Revolving door of SMU’s staff gives campus community a yearly facelift
Bethany Montgomery, Staff Writer
Among students, the reputation of Saint Martin’s retention rates is infamously low, leading to “record breaking” first-year classes shrinking significantly after fall and spring semester. Despite an acceptance rate of nearly 98 percent in 2018, sophomore students are caught off guard each year by the loss of many of their classmates from the previous year. However, an even more ominous threat to the steady and dependable body of Saint Martin’s, is the revolving door of staff and faculty members.
Students graduating this upcoming May have experienced significant changes to the staff who greeted first-year students at orientation in the summer of 2016. Since then, students have seen significant staff changes in Campus Life, Campus Ministry, Residence Life, various dean’s offices, the Advising Center, and the Counseling and Wellness Center. Less obvious to students, however, were the staff and leadership changes in other departments like Finance (which acquired a new Chief Financial Officer and new payroll accountant), the College of Arts and Sciences, Human Resources, Marketing and Communications, Financial Aid, and the Registrar.
While students might remember changes due to retirement both in the Office of Public Safety and the O’Grady Library, as well as the abrupt dismissal of the Assistant Director of Housing and Residence Life, Heather Nicole Saladino, the sudden disappearance from other staff members is less clear.
Saint Martin’s students have felt the loss of both Director of Campus Life Katie Wieliczkiewicz and Assistant Director of Campus Life Liz Rumball, keenly this past year, as both were close to many students on campus, but reportedly left for better jobs.
While the exact reasons for their transitions were not made known to students, the requirements and expectations of both positions shifted constantly in recent months, potentially making the job itself less desirable due to its inconsistency. Other staff and faculty also received an overwhelming feeling of dissatisfaction from departed staff members, stating that they often gave the vague response of it being “time to look for better opportunities.”
Allegedly, Angela Carlin from Campus Ministry, Kevin Hyde from Marketing and Communications, Viktor Genkov from Finance, and several executive assistants in the Provost’s office and the School of Business, expressed displeasure with their position at Saint Martin’s and the executive decisions made about their departments.
Matt Tietjen from the Office of the Registrar also left suddenly and mysteriously at the end of fall 2019 semester, and was also highly regarded by students, faculty, and staff. Reasons for these departures circled primarily as a result of better job opportunities and more family time.
Even more notable is the almost semesterly rotation of the staff in the Office of International Programs and Development (OIPD). Students interested in studying abroad, without the helpful individually tailored programs created by former Director of Study Abroad Brenda Burns, are now given fewer options including more pre-designed trips. The quick turnover is not surprising given the overwhelmingly poor job description. Previous Study Abroad coordinators attempted to work in both OIPD and the Student Advising Center, and most recently requested a part-time position but were given a full-time workload.
Solutions to such an endless revolving door of staff is not cut and dry, but several consistencies are evident in this mass exodus of employees. While staff are aware of the salary before accepting their positions, dissatisfaction with the actual position seems to be a common pattern. After mid-year re-evaluations of position requirements without the endorsement of the actual staff member, the university has found itself forming undesirable and “mysterious” job positions that fail to describe the additional duties that a position may expand to include.
Raising pay might seem like an obvious solution, but given the limited funding in many campus departments, remaining duties not included in pre-existing job positions are then distributed to existing staff. Even with the growing demand for services from departments like Integrated Technology Services (ITS), some offices are still managing with a small staff and small budget, despite the growing community needs.
Though the school has implemented some positive changes, like maternity and paternity leave, clearly defined job roles could allow Saint Martin’s to avoid re-hiring for the same positions every year, much to the benefit of both the school and the student body.