As she prepares to take over as interim dean of Student Affairs, Terry Martinez is already formulating her priorities for the next academic year.
Martinez, the current dean of Community Development and Multicultural Affairs, will replace Kevin Shollenberger when he departs for Johns Hopkins University this summer. She said her priorities include working with a hazing education task force, streamlining student groups’ adjudication processes, and encouraging more conversation over student council initiatives like pass/D/fail policy.
Martinez has already made progress on hazing education. She and Shollenberger created an anti-hazing task force that will work throughout the next year to determine on how best to educate students about what constitutes hazing and how to prevent it.
“As an institution, I think we need to do a better job on educating students on what hazing is because there are all these blurry lines,” Martinez said.
The committee will include Cristen Kromm, assistant dean for community development and residential programs; Senior Associate Athletics Director Jacqueline Blackett; a student organization adviser; one or two coaches; a member of Zeta Beta Tau, which jeopardized its charter after committing a hazing infraction; a student-athlete; and a student member at large, who will not be involved in athletics or Greek life.
This summer, Martinez also plans to send a team of five to the Novak Institute for Hazing Prevention, a national organization known for promoting best practices for preventing hazing.
Martinez said that in addition to the ZBT hazing incident this semester, she has heard increasing reports of hazing among athletics teams and other student organizations in the past few years.
ZBT, which developed an action plan during the appeal process for hazing sanctions leveled against it earlier this semester, must now meet a set of benchmarks at the ends of this semester and the next two semesters in order to retain its charter.
So far the chapter has stuck to its plan and “will clear the first checkpoint” on May 31, Martinez said.
Martinez confirmed that there have been individual disciplinary actions connected with the ZBT incident against students not involved in the fraternity, but could not reveal details due to privacy concerns.
She emphasized, however, that the hazing education task force is aimed at all student groups, not just Greek organizations or athletic teams.
“People think that what they’re doing is just initiation to new members in their organizations and traditions, and technically it’s all hazing,” she said. “So how do we consistently educate students on how to bring members into your groups? And the challenging part—and it’s not just here, it’s nationwide—is, what are the alternatives? How do we provide—or how do students think about—alternatives to those traditions that don’t put other students at risk?”
Along with her anti-hazing projects, Martinez has already begun a review of student groups’ adjudication processes.
This semester, she has met with the Student Governing Board, Activities Board at Columbia, the Greek Judicial Board, the Interschool Governing Board, and the Columbia College and Engineering student councils to discuss what a peer-led judicial review board might look like.
“Each of the governing boards has different values and principles, so that’s the challenge,” she said. “How do we find the common ground in those so that the process is consistent and fair?”
As with many council and administrative changes, a task force has been formed to identify areas of concern and to explore the creation of a consistent adjudication process across all student organizations.
Some students raised concerns about the level of Office of Judicial Affairs involvement, wanting to keep the process in students’ hands, and Martinez said that she did not want to make any sudden changes to the disciplinary process.
“Greek Judicial Board is an example of how it [adjudication] isn’t led by OJA. OJA just really gets the documentation, so it streamlines the reporting mechanism,” turning it over to students, Martinez said. “It really is to take a look at how students hold each other accountable for their groups’ decision-making.”
Martinez also said she was excited to see conversations happening around the first-semester pass/D/fail policy, the proposed honor code, and the task force to discuss a potential CCSC/ESC merger.
Although Martinez said she did not know enough about the research behind the pass/D/fail policy or the honor code to know if they can truly effect a culture change at Columbia, she said she believes that collaboration between Columbia College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science on these issues makes sense.
“As more and more the student experience becomes blurred—which I think is a good thing, because we’re not separated by ‘you can belong to this organization’ or ‘you can live in this residence hall’ based on your school—that out-of-classroom experience should be a cohesive one. So it would make sense that the governing structures are as well,” she said.
Many discussions lie ahead for Martinez in the coming year, but for now, she is still adjusting to the idea of a new position, taking what she calls a “crash course” in what Shollenberger does.
Her current responsibilities as dean of community development and multicultural affairs will be split between two people. Kromm will assume Martinez’s responsibilities regarding emergency situations and all interactions with Housing and Student Services, and Associate Dean of Student Affairs Todd Smith will assume control of “everything else,” Martinez said. This includes handling student concerns and conflicts, day-to-day staff supervision, and overall community development.
“My career has really been focused on student interaction, and in the biz they say the higher up you go, the further away you get,” Martinez said. “I never want to be removed from why I started in this field, so I need to think about ways to make sure that continues to happen.”