Associate Dean of Students Matthew Burns has been chosen to serve as Acting Dean of Students until a search committee, chaired by Dean of the College Richard Feldman, selects a permanent dean. The decision comes with the knowledge that current Dean of Students Jody Asbury will be on medical leave after Oct. 26 to undergo hip surgery.

The decision to appoint Burns to this acting role was made by Feldman after talking with members of the Deans’ office, senior staff members and others who worked closely with Asbury.

“[The decision] was a product of three things,” Feldman said. “His current position, his experience here and before he was here and [the fact that] I have known him since he’s been here and worked very effectively with him and think very highly of him. So I thought he was a clear, strong candidate.”

Burns has been with UR in his current capacity as Judicial Officer for five years. Asbury notes that, despite how his role may appear to students, Burns is one of the many people involved in what the Dean of Students’ Office accomplishes.

“He’s not just about ‘no,’ he’s not just about setting limits. What we’ve done while I’ve been Dean of Students he’s been a part of, [Associate Dean of Students] Anne Marie [Algier]’s been a part of; it’s all part of a team effort. It’s all of us thinking it through, thinking about what would make this a more dynamic campus. It’s not just one person fulfilling a role, it’s a team, and that team isn’t disappearing.”

When asked about his working relationship with Burns over the past five years, Feldman pointed out the positive qualities he saw in Burns that he thinks will help him succeed in his new role.

“I very much like working with him and respect him,” Feldman said. “In his role as Judicial Officer I know he is very fair and thoughtful. He’s responsive and shows great concern for students. [He has an] admirable desire to try to balance the well-being of the campus versus the fair treatment of a student who is involved in a particular case.”

As Judicial Officer, Burns’s main responsibility is student discipline. Depending on the severity of the infraction, students who have committed University policy violations often meet with the dean to discuss potential ramifications of their actions.

While Feldman recognizes that this stigma may make some students wary of meeting with Burns in his new role, he sees it as something that should pass with time.

“As students work with him and get to know him in his new role, I think they’ll get past that,” Feldman said. “Given his experience and his familiarity with the variety of things that go on in the Dean of Students’ office, even if that is a small negative for him in this acting role, I think it’s outweighed by the strengths he brings to it.”

The committee in charge of appointing a permanent dean is in place, and the job opening will soon be printed in higher education publications to advertise the position to national candidates.

There is also the option of promoting someone within the current staff to the position, including Burns himself.

Burns would not say whether he will apply for the opening or not.

“Serving as Acting Dean of Students places me in the unique and useful position of serving in the role before deciding whether or not to apply for it. At this point, I’m concentrating more on doing the job well than focusing on my ambitions, and I’ll let the experience guide me.”

Despite the soon-approaching start date for Burns, Asbury is confident that he will have the necessary tools to make a smooth transition into her previous role.

“Dean Burns has been attending meetings with me,” she said. “We have a very close working relationship, and so he knows I’m going to be available to him in any way I can and be helpful in any way I can, and that’s what I really want. I want things to go really well for everyone, and students in particular.”

Burns acknowledged that he has big shoes to fill and had many good things to say about Asbury and her actions during her tenure as Dean of Students.

“In my opinion, Dean Asbury is well-liked and universally respected by her colleagues and the student body,” he said. “I have absolutely no doubt that her many years here at the University of Rochester – not the least of which her time spent as Dean of Students – will have a lasting impact upon the University and its students, staff and faculty. Through her leadership, the College community is more clearly defined and is more connected with the larger city community. It has been one of the great privileges of my career to serve as her Associate Dean for these past five years, and I am quite sure that her mentorship will prove invaluable to me.”

Moeller is a member of the class of 2009.



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