Two minority affairs heads to leave posts

Robert Samuels

Two multicultural student affairs administrators resigned on Thursday, marking the second and third major staff departures from the division since its restructuring last spring.

James Britt, director of African American Student Affairs, announced to black student leaders he will no longer work at Northwestern, starting Oct. 31. Additionally Dimple Patel, who directs Asian and Asian American Student Affairs, has accepted a position with the admissions office at NU’s Law School. She has not yet announced her final day as director.

“I’m looking to keep myself active and make sure I’m learning new skills,” Patel said. “I want to share what I’ve learned here and move into another office.”

Britt and Patel’s resignations came as a shock to multicultural student group leaders on campus, who said losing advisers at the beginning of the school year was both unusual and unfortunate. Last spring the black, Latino and Asian American student offices were brought together to form a division of Multicultural Student Affairs, now headed by Carretta Cooke, the former head of African American Student Affairs.

At that time, Lupita Temiquel, who advised Latino students, vacated her post and moved to NU’s judicial affairs office. Ronnie Rios, Weinberg ’04, now is serving as director of Hispanic/Latino Student Affairs on an interim basis.

Patel’s strong belief in unity and genuine interaction with students helped Asian and Asian American students strengthen their sense of community, said Sarah Yun, president of the Pan-Asian student group Asian Pacific American Coalition.

“Having two cultural leaders leave definitely makes a lot of students feel insecure,” said Yun, a Weinberg senior. “But we will support the African American students, who might also be confused and lost, and we know they will support us.”

A national search will be conducted for Patel’s replacement, Cooke said. Johnny Hill, a graduate assistant at the Black House, will fill Britt’s position on an interim basis.

Hill will be the third assistant director entering the department of African American Student Affairs in five years. Derek Wilson was fired in July 2001. Curtis Askew served as an interim assistant director until Britt arrived as assistant director in September 2002.

“I think it’s time for me to just go and pursue other options,” said Britt, who was promoted to be the main adviser for black students during restructuring. “But I definitely feel good about what I’ve done in the short amount of time here.”

Controversy still surrounds Wilson’s firing, and Cooke said she expected students to be “upset” and speculate about Britt’s departure.

“Some might think something weird is going on,” Cooke said. “You know what? Something might be going on. It may be people moving on as professionals and seeking a higher level … That’s something to celebrate.”

Ketica Guter, coordinator for black student alliance For Members Only, said Britt served as an effective student advocate and mentor. She added that she would contact concerned alumni about the sudden loss of an “irreplaceable” member of NU’s community.

“We are deeply saddened by today’s turn of events,” said Guter, a Weinberg junior. “We will miss James (Britt) greatly.”

Reach Robert Samuels at [email protected].