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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Mark Spencer, another in a series of resignations

Published: September 20, 2013
Section: Front Page, News

In the wake of Rick Sawyer’s controversial departure from Brandeis University, the resignation of yet another member of the administration, Mark Spencer, the former dean of admissions, has come to light. While Spencer officially resigned in June, students may remain unaware of his absence due to the university’s failure to notify the campus body via email.

Sawyer, former vice president for student affairs and dean of student life, is rumored to have resigned due to conflicting ideologies with other administrative officials.

Spencer’s resignation may be partially due to the failed alignment of his goals with the current alterations made in the admissions process.

“The general sense around the office was that there was a certain amount of tension between Andrew Flagel and Mark Spencer,” explained Savannah Pearlman ’12, whose insight is garnered from her time spent working up to 30 hours a week in direct contact with students and admissions officers as a tour guide, senior interviewer and senior admissions coordinator.

Senior Vice President for Students and Enrollment Andrew Flagel, commented, “My understanding is that generally the university does not comment on personnel issues,” in an email correspondence with The Hoot.

During his time here at Brandeis, Spencer left a profound impact on the community according to former colleagues. Spencer was originally selected for the role of dean of admissions after an intensive national search, emerging as the most competent individual for the job.

According to Sawyer, “Mark was seen as an admissions leader who could position Brandeis in front of the changing paradigm.” In addition to promoting Brandeis’ profile internationally, utilizing social media and technology to strengthen marketing and fortifying relationships with the financial aid staff, Spencer also rebuilt the student tour guide program among other leadership initiatives.

Spencer fondly reflected on his initial experiences with the university, saying, “From diversity and international recruitment to enhancing financial aid packaging from a gapping policy to one of meeting 100 percent of need, I believe the office made some significant changes that truly represent the heart of Brandeis and its social justice mission.”

He characterized his proudest moment as when, in his first year serving as dean of admissions, the first-year class target was achieved, after having been missed by 100 students the year prior.

Yet despite these former successes, it appears tensions circulated among members of the administration.

“Flagel told me during a one-on-one meeting my senior year that significant changes needed to be made in the way we run admissions,” said Pearlman. These alterations may serve as one of the underlying causes behind the resignation of both Sawyer and Spencer. “It had been suggested to me that Flagel had a more controlling approach over admissions than previous VPs of enrollment had taken,” Pearlman further explained.

Spencer’s role as dean of admissions was relatively short in comparison to predecessors, despite his success in generating interest in the university among international students.

Sawyer describes Spencer as “a great listener and very ‘hip’ to what is happening in college student culture.” On the other hand, however, Pearlman stated, “He seemed like an administrator type, rather than a personable personality.”

Many Brandeis policies have been in flux recently, such as the transition of the tour guide program to a volunteer service and the proposition to remove SAT scores as an application requirement.

In wake of his resignation, Spencer stated, “I hope every student, faculty and alumni who reads this realizes that being true to yourself and making authentic decisions for oneself are even more important for your life than individual institutional/work demands.”

Spencer is currently serving as director of college advising at Deerfield Academy, where he continues to pursue his passion for student advocacy. Despite his departure from Brandeis University, Spencer said the most rewarding aspect of his job is the relationships he builds with faculty, colleagues and students.

Denied the opportunity of a formal farewell, Spencer apologizes for the timing of his departure and inability to say goodbye to the many students who have impacted his life. “You are a student populace that is passionate and caring in your own right,” he said. “I know you will make an impact in your post-Brandeis years, not only as intellectuals in your fields but as activists in making the world a better place.”