Rodriguez’s retirement and the Student Affairs restructure. — Lane Johnson


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