September 23, 2012

O-Issue 2012: Administration

With all the Deans, Vice Presidents, Associate Deans, and other seemingly unnecessarily long titles, the U of C administration can be a confusing structure to navigate. Luckily, there are a few basics that can help.

Generally speaking, the 55-member Board of Trustees is in charge of broad, long-term issues, while the President, Vice Presidents, and Deans are the ones in charge of the day-to-day operations. They have a lot of power—your professor can’t expel you, while administrators, through a formal process, can—but also have to put students first. Dean of Students Susan Art might, for example, let you off with a stern warning but no further action if you’re taken to the ER for alcohol poisoning.

President Robert Zimmer is right under the Board of Trustees, but for all intents and purposes is at the top of the food chain. After more than 20 years of service to the University as a mathematics professor and administrator, he became the 13th President in 2006. Since then, Zimmer has overseen expansions across the board, from the official opening of the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts this fall to the launch of the Institute of Politics, the brainchild of David Axelrod, AB’76. His tenure has also brought in a $100 million donation for undergraduate financial aid, a $300 million donation to the Booth School of Business, and the controversial merger of the Milton Friedman Institute and Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory.

He’s also looked outside the campus to help create a new study abroad center in Beijing and, closer to home, Planned Development 43 (a city zoning document guiding how the University can use its land), which has stirred Hyde Park natives to action trying to protect historic Woodlawn Avenue buildings from change. The construction of Harper Court, which has brought Five Guys, a 24-hour Clarke’s diner, and promises Whole Foods, Chipotle, Akira, The New 400 Theaters, and a Hyatt in the future, has forged ahead under Zimmer as well.

Provost Thomas Rosenbaum is Zimmer’s right-hand man, broadly in charge of academic programs including the College, graduate and undergraduate schools and divisions, the library, Urban Education Institute, Smart Museum, and Oriental Institute. All Deans on campus ultimately report to Rosenbaum—whether it be Dean of the Law School Michael Schill or newly appointed Dean of the Social Sciences division Mario Small—and his office is also tasked with efforts to increase diversity and improve campus childcare.

One of the administrators reporting directly to Rosenbaum is also arguably the most visible, Dean of the College John Boyer. A pillar of the U of C scene, he helps the Core live up to its reputation and gives intelligent, if long, speeches, and occasional “fireside chats” at campus gatherings. He’s also responsible for study abroad programs, which have recently undergone significant changes, including the ending of the Cape Town Civilizations program and the addition of Istanbul to the mix. Boyer is the longest-serving Dean of the College, holding that position longer than most first-years have been alive (since 1992), and is also the Martin A. Ryerson Distinguished Service Professor in History.

As the University’s unofficial historian, Boyer has written a series of essays and monographs on different facets of U of C history, and often teaches the Western Civ sequence. Always recognizable by his cropped mustache and infectious appreciation for the University of Chicago, he can be spotted leading annual bike tours of Chicago or walking through the quad in a dapper suit.

As for student well-being, the two top administrators closest to students’ everyday lives are newly appointed Vice President for Campus Life Karen Warren Coleman, responsible for dining, housing, and other extracurricular concerns, and Dean of Students in the College Susan Art, responsible for general health and happiness of students. Warren Coleman was appointed to her new position in June after Kimberly Goff-Crews announced her plans in winter to return to her alma mater, Yale. Warren Coleman, who had been Associate VP for Campus Life since 2009, oversaw the revamping of Pierce Tower through all the plumbing and facility issues last year, as well as the Global Dining Initiative, which expanded meal plan options for students. Art works closely with Warren Coleman and Boyer, and is in charge of the academic advising program.

Although every student has his or her own opinion about the receptiveness of the administration, you get what you put into it, just as with any other aspect of life at the College. If you want your voice to be heard, don’t pass up the opportunity to have regular coffee and doughnut meetings with President Zimmer or forums with the Board of Trustees. After all, the staff of The Maroon can only badger them so much.