Steve Gelb

Steve Gelb
Associate Dean and Professor

Dear SOLES Alumni and Friends,

In January 2012, I step down as associate dean after three and a half years in the position, so that I can have to more time for teaching, scholarship, and bike riding.  The dean has graciously asked me to share a few reflections in this issue of Horizons and I am glad to do so, though I caution you that the views I share here are my own and don’t represent the dean’s office, SOLES, or USD.

African American educator, theologian and civil rights leader Howard Thurman said, “Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”  The role of associate dean isn’t glamorous, yet aspects of it made me come alive.  I relished dean’s suite conversations about how to transform higher education to help students connect their inner and outer worlds and become agents for healing this suffering planet.  I loved being a catalyst to bring together people doing outstanding work and seeing new collaborations flower.  I felt alive when SOLES materialized its support of social justice through formation of the faculty/staff/student Kiva team making micro-loans to support the development of the poor.  I was happy to use my authority to resolve problems for students and faculty.  And I was always grateful to work under a dean with vision, courage, integrity and compassion.  When the work has clear purpose it is easier to stay alive. 

But all was not roses.  I entered the dean’s suite as a strong advocate of the tenure system and leave it convinced that tenure needs to be reformed to include post-tenure review, or be abolished. Tenure was created to protect academic freedom.  Recent cases though, such as Norman Finkelstein’s, show that universities still fire professors for espousing unpopular views-- they just use unrelated reasons as pretext.  While tenure has failed to eliminate abuses of academic freedom, it has created an academic culture of entitlement and complacency that stifles innovation and blocks change.  I will gladly submit to post-tenure review if and when it is introduced here. 

And then…there is accreditation.  Demands for assessment and documentation in higher education have escalated to the point that “shock and awe” is essential to the experience. The massive amount of time and effort necessary to create and collect hundreds of documents consisting of thousands of pages, remains, despite its fancy and pretentious trappings, a bureaucratic exercise. There is nothing more turgid to read or write than an accreditation document. 

But let me leave you on a high note.  My replacement as associate dean, Dr. George Reed, is a remarkable person who brings new dimensions and leadership skills to this position.  I was delighted when he agreed to accept the position.  I am looking forward with real excitement to seeing the positive changes that he will bring forth in his new position and to supporting him in his new role.

All the best,

Steve Gelb
Associate Dean and Professor