Over the past year or so, HWS has had some noticeable administrative changes across various offices and departments, including a new interim president, professors joining and retiring within various departments, and of course new additions in the Dean’s Office.
A notable aspect of these changes for Hobart College students is the appointment of Interim Dean Khuram Hussain and Interim Assistant Dean Joseph Mink, as well as the addition of a new administrative associate. With these changes come many questions—where are the old deans? Why did these changes occur? Dean Hussain was able to answer many of the Herald’s questions, while also raising new questions about the Dean’s Office and providing information about new projects and goals that have been established this year.
Throughout the interview, multiple topics regarding the changes and transition that the office has undergone and still is undergoing were discussed. Many may have been wondering, “Were the previous deans fired? Why is his position interim?” To answer this, Dean Hussain stated that Dean Baer had simply retired, while Dean Caprero went back to teaching.
As for the interim title on his position, he said that there is a sense of uncertainty as to if he will want to remain in this position, with both teaching and his family holding strong importance in his life. In regards to the specifics of this transition process, or why it all happened so fast, he was also uncertain of this—in fact, when asked if he was involved with the process at all, Dean Hussain simply told the Herald, “Nope, not at all.” It seemed as though Dean Hussain had no more information to give about the specifics of the changes—he said the decisions were made before he was brought in as dean. Mostly, he was focused on what he could do for the students, and how he was doing so as a new dean.
The phrase that Dean Hussain continually referenced back to while talking with the Herald was “team-based approach.” The main principles behind this involve collaboration with other offices (the William Smith Dean’s Office, Financial Aid, Academic Affairs, and Admissions, to name a few) and a strong focus on the necessities of the students. When describing his new position, Dean Hussain described it as, “A different perch on the same tree,” moving the core values he developed as a professor over to the Dean’s Office with him. These ideals include a stronger sense of collaboration and communication amongst all students, with more coordinate conversations and discussions regarding those students who may feel as though they do not have much of a voice on campus. This led to the establishment of the Hobart Deans Council, a group collaborating with Honor Societies, the Hobart Student Government and William Smith Congress, and the general HWS populace to build a greater feeling of community and spark discussions with students that feel marginalized on campus. Specifically, Dean Hussain spoke of “engaging in dialogue with students that utilize the LGBTQ+ Center,” and ensuring that their needs are addressed. When Hobart College and William Smith College were initially founded, a multitude of minority groups were not remotely considered in the development of the Colleges. Dean Hussain referred what he aims to do with this focus on LGBTQ+ students as a method of “interrogating traditions” and forming new ones. It was only natural for a shift of focus to occur within the Dean’s Office after a substantial change in its members took place with new ideals, and as Dean Hussain put it, “support[ing] student development” and “connecting students to the resources they need.”
Although many upperclassmen Hobart students had formed strong connections with the past occupants of the Dean’s Office, Dean Hussain affirmed that these students are engaging with the new dynamic of the office and forming those bonds and relationships with those new to the office. A point of emphasis for Dean Hussain and the office in general was the idea that the students’ voices are important, whether it be the LGBTQ+ students or anyone else who interacts with the deans. As the interview came to a close, Dean Hussain provided his message to the students as a new dean: “to make sure that students know that we are going to receive what they have to say,” both positive and negative, regarding the changes to the office itself as well as any other issues that come about on campus.
Despite the lack of information behind the significant changes to the Hobart Dean’s Office, it seems as though both the students and staff associated with the office are adjusting well. As for the past deans, there lies an air of mystery as to how the decisions behind the Dean’s Office transition came about, and the logistics of the process. There is only the hope that progress will be made at the Colleges with Dean Hussain’s and the rest of the Dean’s Office’s efforts.