Dear Mills Community:
I am writing at the close of the semester to send my best wishes that finals went well and to express my hope that everyone has a restful and enjoyable time with family and friends during the Winter break. We look forward to everyone coming back refreshed and ready for the spring semester and a new calendar year.
I want to take this opportunity to clear up a few inaccuracies and misconceptions that were conveyed during the community meeting on December 1 and in the December 6 print and online issue of The Campanil. While the emotion behind the passionate voices expressing concern is understandable, the emphasis of those discussions was on individuals in just one Division. I am mindful we eliminated a total of fifteen positions and that six employees, from varying departments, were laid off. We care deeply about each of these individuals and their families, and all deserve equal respect and concern.
Statements that services are being eliminated due to the departure of specific employees in the Division of Student Life are inaccurate. All student services will continue to be provided, although under the direction of different staff in a new structure. I assure you that the College remains deeply committed to diversity, social justice, and serving students with disabilities.
There is much that goes into personnel decisions and there are privacy issues that need to be respected. We have reorganized departments and many staff members now have different responsibilities as a result of the changes. Although it is true that the six individuals laid off will not be re-hired, there was some inaccurate information reported in the December 6 issue of The Campanil that said it was tied to outstanding lawsuits. This is not accurate. I also want to acknowledge that there is never an easy way for an employer to tell an employee that he/she is being laid off. While I understand that some feel the College managed the layoffs in a disrespectful fashion, we followed our employment policies and best personnel practices.
A call for more transparency has been paramount in many of the communications that I have received from students. I look forward to discussing with you what transparency means so that we come to a shared understanding of our respective roles in decision-making processes and clarify how information is shared organizationally. This is an educational moment for us all. To build and sustain a strong Mills community, it is important that we establish clear communication, trust, and mutual respect.
I am very appreciative that the student protesters used their voices to galvanize the Mills community into a public conversation about the importance of the student experience both inside and outside of the classroom. Many of the same students also very respectfully expressed their concerns outside a private event to which Board of Trustees and AAMC Board members had been invited, and provided a candle-lit path for the guests with signs thanking them for the support of the College.
Just a few short months ago at my Inauguration, the campus was energized and excited about the possibilities ahead and the College’s potential. I hope that when we return from our break, we can embrace those feelings once again. Mills is an extraordinary institution poised to do spectacular things. Let’s use the energy and passion that we all share for Mills to conquer our challenges, create new opportunities, and let the world know we are poised to take the College to the next level.
Again, a very happy holiday season to you all.
Alecia A. DeCoudreaux, President, Mills College