Candidate One: Jeffrey Fager

This is an edited transcript of the student session with Dr. Jeffrey Fager, the first candidate for Dean. The transcript is edited for sake of time, space, and clarity only; it has been preserved as accurately possible. This is not an opinion piece; rather, it is a record of the original question-answer conversation so that students who were unable to attend may be informed and make their own judgment. If you would like a copy of the unedited version of the conversation, please contact Lindsey Herman (lindsey.herman@salem.edu).

If you would like to read more about student participation in the dean selection process, click here.

Student question-answer session information originally recorded by Kari Ross. Edited and adapted for The Salemite by Lindsey Herman.

Tell us about yourself.

–  Born in Indiana, went to Evansville University, seminary school, Vanderbilt for PhD in Hebrew Bible.

–  Dean at Averett University, three years, dean at Maryville College.

Why Salem College?

–  Year ago around Easter, he and his wife came to visit Old Salem as a tourists; knew a former Salem faculty member. Beautiful campus, historic.

–  Wondered, “Why are the boys different from the girls? Girls seem smarter.” Interested in the blossoming of female students into empowered students.

What type of research did you do about Salem before you came here?

–  After hearing about opportunity, went online, scoured the website.

–  Learned about general programs, and core curriculum, talked to a person at a search firm

Are you familiar about our traditions?

–  From outside, confusing, but in context understanding

–  Tradition vs. progression

How as Dean of College, how would promote diversity in incoming classes? (Especially with international studies program being depleted)

–  Possibly tap into Irex and other organizations that create exchange student programs in universities from around the world– not as expensive as international program

–  Beyond international diversity, there should be a very deliberate process to bring women of all regional areas, socioeconomic status, ethnicities.

Why look for new job from Maryville in so short of a time?

–  Last July Maryville got a new president, “wanted their own folks.” President and Fager decided that this would be a good time for Fager to “find a new opportunity.”

How do you feel about religious diversity and how would you promote that?

–  Born in an Indiana small town, community Methodist church, fundamentalist, now Unitarian

–  Having taught religion at Kentucky Wesleyan: how do I help students think beyond what they learned in their Sunday school classes?

–  At Maryville, have a variety beyond Christianity

What are your reflections of your day, perceptions of the students here, surprises you’ve had? How will you fit in with students?

–  Typical of past experiences (meeting to meeting). Expectations that this was friendly place, people are “jovial, collegial, work together, get along.” Very pleasant, good place to be.

–  This particular student session was a last-minute meeting, because of oversight. “If I can’t be flexible then I shouldn’t be here.” Today was a stamina test.

–  How do you fit in? So far so good. “I feel like I can relate to students at a women’s college in an appropriate and engaging way. As man coming to a women’s college could provide something of a role model of a male authority with which you can have a healthy relationship.”

–  Hope you’ll interact with men who understand women with a voice

What are you views on feminism and are you a feminist?

–  Been a feminist since college. 1971, still in Vietnam, civil rights were still hot, hippies were dancing. Being a feminist was popular at that time, but real authenticity of issue as well.

–  Considers self “old feminist guard” –philosophy of Betty Friedan still needs to be heard

What have you actively done for the advancement of women?

–  Commitment to the philosophy of feminism. All people, regardless of race and gender, are humans of value

–  Protested against involvement in El Salvador, Nicaragua (but not necessarily a women’s issue)

–  In classroom and higher education, sought to empower young women

–  “I vote with my conscience” for candidates who support women’s rights.

How have you handled specific cases of racism, homophobia, and sexism on your campus?

–  At Averett, associated with Baptist Church, students wanted to form a gay straight alliance, and most of the administration thought it was appropriate. The Baptists fought it.  After a few years this led to separation of Averett from Baptist Association.

–  Ethnic discrimination: at institutions I have been at, while been there haven’t been overt actions, but have been the subtleties need to address. At Averett, had about 25-30% minority population, yet there was a sense that the activities tended to revolve around white culture.

Salem considers itself a student-run campus. What are your views on that?

–  Certainly should be student focus and voices of students should be heard. In the end decisions about the institution have to be made by the president and the board of trustees. But that doesn’t mean students aren’t considered.

What about the taking away of the power of students and the judicial process?

–  The Judicial Council seems very appropriate. Though I don’t know the intricacies, processes should be followed. What would concern me is if there is a trend – that’s an issue that needs to be addressed.

How do you feel about formality and informality about being accessible to students?

–  I like accessibility, open door policy, like to be out and about.

–  Not buddies, but Dean so maintain certain decorum and professionalism. Balance between being part of the community and Dean.

How would you promote students getting engaged in the local community?

–  Salem Signature promotes service learning.

–  Hope Salem has connection to local art events

–  Make appointments with counterparts at other institutions and then invite the three other chief officers to this campus and talk about strengthening that relationship

–  Connecting department chairs with corresponding chairs at other colleges

From what you’ve researched and what you’ve heard, do you have any ideas of programs that you’d like to implement?

–  Work with the college community, traditional residential community, to determine what it is that really sticks out about Salem College (to promote the school)

–  There needs to be something that people go “Salem College, that’s the place where ____”

–  Growth of Fleer and Graduate programs: at what point does that tip a balance of the culture of the college?

There have been a lot of traditionally female colleges going co-ed. How would you take measures to ensure that we stay all female?

–  Percentages of students who are seeking small private women’s college are shrinking, and some small private colleges are going under. Must make sure that Salem isn’t one of them.

Averett and Maryville have established athletic roles and we’re just emerging. How do you want to promote Salem athletics?

–  Division III is wonderful because you are truly student athletes. Athletics programs can be very healthy, but not when extreme.

–  I would like to find the right way to provide credit for students in other types of activities because still learning on the field. If the student can explain what learn in a project paper, etc. she can gain credit.

Given our history, how would you help Salem evolve and accommodate the new influx of students?

–  Good question, lot of research and analysis, don’t even know if can answer.

–  Don’t know how much traditional program can grow given the space of Salem

We have a large queer population. There is a discussion of Trans students. What are your thoughts on support transitioning students?

–  General atmosphere of openness and diversity. Fascinating question for women’s college. Really comes down to atmosphere and willingness to talk about it. Are we really open to that kind of difference? Embracing (not tolerating) diversity can be difficult; do we want skinheads and Neo-Nazis on campus? We want a community that will be open to differences and supportive of students who are questioning or have made a decision.

–  Has to come from the top. Students will look to me and wonder “What does he think about this?”

No contact information provided.

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