Layoffs lead to a firestorm of online backlash from angered alumni

Abby Arsenault, News Layout Editor

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Back in late May the school’s administration made the decision to lay off 13 staffers to prevent an economic shortfall. While Saint Anselm President Steven DiSalvo maintains that this was a necessary course of action, it has resulted in a firestorm of anger and negative comments from those who felt the loss of these faculty members represents a loss of Benedictine values on campus.

One way this anger has manifested itself is with a petition. The petition is entitled “Call For Greater Transparency and Communication at Saint Anselm College” and at the time of publishing had amassed almost 1,200 signatures. On the website, the creator, listed as SACstudents4change, said the aim of the petition is to achieve greater transparency and communication between Anselmian students and administration,

“Regardless of any financial issues the college faces, we believe that a different course of action would have been more appropriate. Firing members of the community with very little notice is unjust and does not follow the Benedictine values of hospitality, justice, and respect.” The Crier contacted the creator of the petition for further comment but did not receive a response.

When asked his thoughts on the petition and its call for transparency, DiSalvo responded, “While this has been painful, these staff reductions were necessary for Saint Anselm College moving forward. Communication is always important, and every organization can work to improve it; we are no different. In this specific case, since transparency has been raised, I believe it would not have helped anyone to disclose partial information before final budget decisions were made and we had clarity on the number of staff reductions we were facing.”

The comments posted by former students on the petition further highlight the anger this course of actions has created. One post from Kathleen Flannery, Class of 2012, expresses the hope many feel that the school could return to old values: “When I was a student at Saint Anselm, I cherished many of my professional relationships with administrators and staff. They truly are the reason why Saint Anselm has functioned at such a high level both successfully and morally. My heart is saddened in the recent wake of events as I never would have imagined the school that taught so many of us what it meant to truly be a good and honest person to take such a turn and act in such a way that Benedictine values are disintegrating.”

Another post comes from Emily Schomp, Class of 2018: “Hundreds of thousands of dollars “misplaced” this past semester. Donations must be stalled until the Anselmian community gets answers. Cutting community service and religious/spiritual programs is not the answer.” Schomp’s post is one of many calling for alumni and other benefactors to cut off donations to Saint Anselm until changes are made. Ironically, Saint Anselm is in the midst of a major fundraising campaign, Faith in the Future.However, many can’t seem to agree if one of the desired changes should be the removal of the current leadership.

When asked for his response to the petition and the choice by some alumnus to cease donations DiSalvo expressed disappointment in the “unfortunate” turn of events. However, he also said that he valued and respected everyone’s opinions.

“I do stand by my belief that everything we’ve done is best for the college going forward and I hope in time that some alumni and friends who disagree in the moment will possibly reconsider when they see the path we’ve put the institution on. I’m grateful to all those who did choose to engage with the college to make FY 18 a record year for fundraising.”

In an anonymous statement made to The Crier, a current staffer described how the layoffs have affected morale among the remaining employees.

“When you see a co-worker removed in such fashion, it stays with you, and it is difficult to feel the same commitment to the job.  We are not here for the money, but we have a congenial work atmosphere, plus we love the students, and so we stay. This made us all a bit paranoid, thinking we could be next, because we could not see the reasoning behind the action. Not only did we lose these 13 people, but we have lost others as a result of the demoralizing atmosphere.  Fear and anger were instilled, and it will be tough to shake. This was the antithesis of Anselmian.”

Currently, it is unknown if the petition or decrease in alumni funds will lead to any changes at Saint Anselm. For those who wish to voice their opinion on the layoffs and the current administration, the petition can be reached at this link: Others have encouraged students to call and write letters directly to the administration to express their feelings.

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