In the wake of administration and staff layoffs announced May 25 by Saint Anselm College, a firestorm of alumni reaction has erupted, including an online petition demanding clarity and transparency from Saint Anselm. Ironically, this Thursday, the college will announce the public phase of its “Faith in the Future” campaign, while the next day, Friday, college trustees have their regularly scheduled spring meeting. Over the weekend, the annual college reunion will be under way.
Prior to the announcement of 13 “separations” in the form of retirements and dismissals, rumors had been circulating about financial troubles for the college. In his address to faculty, staff, and members of the monastic community gathered in the Dana Center, Steven DiSalvo, president of Saint Anselm, announced that, in addition to previous vacancies not being filled, the 13 additional administration and staff members were being let go of immediately.
The Crier has learned that the individuals let go are Joseph Horton, ’77, vice president of student affairs; Lorraine Parr, of College Communications and Marketing; Bob Shea, director of the Dana Center; Darcie Champagne, administrative assistant for arts and marketing at the Dana Center; Patricia Schuster, Title IX coordinator and vice president for human resources (who has since been removed from the college website, but can still be found in some versions of the college’s Title IX Compliance Statement;) Hui-Ling Chen, director of institutional research (whose name has been removed as well;) Laura Reyes-Irizari, administrative assistant at campus ministry; Robin Good, director of College Advancement; Lisa Gowern, coordinator of college events and services; Lori Ragas, administrative assistant for the vice president of financial affairs; Chip Underhill, director of media relations; Casey Shaughnessy; and Margaret “Peg” Bourque, associate vice president for treasury and auxiliary affairs.
The Crier has learned that, in many cases, members of college administration went from office to office, informing various people that their employment was immediately terminated and that they needed to pack up their offices and leave campus. Sources have claimed some were told they had 15 minutes to pack their belongings and leave or they would be escorted off campus by Campus Security. Even into last week, members of the college community were seen at Alumni Hall after hours loading cardboard boxes into their cars with belongings from offices of family members and friends who had been laid off by the college.
The positions removed by the college were those which had been determined to not be necessary to be separate, fully-financed offices, or positions which were considered redundant or otherwise unnecessary for the college to function. However, several have questioned the validity of this argument. For example, federal law requires that, “Under… Title IX regulations, a recipient [Saint Anselm College, as a place of education and recipient of federal funding] must designate at least one employee to serve as its Title IX coordinator.” This position was previously filled by Pat Schuster.
Many also point out the demographics of those laid off. Of the 13 removed, nine of the 13 were women, and several were also minorities. Members of the college community have said that, for a college struggling to improve range and depth of diversity, the lay-off of so many women in high positions within the college sends a confusing message.
Furthermore, the college is expected to announce Thursday evening the public phase of a $70 million dollar fundraising campaign, but has removed many of their seasoned communications staff, their director of media relations, and Lorraine Parr, who designed many of the College’s mailing documents, according to various sources.
In addition to the likely damage the layoffs and possible financial issues have caused, Saint Anselm’s relations with both alumni and current students have also been disrupted. Many alumni and students have pledged on various forms of social media to refuse to contribute funds to the college; either until the situation is resolved or the current administration is changed, or both. Some alumni have said their personal connection to Saint Anselm College is lessened because many of those laid off enjoyed considerable rapport with students.
Members of the class of 2018, who received their diplomas this past May 21, only four days before the president’s announcement, voiced their concerns with the college.
Thomas Mannion, a former class senator representing the Class of 2018, stated: “I think that the administration needs to be more transparent when making financial decisions. I still have a brother and sister at Saint Anselm. As an alumnus, I still care deeply about what happens at the college. The college cannot say everything is fine when 13 people are being laid off.”
Mannion also stated concerns about the amount of housing on campus, which he suggested may not be enough to handle ever-increasing class sizes.
The Crier has reached out to others from the Student Government Association (SGA), but as of this writing had not heard from other officers.
On Facebook, posts continue to circulate from both alumni and current students, some simply with links to the petition, others imploring others to sign, while others demand a change in college administration.
“This is not the same school I fell in love with, and it’s a result of poor administration,” one post read.
Another particularly biting comment reads, “The current president and other administration obviously do not hold the same moral standards as we were once taught. I believe that the Benedictine community has strong community values which were instilled upon students when they were a key part of the college.”
A signature demanding greater transparency from the college began circulating about a week after the cuts were announced. As of June 6, it had already garnered more than 850 signatures. The petition’s stated goals were for greater administrative and financial transparency, clear communication between administration and staff, better communication with students, and greater respect for members of the community.
The Crier attempted to contact the creator (or creators) of the petition, known only as “SACStudents4Change,” but at press time had not yet received a response.
In addition to signing the petition, students, alumni, and those concerned are encouraged to write letters and place phone calls to President DiSalvo’s office regarding their dissatisfaction and feelings regarding the decisions made.
If you are interested in reading or signing the petition, it can be found here: https://www.change.org/p/sdisalvo-anselm-edu-call-for-greater-transparency-and-communication-at-saint-anselm-college