McGill’s Board of Governors has appointed Robin Beech as Dean of Students, though his five-year term is not set to begin until Nov. 1 2020. Beech will be replacing the current interim Dean of Students Glenn Zabowski, who has held the position since the departure of the former Dean of Students, Christopher Buddle, in January 2020. Zabowski will resume his role as Associate Dean of Students upon Beech’s appointment.
Christopher Buddle, who left the Dean of Students position after being appointed to Associate Provost (Teaching & Academic Programs) at the end of 2019, worked on revising the Charter of Students’ Rights and the Code of Student Conduct and Disciplinary Procedures during his term. Notably, he broadened the definition of the “university context” and removed intent as a requirement for accusations of harassment.
Following in Buddle’s footsteps, Robin Beech received his Joint Honours BSc in Genetics and Biochemistry from the University of Nottingham and a Ph.D in Molecular Population Genetics from the University of Edinburgh. He joined the McGill Institute of Parasitology in 1992 and assumed the position of Associate Dean of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies in 2015.
In a statement to the McGill community, Provost and Vice-Principal (Academic) Christopher Manfredi expressed that Beech’s previous role as an associate dean is a key factor for his selection.
“In addition to [Beech’s] extensive experience in student advising, supervision, discipline and policy, he is skilled in conflict resolution, mediation and creative problem solving,” Manfredi wrote. “Following interviews and deliberation, the Committee unanimously agreed to recommend the appointment of Prof. Beech.”
Beech was then appointed by McGill’s Board of Governors on Oct. 1, a decision supported by Zabowski.
“Prof. Beech […] brings the graduate student perspective along with a wealth of experience as an Associate Dean and Disciplinary Officer in Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies,” Zabowski said.
Beech agrees with Zabowski on this point and believes that his previous work as an associate dean has given him the necessary tools to succeed in this new position. In an interview with the Tribune, Beech explained what he learned in his former role.
“I found many problems could be solved by paying attention to what people say, and listening,” Beech said. “I believe this experience can be a great asset.”
The Office of the Dean of Students (ODoS) plays a vital role in student life: It oversees issues concerning student rights, academic advising, academic integrity, the student disciplinary process, and crisis management. The ODoS has been behind many McGill initiatives such as the Sexual Violence Education program, the Indigenous Affairs Work Group, and the Mary H. Brown Fund. In addition, the office acts as a referral service for students who need mental health support, financial assistance, and academic accommodations.
Beech is entering this position during an unprecedented era in global history as the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent transition to online learning has presented new challenges for the ODoS. While Zabowski has laid the groundwork in shifting ODoS services to remote delivery, some of the biggest challenges for Beech, such as the looming mental health crisis, financial problems facing students, and changes to the disciplinary procedures, still are yet to be addressed.
“I will certainly need some time to learn how [to] best serve the McGill community,” Beech said. “We are learning together how to make the most of these [circumstances], and some of our most talented people with creative ideas are students.”
In a statement to the Tribune, Manfredi made clear that despite the switch to remote learning, the mission of ODoS remains intact.
“They will address all issues brought to their attention—big or small.”
To get in contact with ODoS or to learn more, visit their website.