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Session Summary: Deaning in a Time of Crisis

Submitted by Colin Marks

This discussion group, moderated by Dean Patricia Roberts of St. Mary’s University School of Law, explored many pressing issues that have faced deans and other administrators during the past year and a half. The group consisted of current deans and some associate deans and acted as both a catharsis for the events of the past years as well as an opportunity to learn (and sometimes laugh) from each others’ experiences.

Among the topics explored were what elements of the remote environment would persist, what elements should be halted, how to deal with tough social issues and what level of interaction with student leaders is now expected. Overall, there was a sense that some remote meetings were beneficial and would continue such as occasional alumni meetings and recruitment meetings. Remote faculty meetings were seen as being more efficient online but this may have been due, in part to a lack of engagement. Many new deans pointed out that remote faculty meetings deprive the dean and faculty of reading body language on certain issue that come for a vote.

The past year and half has left no shortage of opportunities to speak out on social issues: many deans agreed that when and how to respond is a difficult task, but that inviting, but not requiring, student involvement was important and useful. The most important aspect of the meeting, however, may have been the opportunity for deans, many of them relatively new, to meet other deans in person and exchange ideas and perspectives.