U. Texas-Arlington dean of students not your average administrator

By Amber Chisholm
The Shorthorn
August 3, 2004 Tuesday

ARLINGTON, Texas Tucked deep inside a back office in the lower level of the University Center is a stiff, cold, expulsion-happy administrator all too willing to kick students out of University of Texas-Arlington for good.

At least that's the word among students around campus.

"If I were in trouble, I'd be afraid of him," said education junior Cambre Swann. "Because I know he does his job."

But Austin Lane is trying to "dispel the myths." The 33-year-old baby-faced dean of students has been at UTA for seven years, enforcing the Code of Student Conduct, which states that students should practice academic integrity while in school. Lane's job is to make sure students understand the code and follow it. If someone disobeys, he hands out disciplinary consequences. But Lane wants students to know that they shouldn't be afraid of him just because of his title.

"I can see why students may get a little frightened," said Lane with a chuckle. "But students should not be afraid of their dean of students."

Lane said some might get the wrong perception of him because of what they've seen on television and in movies like "Animal House," about the dean always ruling with an iron fist. Finance junior Jamel Musa said television always gives the dean of students a bad reputation.

"The dean of students seems intimidating. On TV he's always someone nobody likes," said Musa.

Lane said punishment does not come easy.

"They watch too much television. It is not that quick and easy to just kick someone out," Lane said. "If a student is accused of something, they are referred to this office and our job is to investigate and find out if there's anything there."

Lane wants to make clear that punishing students is not something he enjoys. In fact, he said that's the worst part of his job.

"I worry that people think I get pleasure from that; it hurts my heart. I know how tough it is to be a student," he said. "There are very tough decisions I have to make, and I don't take them lightly because you're dealing with people's lives here."

If Lane absolutely has to hand out a punishment, he said disciplinary probation is his favorite, because it's the least severe, and "it keeps students here." He adds that very rarely does he have to suspend or expel students, and even if he does, they still have the right to appeal to the university president.

Lane said the main idea he wants to convey is that he's not here to hurt students but to help them. He's in the process of getting organizations together that will help students become more familiar with him and UTA, so that they won't be afraid.

"We're trying to beam a brighter light in eyes of students," he said. "My day can be explained easily - it's either good or bad. I try to have as many good days as I can."

(C) 2003 The Shorthorn via U-WIRE