SEAS dean resigns unexpectedly

The dean of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences publicly announced his plan to resign early this month, but the dean did not cite a reason for his decision and SEAS faculty are suspicious about his motives.

Timothy Tong announced his plans for a June resignation at a meeting of the school’s National Advisory Council, a group of engineering school alumni that advises the dean. He did not return phone calls from The Hatchet last week.

Senior GW officials declined to comment on his motives for leaving his post or his plans following his resignation.

“People serve different lengths of time as dean . Our hope is that they serve five or more years,” said Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman. Tong has served as dean for eight years.

Some faculty in the engineering school said they are suspicious and uneasy about what they consider Tong leaving on short notice.

“I was a little unsettled by the suddenness,” said David Chichka, an engineering professor. “When someone at that level resigns, I would expect some indication (of why he is leaving). I don’t know if (his resignation) is a function of the new president, and if it was it would make me nervous.”

“Someone resigns out of some sort of conflict or disagreement,” said Michael Myers, chair of the department of mechanical and aerospace engineering.

But Kim Roddis, chair of the civil and environmental engineering department, said she thinks Tong’s job is taxing and that it is time for him to move on.

“I think being dean has an enormous amount of wear and tear associated with it,” she said. “Eight years is a long time to do this.”

She added, “I think there’s a lot of speculation going on and we should judge it on the face of it.”

Students in the engineering school emphasized the importance of the personal relationships that Tong forged with the students in his school.

“I’m quite surprised to hear of Dean Tong’s resignation. I really liked Dean Tong a lot,” said freshman Jason Qian. “He is very supportive and friendly with all of the students. He even hosts weekly tea with all of us to keep in touch with the students.”

“I was not aware that he was resigning, but I’m shocked. I think the new dean will need to be someone that can relate to the students as Dean Tong does,” said junior Uchenna Obaji. Faculty members in the engineering school are meeting Nov. 19 to talk about the dean search. A dean search committee is being formed that will include a representative from each department.

Lehman said he thinks a new dean will be hired by the time Tong leaves. He said the next dean will need to focus on increasing undergraduate enrollment, diversifying the school’s graduate programs and expanding the research being conducted on the Virginia campus.

“The next dean will have to focus on improving the infrastructure and increasing the enrollment to a more viable level,” said Hermann Helgert, an engineering professor. “The facilities, labs and office space are quite antiquated.”

Engineering professors said GW’s central administration must help the school increase undergraduate enrollment, perhaps by forming a separate admissions office just for engineering students.

Myers said, “One would hope that people would realize that you do not recruit engineering students in the same way you recruit international affairs students.”

– Eric Thibault contributed to this report

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