While we support Dean of the Faculty Jeremy R. Knowles' decision to further integrate public service in the University's administrative structure, we have some reservations. By pledging to appoint a faculty committee and an assistant dean by June 30 of next year, Knowles has taken concrete steps to increase the administration's involvement in public service. We hope that these changes will not result in the elimination of other jobs or any decline in students' input.
The creation of a faculty committee will draw professors into public service in an official capacity for the first time. While no professors even commented on the proposal when it was discussed at a Faculty meeting, we would be very surprised if none volunteered their services for this excellent cause. This committee should seek to involve itself and other faculty in the execution and expansion of public service, not just the oversight of existing programs.
The appointment of an assistant dean for public service will hopefully increase the scope of public service in the University through enhanced cooperation with Phillips Brooks House Association (PBHA) and Housing and Neighborhood Development (HAND) as well as the development of new programs. We trust that a new assistant dean will still allow students to make most of the major decisions in PBHA campuswide and HAND in the Houses.
Knowles has decided to maintain the jobs of PBHA Executive Director Greg A. Johnson '72 and Director of the Office of Public Service Gail Epstein. Sadly, Knowles' decision only guaranteed the existence of those two positions for a year and a half. At least the new assistant dean will get the chance to work alongside Johnson and Epstein for a year. Their knowledge of the dynamics of public service on campus will be essential to the new assistant dean.
Knowles shouldn't drop Johnson and Epstein's positions as soon as the new assistant dean learns the ropes. The importance of his recent move consists in his augmenting--not reducing or replacing--the University's staff devoted to public service.
In an unprecedented situation, students will have a voice in the search for the assistant dean. Knowles allowed for one HAND and two PBHA representatives on the search committee. These students should make sure that they mind the interests of the entire College as well as those of their particular organizations.
Knowles' decision constitutes a landmark in the University's history. The University has fostered public service for many years through PBHA and HAND, but recent accidents and episodes related to these programs' operation have emphasized the need for more supervision. At the same time, we hope that the new assistant dean and faculty committee will work as much to expand public service opportunities as to administer them.
Knowles did not indicate whether threats by PBHA and HAND to discontinue their summer programs influenced his decision, but he is clearly heeding student voices at least for the present. We hope that other students are just as energetic in their advocacy of public service when Epstein and Johnson's jobs come into question in a year and a half.