Students deserve administrators who are compatible with their priorities and able to communicate effectively with the undergraduate community. When these officials are hired without help from students who work closely with — and best understand — the responsibilities of the jobs, important goals are compromised.
Certain officials at Georgetown University work closely with students, often represent students and rely on student trust to do their work effectively. Students need these crucial roles to be filled by administrators who understand their concerns and are willing to listen to student voices.
When the university decides whom to hire for these positions — as it soon will for the Offices of Federal Relations and Title IX Compliance — students, particularly students who work closely with those officials, should be heavily consulted in the process.
Scott Fleming (SFS ’72), the retiring vice president for federal relations, spent much of his time at Georgetown working extensively with students on immigration, higher education policy and student aid.
In a May op-ed published in The Hoya, Fleming wrote that his advocacy for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program “has given me the opportunity to meet and know amazing Georgetown students and to work closely together.”
Although his retirement plans have been public for more than four months, the university has not yet sought student input.
Members of Georgetown University College Democrats, Georgetown University College Republicans and the Georgetown University Student Association Federal Relations Committee — all of which work with Fleming regularly — confirmed to The Hoya that they have not yet been consulted in hiring his replacement.
Fleming’s position is not the only one deserving of student input. Georgetown is in the process of vetting full-time candidates for the position of Title IX coordinator, a job currently being performed by Samantha Berner, who is also the office’s lead investigator.
The university’s search began in July, according to an op-ed published last week in The Hoya by Todd Olson, vice president for student affairs, and Rosemary Kilkenny, who is currently overseeing the Office of Title IX Compliance.
Olson and Kilkenny acknowledged their plans to “meet with faculty, staff and students who play an active role on campus in preventing and addressing sexual misconduct” in the coming weeks. However, students with deep understanding of the job should have been part of the process from the beginning.
“There is a significant difference between allowing students to observe the process and allowing them to participate in the process,” Daria Crawford (COL ’20), a member of Sexual Assault Peer Educators, wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I believe that student input should be a true factor in the decision-making process, rather than just a consideration.”
Administrators who rely on student support are best evaluated by the individuals with a vested interest in their job performance and an established understanding of the responsibilities the job carries. If the university as a whole wants a model to emulate, it needs look no further than the Center for Social Justice’s process in hiring a program director for D.C. Reads, a tutoring, mentoring and advocacy program.
“We’ve had numerous opportunities to meet, listen to presentations by, and talk with the candidates for the new position,” Jake Dyson (COL ’19), a D.C. Reads student coordinator, wrote in an email to The Hoya. “[CSJ administrators] have really demonstrated that they care about the voices and opinions of the students serving through the CSJ.”
The Center for Student Engagement also seeks to incorporate student input. In searches for staff conducted over the summer, students assisted the committee in “reviewing resumes and applications, scheduling initial phone screenings, inviting candidates to campus for a second-round interview, and making a final hiring recommendation,” according to Ali Stowe, the CSE’s assistant director of student engagement.
The CSJ and CSE both recognize the value of due diligence in hiring: Students who will work with officials most frequently should have significant say in who those officials are. As Georgetown continues the hiring process, it must take student input seriously in vetting, interviewing and selecting applicants.
Georgetown would be well-served by incorporating the practices of its community service apparatuses into the processes of hiring administrators who rely most heavily on supporting students.
The positions of vice president for federal relations and full-time Title IX coordinator are crucial to ensuring student safety and promoting the Georgetown community’s best interests. The ways in which those jobs are filled should reflect that severity.
The Hoya’s editorial board is composed of six students and is chaired by the Opinion Editor. Editorials reflect only the beliefs of a majority of the board and are not representative of The Hoya or any individual member of the board.