Dartmouth Dean of College to Depart
Dartmouth College Dean Charlotte Johnson speaks to students during a protest in the President's office in Hanover, N.H., on April 1, 2014. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck)
Dartmouth College Dean Charlotte Johnson in an undated photograph. (Courtesy Dartmouth College)
Hanover — Dartmouth’s Dean of the College Charlotte Johnson will leave at the end of the academic year to take the position of vice president for student affairs and dean of students at Scripps College, an all-women’s school in Claremont, Calif.
Johnson was hired in 2011 by then-President Jim Yong Kim. She had previously been dean at Colgate University for five years.
Johnson said the decision to depart was her own and that Scripps recruited her for the position. Scripps has an enrollment of about 950 — a fraction of the size of Dartmouth — and is part of the seven-school Claremont University Consortium.
Johnson was born in Birmingham, Ala., but has family in California.
“I think part of the attraction for me, quite frankly, was a new adventure,” Johnson said. “Being able to work in a place where I can literally get to know all the students by name.”
Johnson said she’ll also have an opportunity to teach — most likely in the legal studies program.
In Hanover, she has been the go-to administrator on issues such as sexual assault and diversity. During Johnson’s tenure as dean, the college gained notoriety after a former student went public with tales of fraternity hazing and a binge-drinking social scene. Last April, classes were canceled for a day to deal with fallout from anonymous racist and homophobic postings made on an online message board pertaining to Dartmouth. And last month, students occupied President Philip Hanlon’s office and demanded action on a so-called “Freedom Budget,” a non-financial document that lists more than 70 demands from students to help make Dartmouth more inclusive and diverse.
Johnson acknowledged that it’s a challenge to create an inclusive environment at Dartmouth for all students, and said it’s important for the administration to let students know they care deeply about continuing to move the campus in that direction.
But she said it doesn’t bother her that students have reached out to the administration for help and she has told them they feel diversity is an issue.
“I’d rather they reach out for help than suffer silently,” Johnson said. “I think it’s much better, healthier for them, healthier for the institution when students reach out and let you know what they’re thinking and they’re feeling.”
Johnson also was one of the lead administrators behind Dartmouth’s proposed sexual assault policy unveiled this spring, and she has represented the college at the White House twice this year, including on Tuesday for the release of the report from the White House Task Force to Protect Students from Sexual Assault.
She said the team she has put in place in the dean’s office could continue with her work.
“I leave Dartmouth in very capable hands,” Johnson said.
Freshman Gabrielle Bozarth said she was sad to see a high-profile administrator who was a minority leave the campus.
“I think she’ll definitely be missed,” Bozarth said. “She has a way of carrying herself and speaking that is really personable.”
Junior Taylor Payer, a Native American who has been an activist on campus social issues, said she is also sad to see Johnson go because she clearly cares about the students and minority issues.
At the same time, Payer said it seems that it was always Johnson — who is black — who the school dispatched when students had complaints related to race relations or diversity on campus. Payer said that at times, Johnson — whose tenure included president Kim, interim president Carol Folt and current president Hanlon — appeared to be dealing with the “things that make the college look bad” on her own.
“It shouldn’t be on her as our one minority person in charge to bear all of that, and I think there should be a serious engagement by all the administration when grievances are aired by students,” Payer said.
Sarah Brubeck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 603-727-3223.