During a session of last year’s VSA Council, former VSA VP for Student Life Hannah Matsunaga ’16 remarked at a concerning trend that she and many others have observed about young administrators at Vassar: they’re all leaving.
Though most students would expect the Administration to balk at such a premise, Director of Residential Life Luis Inoa, who was himself present at the meeting, explained that the egress of young administrators into jobs at other institutions isn’t an unusual occurrence, and that it’s a normal part of many of these positions. We at The Miscellany News are troubled by this phenomenon, and by the acceptance of this system as a standard protocol.
Positions like SAVP Coordinator and ALANA Center Director are crucial to supporting student life at Vassar. However, based on the constant turnover of these administrative positions and others, it appears that the College does not perceive them to be as important as students do.
Because these positions focus on supporting students, we as a community need to take care of the people that occupy them. The College’s inadequate support for people in these administrative roles indicates a lack of interest in providing students with the support they need from these offices.
Many have taken up these positions because of a desire to improve conditions on college campuses or the lives of students in general. However, they continue to leave Vassar in search of better job opportunities. This indicates that the College is not sufficiently supporting them, whether it be in terms of pay, benefits or hours.
These positions are presented as short term positions, which has the potential to make the administrators filling them feel as though they are not meant to effect long term change on campus, limiting the ways that they can support students and frustrating the people in these positions.
Lately there have been many searches for administrators to fill the roles of those who have left for better opportunities. While lengthy searches progress, students are left with interim directors who split their time between their primary roles on campus and filling these vacancies.
Not only is this difficult for students who need the support of these administrative positions, it’s difficult for those administrators who take on additional work as the search goes on. This shortchanges not only the students and the support system, but also members of the faculty and staff. Julian Williams’ departure from his Title IX Coordinator position to work as a senior-level administrator at George Mason University has left his colleagues, particularly Kelly Grab and Colleen Cohen, to divide his position’s responsibilities while the College continued searching for a “permanent” replacement.
Julian Williams isn’t really at fault, however. Who can blame young administrators for using their positions at Vassar for the purposes of benefitting their career if that is not only the status quo, but the accepted expectation of those positions? The labeling of these roles as short term, resume-building jobs becomes incredibly problematic for our community. The absence of people to fill them leads to deficiencies in the support they are supposed to offer and overworks administrators who are struggling to fill these gaps.
Another crucial area of student support is not immune to turnover. Three House Advisors are new this year and there have been many changes in the roles House Advisors play outside their houses. Both House Team Training and Freshman Orientation were put together by Christina Winnett who began working at Vassar in July. Running and creating these programs requires an intimate knowledge of campus and student life that takes longer than two months to attain.
These programs would be most effective were they were under the supervision of someone with a deep knowledge of campus so that they could be catered to Vassar-specific experiences. Were these roles long term, trainings and orientations could be planned with Vassar in mind and would be more effective for students. Additionally, without a consistent advisor and support system it becomes difficult for student leaders to be effective.
Students need time to foster trust and understanding with the individuals who play a large role in their houses and lives at Vassar.
Turnover of these roles hurts relationships and contributes to a lack of trust between students and the administration. These positions should bridge the gap between the resources created for students and upper level administrators.
However, this is not possible if people holding crucial roles like the SAVP Coordinator, the Director of Safety and Security or the Director of the ALANA Center consistently leave every few years. Positions such as these thrive on their connections to students and their experiences, particularly since they relate to fundamental aspects of college life.
If the people in these roles take the job with the expectation that they’ll be moving on in a few years, how can students then expect to develop the mutual trust and understanding that these positions require in order to be successful?
We at The Miscellany News believe that the Vassar community needs to provide more support for these positions and stop portraying them as resume-builders in order to create roles that have the potential to fully support students and affect long term change on campus. The College should have enough respect for itself that it will hire administrators it intends to keep and that have the long-term goals that students want and need.