In the past year, Wellesley College has seen the departure of many professors, staff members and administrators. This academic year Wellesley has lost or learned of the departure of Hillel director Patti Sheinman and Jewish Chaplain David Bernat, Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Jennifer Desjarlais, Dean of Students Debra DeMeis and President Kim Bottomly.
Undoubtedly, while each administration member’s departure is individually explainable, their totality has brought a host of repercussions, including stress and anxiety, to our student body. Students have built relationships with many of these staff members over the course of their time at Wellesley and administration members’ departures have changed Wellesley. Rather than simply announcing these departures, the College also has an obligation to reassure students, acknowledging them that a great deal of change is happening and that steps are being taken to ensure that there is a solid infrastructure of staff, administrators and professors.
This academic year, the College introduced an admissions policy to accept trans women and addressed national and on-campus race issues and the deaths of a student and a recently graduated alumna. While facing such changes both on a national scale and within our community, Wellesley students need to know that support is available despite staff changes. For instance, the departures of Patti Sheinman and David Bernat were difficult for the Jewish community on campus because they coincided with a time of instability and tension in the international Jewish community. The changes in Hillel and the events that took place on campus this past semester were also difficult in the absence of a permanent Dean of Religious and Spiritual Life, as Dean Victor Kazanjian left last year.
We, as an editorial staff, understand that departures of staff and administrators are a fact of life. Like students, administrators and staff are focused on their careers and have to do what is best for them. In workplaces, often no notice is given, contributing to the climate of abruptness and volatility. Many of us will need to accept sudden change as we enter the workforce.
For many, however, Wellesley is orchestrated to be a “home away from home.” Our deans and chaplains serve as academic, social and personal support for us. They are part of our Wellesley experience and part of our system of support. The number of recent departures the community has seen decreases the college community’s sense of stability.
The College does not have a responsibility to coddle its students; its responsibility is to challenge us and create an environment in which we can become future leaders of tomorrow. In order to do so, though, Wellesley College needs to lead and provide direction for the future of the College. This does mean that there is an affirmative burden on Wellesley to assure the student body of the College’s security during times that could in many ways seem volatile and insecure. Staff changes are administrative and institutional, but they also occur within a tight-knit community.
The Wellesley News acknowledges that the administration has been working hard to find permanent deans. We are grateful to the professors, students, staff and trustees that have joined search committees and are currently working extremely hard to find the best possible candidates to bring stability to our community. As we look forward to a year that undoubtedly will be filled with interim appointments across several divisions of college administration staff, we hope that Wellesley will be mindful of the long-term benefits of security that a stable college infrastructure provides.
Photo Courtesy of Wellesley College