Nissel to Fill Associate Dean of Students Post (Vol. 66, Issue 9)
In an initial attempt to fill one of a number of high-level vacancies in the Office of Student Services, Dean of Students David Himber appointed Director of Housing and Psychological Services Dr. Chaim Nissel to the position of Acting University Associate Dean of Students. Though Nissel's appointment satisfies a need extant since Himber left the associate deanship and assumed his current post last year, it necessarily leaves the Student Housing Office empty, complementing a similar void at the slot of Coordinator of Student Services caused by Andrew Leibowitz's resignation last semester. Nissel's promotion has also raised the ire of student leaders and resident advisors, who fault Himber for not involving them in the selection process.
Nissel, who has served as Housing Director for the past three years, will continue in that role along with his new job until his appointment is formalized and the 'Acting' portion of his title removed. "There's still a search committee for the Associate Dean slot," he remarked, "but it's very likely that I'll receive the formal appointment as early as this May or June."
Though Nissel's official assumption of his new post seems imminent, uncertainty continues to cloud the search process for a new Director of Housing and Psychological Services. "There is no formal search ongoing at the present time," stated Nissel. "There won't be a Director of Housing until I'm appointed [full-time] Associate Dean." In contrast to Nissel's assertion, Himber averred that a search had indeed begun. "We hope to announce simultaneous final appointments of both the Associate Dean and Director of Housing," he remarked.
Nissel's new responsibilities include direct supervision of the search process, though he also seemed unsure about the number of people he would be hiring. "Whether the new Director of Housing will also serve as Director of Psychological Services depends on the credentials of this person," he noted. "I anticipate that I'll continue to oversee Psych services. Depending on the person hired, we'll see how much counseling he does." If all goes according to plan, Himber hopes to have Nissel fill the Associate Dean post and hire a new Coordinator of Student Services to round out his staff. A fourth position — that of Assistant Dean — does exist; in fact, it was most recently held by Andrew Leibowitz. Himber, however, asserted that at any given moment, three of the four possible positions are intended to be filled.
In spite of the lingering questions, Himber remained highly upbeat about the success of the personnel move. "Dr. Nissel and I have been a good team until now," Himber beamed. "It's been a professional delight working with him, and I feel comfortable turning to him when something needs to be done in a timely fashion. He brings both good administrative skills and good psychological skills with him."
In spite of Himber's glowing recommendation, some students questioned their lack of input into the promotion decision. "I'm disappointed that students were not consulted about his hiring," declared Yeshiva College Student Council President Pinchas Shapiro. "His [current] position puts him in constant contact with students, and we should have had a substantial say in the matter. Furthermore," Shapiro noted, "the RA's, his direct employees, could have been an invaluable resource in evaluating his fitness for the job." Himber contested Shapiro's claims on two counts. "First, as a university-wide appointment, and not just a college one, Dr. Nissel did not require direct undergraduate student confirmation," he pointed out. "Secondly, I did base my decision on the overwhelming positive response I received from both students and parents regarding Dr. Nissel's performance." Himber admitted that he had spoken with "a few, but not all" resident advisors.
Nissel indicated what he perceives as a good relationship with his subordinate RA's as a point in his favor. "Of course, I worked very well with YU students," he remarked. "I recently interviewed fifty potential RA's for next year. We asked them, among other things, what recommendations they could provide for improving student life on campus. Their responses all centered on physical plant issues. It gave me a sense of what students feel, and no one pointed to any problems with our office, which was gratifying." One of the applicants questioned Nissel's claim, however. "Of course we didn't question his performance," revealed the student, who requested anonymity. "How could we question him if he was the sole person in charge of hiring us?"
A former employee of Nissel's provided a more positive, though guarded, outlook. "I think he's assuming the perfect position for him," the former RA said. "He's very hard-working, and this position will be well-filled by him. Ironically," the student continued, "I think his one problem in his prior job was his lack of a strong connection with the students. He understood the typical yeshiva student, but had difficulty getting them to approach him. His new job will make maximum use of his strong ability," the former RA predicted.
Other students echoed this perception of Nissel. "I don't think he has a rapport with students, an ability to interact with them on a personal level the way Andrew [Leibowitz] did," said YC sophomore Aaron Keigher.
In spite of such sentiments, Nissel remained confident that his previous and future success would speak loudly for him. "I view the increase in availability of student counseling services, and the spreading of the word about these services as one of my great successes," he recounted. "The number of students I have been able to help has been gratifying." Nissel pointed to the further expansion of Psychological Services and his championing the cause of students as top priorities in his new position. "I hope to continue serving as an advocate for the students, just now on all campuses, and not just at Yeshiva College," he promised.