For many students at the College of William and Mary, a visit to the Dean of Students Office is equivocal to being called to the principal’s office in elementary school. The Dean of Students Office is often associated with setbacks. In reality, the office has the capacity to be a useful tool for students. We are glad to see the candidates for the Dean of Students position are looking at ways to improve the role of the office on campus by increasing its interactions with students on a daily basis.
As the College is a relatively small school, the Dean of Students should have plenty of opportunities to engage with students. Attending student research symposiums and hosting informal meetings with students are simple, practical gestures that could make huge strides in overcoming the stigma attached to the office.
Through improved communication, the Dean of Students Office will be more effective at supporting students. The Office website states that it provides services in seven areas of student life, including academic support and health promotion. Because the office is so far removed from everyday life on campus, students may be unaware of services it provides. For instance, the Dean of Students Office offers Strategic Learning Workshops on most Tuesdays and Thursdays. These resources will not benefit students if they do not know they exist.
The Dean of Students Office needs to familiarize itself with the student body at the College. Although the office needs to improve the promotion of its services to the student body through advertising, the Dean of Students Office must first examine the services it is providing critically to ensure it is in touch with the student body and its needs.
A stronger connection between the Dean of Students and the student body could help lessen the blow when the office must be the bearer of difficult news. When students are experiencing difficulties, the Dean of Students Office should act as a support system that continues to monitor the situation, even if the student is taking time off from the College, to provide encouragement and promote well-being. By developing more support for student life, the College can combat the stereotype that students are overworked and overstressed.
As students at the College, we know we have many options for support for all branches of student life — the Student Writing Center, the Student Health Center and even our close relationships with professors and advisors. The one place we may not think to look is the Dean of Students Office because we tend to think of it as the mysterious bearer of bad news. The office needs to play a more active role in the lives of students at the College in order to provide needed services to the campus.
Katherine Chiglinsky recused herself from this editorial in order to remain unbiased in her reporting.