This is a developing story. The Pacific Index is conducting further interviews and plans to publish a follow-up story in the March 5 edition of the paper.
Within just 60 days, the college has experienced a series of departures: Director of Academic Advising Gretchen Potter, Director of Events and Communications Anastasia Bennett, Student Multicultural Center Coordinator Kayla Wong, and Dean Jim Goodrich of the College of Business.
The seemingly abrupt departures have raised questions about upper administration’s transparency with students. While the President’s office emails students about a dean’s retirement, no information is communicated about lower-level members’ departure from Pacific. With little information being communicated, students are wondering if there’s a reason why so many people are leaving.
Students have to learn of departures through word of mouth, social media, and sometimes, like in the case of Bennet, through a farewell on Pacific’s online calendar. Senior Michael Relloque learned of Wong’s departure through Twitter, specifically through an anonymous, since deleted account named “Angry Boxer.” In mid-January, the account tweeted about Wong’s sudden resignation at the end of fall term and questioned the university’s transparency with students.
Wong was the official director for the Student Multicultural Center (SMC) for one semester. When he learned of her resignation, senior Alex Ibarra, Marketing and Communications Manager for the SMC, was shocked. Along with other students involved with the SMC, he wonders why their director would leave so suddenly, especially when she seemed so passionate about the center and supporting students of color. Ibarra explained that for him and many other students, the center is a family, and Wong gave the SMC purpose and direction. “She seemed passionate about her job and about us [the students at the SMC]. For her to leave like that was really unexpected.”
In the case of Potter’s resignation, Sarah Phillips, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, acknowledges she struggles finding a way to communicate to the entire student body. “I will own that we haven’t done a good job at communicating,” she said, explaining that she doesn’t have an easy way to reach students. “I cannot send 1,700 individual emails. I need a better system where I can email students and say ‘hey this is happening.’”
Phillips assures students that Pacific’s recent staff departures are not indicative of anything “nefarious.” Rather, “it’s the unfortunate coming together of a lot of things that makes it [the departures] look related,” she said.
When staff leave at a small school, it can be disruptive because “one human being covers a lot of territory,” she said. Whenever someone leaves, rather than immediately filling the hole, Phillips looks at what the students need and how they can be supported moving forward. Sometimes the best way to support students is by having less administrative roles and more people “on the ground.” Other times, it’s by leaving time for the remaining staff members in the department to get their footing.
In terms of the Advising center, Phillips emphasizes that none of the rearranging of roles amid Potter’s absence is about “trying to reduce staffing in academic and career advising.”
According to Phillips, Potter’s resignation in mid-December was sudden and unexpected, leaving the advising center with no plan on who would take over. In the wake of Potter’s departure stepped in Mike Shingle, now Interim Dean of Academic and Career Advising. As interim dean, Shingle has committed up to six months to the role, after which he will then have the opportunity to fully step into the position. “Students are going to be in great hands with our team,“ he said. He plans on keeping the center on track in the same way it has in the past.