“I Speak for the Trees”: The Forest Looks Different in Spring 2019

Look, Lorax, I said.

There's no cause for alarm.

I chopped just one tree.

I am doing no harm.

I'm being quite useful.

-Dr. Seuss

 

As students, staff, and faculty returned to campus this spring semester, there were noticeable differences. And no, it was not a lack of trees, but rather gaps in our support system, as we would find out many staff members were no longer employees. Last semester, we were informed that staff members were being laid off in another attempt to fix Drew’s financial difficulties. Out of respect for those who were laid off, I have redacted their names.

 

The administration may not realize this, but Drew University is Drew because of our identity as a community of students, faculty and staff. A large part of that identity is created by the staff who make valuable contributions to the university community and its ability to run. In a November article for InsideHigherEd, Greg Toppo reported, “President MaryAnn Baenninger said the university has refused to cut virtually any student-facing programs.” However, staff members who are student-facing have been cut, disappearing overnight right before the semester began. Staff who served as mentors and support for students are no longer employed by Drew

 PHOTO COURTESY OF DREW UNIVERSITY                       

 

Laying off staff suddenly comes across as inconsiderate for the staff member, their department and students. I know first hand as I was a student employee for a staff member who was laid off. This staff member contributed valuable work to an academic department that sees one of the highest enrollments and most extensive course offerings. The department was left to pick up the pieces as the staff member had overseen many student employees as well as logistics for courses and events for the department that require extensive planning, coordination and upkeep. However, this staff member was also an important facet of the department for students; she served as a mentor, teaching not only me but countless others, both student employees and students, the value of hard work and diligence as well as skills related to the academic field. It was because of experiences working for her that students were able to get internships in the field, due to the skills they acquired on the job.  

 

Then I was saddened to learn of other positions that had been cut. The Campus Rec Coordinator who seemed to do it all, managing the radio station, coordinating gym classes, creating Adulting classes and many more campus recreation activities; he left an impression on student life here at Drew, creating creative opportunities for students.

 

With shock and worry, I learned that the university had cut the full-time Title IX coordinator. A petition has been circulating for the full-time Title IX coordinator position to be reestablished.  Here, I insert some of the language used in the petition, for it is said better than I ever could:

 

In the past year, the reality of the pervasiveness of sexual violence and power-based

personal violence has been brought to the forefront of national discourse due to the #MeToo movement...on Drew’s campus, should an individual come forward with an informal or formal report, they have, until now, been able to speak to [NAME REDACTED...the Title IV Coordinator]...[The Title IV Coordinator] stood with students in their most vulnerable moments, while also handling reports from staff and faculty.  She also worked tirelessly to educate students about power-based personal violence, and put together committees of students, faculty and staff to ensure best practices. Removing her from campus puts students in greater danger by taking away a source of accountability, increases the likelihood of discrimination taking place without any recourse, and sacrifices the well-being of students for the sake of cutting costs. (Drew Title IV Petition)

 

Cutting our full-time Title IX coordinator sends a message to the Drew community and public. I worry for the college student who may no longer feel comfortable or safe coming forward.  

 

Drew, I expect more from you. I am disappointed. This place no longer feels the same without the valuable staff who made my experience here a supportive one.

 

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March 13, 2020

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