College Shakes up Student Affairs staff

By Emily Howland

Director of Residential Life Sarah Griesse will leave Macalester by Feb. 28 as part of a broad plan to restructure Student Affairs. The two-year plan, developed by Associate Dean of Students Jim Hoppe, is designed to address what has been described as an inefficient and problematic administration.As part of the plan, Brian Wagner, Director of Campus Programs, and Ramon Knox, Associate Director of Leadership and Community Development will not be employed in their current roles as of May 2007.

All three of the Student Affairs staff will find their positions replaced or removed by the end of the restructuring. Wagner and Knox will be permitted to re-apply for the new positions, Hoppe said, but in an interview Knox said he does not expect to return. The staff members are not being fired, and the changes were not motivated by faults in their ability or performance, Hoppe said.

ƒ?oeWhen I looked at restructuring I took people out of the picture,ƒ?? Hoppe said. ƒ?oeIt made it harder but it was necessary.ƒ??

The plan will merge Campus Programs and Res. Life to improve collaboration across the Department of Student Affairs and promote ƒ?oecommunity building,ƒ?? Hoppe said.

Future changes aim to forge a stronger connection between Res. Life, Macalester College Student Government and the Program Board. Hoppe plans to create Hall Councils with Residence Hall representatives who are involved in Res. Life decision-making.

Dean of Students Laurie Hamre has assisted Hoppe throughout the restructuring process.

ƒ?oeThe changes will provide additional opportunities for students to participate in a deeper way in all campus activities and residential life,ƒ?? Hamre said.

Griesse refused an interview, and declined to comment on the restructuring and her departure from Macalester. While Wagner responded to contacts from reporters, he was not available for comment before this issue went to print.

Knox said he does not expect to reapply for a new position, but before he makes any decisions, he will first have to ƒ?oeget over the shock,ƒ?? of losing his job.

ƒ?oeI received a clear message from Macalester,ƒ?? Knox said. ƒ?oeI am just trying to understand that this is reality.ƒ??

Students interviewed expressed widespread discontent with Res. Life, but remained optimistic about the impact some of the changes may have.

ƒ?oeRes. Life is not good at relating to students. I donƒ?TMt know if they even made an attempt,ƒ?? Jacob Beckley ƒ?TM06 said. ƒ?oeDiscussion between students and Res. Life is a good first step.ƒ??

Hoppe currently oversees all Res. Life and Student Life staff and initiatives. Hoppe hopes the plan will create a more approachable administrative structure that will lead to new incentives for living on campus.

ƒ?oeIf it is successful, people will want to live on campus because they will see other value in it,ƒ?? Hoppe said. Knox remained doubtful that the restructure was necessary.

ƒ?oeI donƒ?TMt understand the intent of the reorganization, especially because we just did a reorganization of the faculty in 2005,ƒ?? Knox said.

A letter from Hoppe to the division of Student Affairs, details the rationale behind the changes, noting that this recent plan arose from the June 2005 ƒ?oereorganization.ƒ??

ƒ?oeOur charge was simple; to create a more vibrant and seamless student life experience worthy of occupying a central place in College life and fully complementing the values and academic mission of the campus,ƒ?? Hoppe wrote in the letter. ƒ?oeAs we have worked through the past eight months, it has become clear that it is necessary to undertake an additional stage of organizational restructuring.ƒ??

ƒ?oeThe reorganization is not about these three staff members. It is unfortunate but restructuring often affects people as well as positions,ƒ?? Hamre said.
Beginning June 2006, Griesseƒ?TMs position will be replaced by a new Associate Director of Res. Life. The distinction in terminology, while seemingly minor, is pivotal to Hoppeƒ?TMs plan to integrate the different administrative parts that dictate the lives of students. An Operations Manager of Res. Life will support the Associate Director.

Beckley challenged the administration to consider certain ƒ?oeunavoidableƒ?? elements of Res. Life work that will continue to generate negative attitudes from students living on campus. The role of Res. Life staff as enforcers of residence hall rules was cited as the main obstacle to improving student and staff relations in that department.

ƒ?oeNobody likes to be told they canƒ?TMt do something,ƒ?? Hoppe said. ƒ?oeThereƒ?TMs always some potential for hard feelings.ƒ??

Hoppe agreed that the Resident Assistant (R.A.) role is inevitably antagonistic due to discipline and wants to focus on changing the negative dynamic.

ƒ?oeThe alcohol policy is a big part of that,ƒ?? he said.

Hoppe and staff within Res. Life will handle the work left behind by Griesse when she departs on Feb. 28.

Within the next week the college is expected to post a search for the new positions of Associate Director of Residential Life and Assistant Dean of Students, which will provide support to Hoppe and Hamre.