The Division of Student Life is central to the well-being of Mills students. It is also-to put it bluntly-in chaos. Its revolving door of staff turnover has historically and consistently been high, and leaves us at The Campanil wondering what is going on within the department.
At the start of the spring semester, Ramon Knox replaced the Director of Residential Life, Colette Reid. Reid had only been at Mills one semester. Sadika Sulaiman-Hara announced she was leaving her post as a student life coordinator in the Office of Residential Life the day before her departure on Feb. 15. Sulaiman was at Mills less than a year and a half. Assistant Director of Student Activities, Charlene Martinez, left before the spring semester even began.
Now, Jolie Harris, another student life coordinator, is leaving at the end of February. And that’s only this academic year.
Last spring students organized protests when the Dean of Student Life, Joanna Iwata, announced her sudden departure only a month before the end of the semester. It was her second year as an employee at Mills. Her successor, Joi Lewis, is now the third woman graduating seniors have seen in the position. That fall, Gina Rosabal became the new director of diversity. And the list goes on.
Students are asking why there is such a high rate of turnover within DSL. Is the work too difficult? The campus and/or office culture unlike what the employees expected? Or are they forced out by senior administration officials, who feel, for whatever reason, that they are not a good fit? The truth is guarded by those at Mills who do know, so we can only speculate on the answers to such questions raised by so many quick exits.
Regardless of why so many high-level positions are frequently filled, it is apparent that something is definitely wrong. And that students are taking notice.
Turnover in a department committed to students’ lives is detrimental to those students. Staff members don’t get to know the students they serve, and students don’t get to know those who serve them in any meaningful way. The instability created does not lend itself to connectivity between the students and staff.
There are economic costs as well. Employee searches, moving costs, and post-Mills benefits packages often make it expensive and inefficient to hire new employees.
We know we speak for many of Mills students when we question why our institution has such a difficult time retaining staff, especially in this department.
And we urge Mills faculty and staff to remember why they are all here: to provide a conducive environment for us, the students, in our pursuit of higher education.
While change can be a good thing, frequent staff turnover is not to the college’s benefit.