Dr. Vietch Experiences Success and Challenges as Occidental College President

Jonathan Veitch received his bachelor’s degree from Stanford University before attending Harvard University, where he earned his master degree and his Ph.D. in the History of American Civilization. Dr. Veitch taught in the English department of the University of Wisconsin, Madison for four years and wrote the award-winning American Superrealism: Nathanael West and the Politics of Representation in the 1930s (University of Wisconsin Press, 1997). He went on to become an associate professor at The New School in New York City where he taught history and literature, and served as chair of humanities and associate provost.

 

In 2009, Dr. Veitch became president of Occidental College in Los Angeles, California, the fifth president in five years. Viewed as a stabilizing force in the college’s leadership, his first years focused on improved community relations, upgrade of campus facilities, and environmental programs. Under his direction, construction was completed on the Samuelson Alumni Center as well as the renovation and expansion of 98-year-old Swan Hall, a residence that serves over one-third of the faculty. Renovations of the historic Johnson Hall were also completed and it is now home to the new McKinnon Family Center for Politics and Global Affairs and the Johnson Student Center.
 

Despite the positive campus growth, Occidental College became the focus national scrutiny and public criticism over its handling of sexual assault claims. In a January, 2014 interview, Dr. Veitch admitted that the college did not adequately meet the needs of its students, in part due to misunderstanding when college personnel could and could not report to authorities. Internal and external reviews of campus policies and practices were conducted and several changes have occurred with regard to addressing sexual assault issues on campus. These include:

 

  • Expanded staffing to include a Title IX compliance officer and full-time victim’s advocate.
  • Expanded education from prevention-focused program for females to behavioral education for the male student body.
  • Improved support of victims to contact the police in cases of assault.
  • Revamped alcohol education to include a sexual awareness component.
    Veitch concluded his discussion of this issue by stating that he did not communicate his empathy and concerns for the student body as well as he should have. His goal is to have Occidental College be a safe and challenging educational environment for all students.