Restructuring of student affairs department leads to elimination of several positions, including dean of students

Laura O’Bryon is hugged by a friend and colleague at her appreciation party.

Southern Oregon University has seen many changes over the summer, chief among them being the restructuring of the student affairs department and the elimination of several positions in a move that, according to university officials, will create better communication between the administration and students.

A reception was held Wednesday, Sept. 26, in honor of former dean of students Laura O’Bryon, whose position was eliminated in the wake of the school administration’s consolidation of administrative departments.

The reception was designed to “say goodbye” to O’Bryon, who has served as Dean of Students for the past 17 years.

O’Bryon said she is “looking forward to seeing what great things will be accomplished” as a result of the reorganization of student affairs.

“I’ll miss the school, and I’ll miss the students, but my confidence in the school’s plan is heartfelt,” she said.

The decision to terminate the dean of students position is part of a larger effort spearheaded by SOU President Mary Cullinan to create a more efficient administrative system, according to the organizers of the administrative restructuring.

“We are looking for greater cooperation between students and staff, a seamless process between two points,” said James Klein, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs at SOU. To realize this goal, Klein said a transition team has been formed.

“We are looking at models implemented around the country,” Klein said.

The transition team is headed by Klein and associate provost Susan Walsh, along with Taylor Burke, SOU’s coordinator of Student Success Initiatives, and Jennifer Fountain, executive director of Student Life.

Some students have expressed skepticism and criticism of the transition team’s efforts, citing a lack of transparency in the university’s actions.

“I think it’s impossible to have made a choice for us that does not include Laura O’Bryon, said Ashley Parret, a video production major. “She is our voice. They are taking the voice of the students away.”

Other students disagreed however, arguing that the dean of students position could be more effectively handled by several lower-level directors that deal directly with students.

“The restructuring is about the way we serve students,” said Jason Pennell, ASSOU Director of Governmental Affairs. “The restructuring event has been focused on getting students more points of contact than they previously had.”


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