On Saturday, Jan. 29, a handful of students interrupted a Public Safety meeting to protest the recent resignation of van driver Mary Albro.
Albro, 54, has been at the center of a controversy around the Mills van service.
“The administration doesn’t support its employees and Mary is an example of that lack of support,” said sophomore Shanna Foley as she awaited the meeting with Brown. “Her decision to quit, after eight years, shows there needs to be better policies here.”
Brown told the students they could not attend the meeting but were welcome to come back at the end to speak with him. Van Supervisor Darnita White also attended the meeting.
Albro’s abrupt resignation came on Monday, Jan. 25, after she received a phone call from White informing her that Brown was intending to write Albro up if she arrived late to work.
According to Albro, for three years White and former Director of Public Safety Stephen King allowed her to arrive late to her shift to accommodate her second job as a shuttle driver for Highland Hospital. More recently, the scheduling became an issue.
When questioned about the abrupt scheduling conflict during the meeting with studentsBrown responded, “I have other drivers who have schedules too, I can’t accommodate just one person. I have other drivers to consider.”
“I’m following procedures,” Brown continued. “She quit and there’s nothing I can do about that now.”
“We’re asking you to get away from procedures and care,” responded graduate student Bonner Butler. “Just care.”
Albro’s resignation came in the wake of a grievance filed against Albro by freshwoman Dominique Simpson in Dec. 2004. According to a post Simpson sent to student-news on Dec. 10, the van passed her several times while waiting to be picked up by the Mills van at the Rockridge BART station. She said she waited for nearly two hours before she was picked up. After she boarded, Simpson alleged that Albro yelled at her, saying that she hadn’t picked her up because she was in the wrong spot. Simpson said that Albro “continued on with her abusive rant for another two or three minutes as I sat there insulted, disrespected, in silence.”
Albro’s response: “I would never say anything like [Simpson] said. It’s not in my heart to use that kind of language.”
According to Albro, Simpson was not at the designated Mills pickup spot, but further down the street at the AC Transit bus stop. In addition, she said Simpson was talking on a cell phone and made no attempt to flag her down. After picking up a student standing in the designated spot, Albro said she pulled away from the spot and asked the girls on the bus if Simpson was a Mills student. No one seemed to know, Albro said, so she looked over at Simpson again, who was still on her cell phone, and after getting no response, drove off.
Several other students agreed that the incident could have been avoided if the stop at the Rockridge BART station was clearly marked and feel this will continue to be a problem until something is done to clearly identify the stop. Some stated that they have been at the wrong spot, the same place Simpson was sitting, and Albro as well as other drivers have stopped to pick them up.
Some of the students who witnessed the event had different accounts. None of them could corroborate either Albro’s or Simpson’s account of the event.
The official stop, according to Brown, is at the corner of Miles and College between the 3 minute pick up and drop-off signs. In addition, said Brown, either he or White should be contacted if students have future complaints.
In a flurry of e-mails sent through student-news, several students expressed their anger with the decision to suspend Albro. While there was a large outpouring of support for Albro, there were also students who stated they had not had a good experience while riding the van with her. However, those students never filed a complaint or a grievance.
Fellow van driver Kathy Pavlofsky expressed her sadness over Albro’s resignation. “I’ve only been here since September but we worked very well together. We had an instant connection. Mary is a very kind, generous woman,” Pavlofsky said.
“It’s unfortunate that she quit,” said Simpson. “My intention was not for her to lose her job but we all make choices—this may be for the best.”
Brown said there were no future plans to clearly identify the stop to prevent this from happening in the future. “Possibly in the future photographs will be taken to identify the stops,” Brown said.
During the impromptu meeting on Saturday, the students demanded that Brown apologize to Albro and ask her to return to work. Both Brown and White stated that Albro’s resignation was final.
“I’ve known [Albro] and worked with her for a long time,” said White. “I asked her if she was sure this is what [she] wanted to do and she said ‘yes.’ I have to respect that.”
“Well, that’s not good enough,” responded sophomore Shanna Foley.
“This isn’t over,” said junior Lena Compton, as the meeting came to a close.
Compton feels that the administration has made a mistake by letting her go.
“Mills needs to identify its assets and Mary is one of those assets who genuinely loves the students and her job,” said Compton. “I’m frustrated with the administration because they need to examine what Mills material should be.”
The students agreed at the conclusion of the meeting that something must be done to get Albro to return to work.
Albro said she would return to Mills if her concerns were addressed.
“I love those kids. They were like my own,” said Albro.