Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923
by Jennifer Glose, Business Manager
Within the last couple of weeks, staff departures at Cedar Crest College have become a concern of the students as five staff members departed from the college in the past three weeks.
Dr. Kim Owens, vice president of Student Affairs, Joseph Hartner, a longtime director of maintenance at the college, Allison Valentine, director of the Tompkins College Center (TCC), Jami Kehm, event coordinator for the TCC, and Dan Donohue, assistant director of athletics and cross country coach, make up the five absent staff members.
In retrospect, the departures began last spring with the disappearance of Denise O’Neill, the associate dean of Student Affairs. O’Neill was replaced by Vice President of Student Affairs Kim Owens. In less than 12 months, Owens has stepped down from her position, according to a campus wide email sent out a few weeks ago by Cedar Crest College President Carmen Ambar.
Ambar stated in her email, “Dr. Owens, Vice President of Student Affairs, has indicated that she will be departing the College to pursue other exciting opportunities.”
Owens declined to comment to the Crestiad.
Until the newly named position of Dean of Students is filled, Ambar indicated that the departments which Owens managed will be divided amongst Ambar, Provost Elizabeth Meade, and Chief Financial Officer Audra Kahr.
Before the college community was officially notified of Owens’s departure, students on campus were already hearing word of her announcement and of several other staff changes. Many of the other changes still have not been addressed by the administration, leaving students to feel unsure of the stability of the college.
“It is worrysome. Over the summer, my pre-calculus teacher left, and he had just recommended me as a tutor. All of a sudden he wasn’t there to help me follow through with the tutoring, and I was never informed of who the new teacher is. For certain assignments, you want to know what the teacher is looking for. If you’ve never met the teacher, then you are not able to help the student as much,” said Sabrina Pilotti, sophomore history major.
Valentine and Kehm departed their positions within a short amount of time of each other.
Kelly Ann Ryan, the assistant director of Residence Life, has worked closely with Valentine and Kehm in her four and a half years at Cedar Crest. She and Valentine were on the Student Leadership Advancement Council and launched a leadership conference last year.
“The College Center is a staff of two, and it’s hard to ignore the fact that they are not here anymore,” she said.
Donohue left the college two weeks ago, but the administration has yet to formally release a statement to confirm this staff change.
“What bothers me the most is that we were not informed right away about Dan’s departure from our school. He has always been a very supportive coach and incredibly understanding of our responsibilities as students. Despite the reasoning, I am sad that he was terminated and none of the cross country team members were notified. Especially since it happened just days after our last cross country meet,” said Katilyn Oswald, a senior neuroscience and psychology major and a member of the cross country team.
“I feel that Dan was a very understanding coach, and now that he is gone I have many questions about what will happen to the team,” said Joellyn Colangelo, junior biodiversity and conservation biology major and co-captain of the cross country team.
Attempts to contact Hartner, Valentine, Kehm, and Donohue declined to comment to the Crestiad.
According to Ambar, the rate at which staff members are leaving the college has not increased in the last couple weeks. Cedar Crest stands in the everyday business of staff changes that occur in many other colleges and businesses alike.
“The transition in workforce here at Cedar Crest over the past four years has been about 7 percent, which has been a standard percentage change. They are so standard that we budget for them,” she said, “One of the things that I am committed to is that we are a vibrant and thriving institution that does not rise and fall by one individual, including the president.”
Rumors floating around the campus about the reasons behind the staff members departures does not phase Ambar.
“The particular individuals all have their own individual stories. There are some personnel issues in there but mostly it’s about people finding other opportunities,” she said.
According to Ambar, the procedure that the college takes when notifying the campus community of staff changes is to only notify when there is going to be a large impact on students.
“If it is a position that we feel has a very broad impact on students then we certainly try and send out a general email to the entire college,” Ambar said, “One of the things that we are obligated to do as a leadership of a college is to protect both the institution and the individual. There may be things that an individual asked not be revealed or there may be legal issues. One of the things that I think people have to accept is that sometimes the information is not appropriate to share.”
Students are responding differently to the word of the departures talked about across campus.
“Even if they are trying to clean house, then it’s a good thing because this college needs changes, and a lot of them,” said Kristin Clancy, a senior psychology major
“$30,000 in tuition alone and there is nothing to show for it, and they are still hiking tuition,” said Kristen Sigley, a senior neuroscience major
“Faculty members departing has definitely had an impact on our school. It makes many students, including myself, question the stability of our school since so many faculty members are leaving. I think more students would be more understanding if senior faculty staff had better communication with the campus community about these faculty members leaving. They are an integral part of our education and we have all created strong relationships with these staff members. It is disheartening when they leave, and the students are not notified,” said Oswald.
“Everything has been based off of rumors, and since it is such a small school, these rumors spread quickly. I feel that the student body should have been informed by the school that these staff members were leaving. It would have shown respect for the students and would be very much appreciated by those who are affected more closely by these changes,” said Collangelo
According to Ambar, students should not get the wrong impression about the staff changes and be reassured that everything is fine.
“If the impression is that there is some kind of ‘house cleaning’ going on, that is not the right impression. We are just going along like any other institution and dealing with the varying issues that arise,” said Ambar, “I do believe that an institution benefits by, not massive change in workforce, but in consistent change.”