Dear Mills Community;
In light of the $3.5 million deficit currently facing the College, it would erode the foundation of Mills and be irresponsible for President DeCoudreaux to prolong or forgo decisions including implementing furloughs, cutting staff and suspending positions. It is imperative that the fiscal health of the College be stabilized, so that the integrity of the mission and evolution of the vision continue.
Based on her message in the Mills Quarterly, DeCoudreaux forthrightly, chose to address the fiscal reality of where Mills stands at this juncture.
We live in a society where the intersection of legal guidelines and human resources mandates often prevent the practice of full transparency.
The message details that DeCoudreaux took many factors into consideration and made decisions that affected not only her own support staff, but members of her cabinet and the faculty. Your future may well depend on mastering the fundamentals of “Human Relations and Strategic Decision Making 101.”
Making institutionally strategic decisions certainly is not always the most popular route to take, but it is an integral dimension of visionary and responsible leadership.
One of the worse decisions you could ever make is to participate in an alternative consciousness where you absolve yourself of making any decision, simply doing nothing. Just as she had to make these tough and decisive calls, as future leaders of communities, colleges and countries, you will have to do the same.
A woman of DeCoudreaux’s professional experience and intellectual depth certainly came aboard to grow Mills even deeper into the 21st Century, not debt. Her vision and professionalism require her to maximize the future of the College and ensure that its legacies manifest beyond memory.
In this economy with the battering rams going ballistic on higher education and women on a daily basis, navigating these waters is no simple fete. As the rivers of racism and sewers of sexism overflow and the chasm of class grows deeper, the mission of Mills is more critical than ever.
As its heart, you are integrally woven into the fabric of Mills in ways that are both challenging and transformative. You stood in your power and made your voices heard regarding the dismissal of key staff and the impact on your studies and lives. As you continue to play a pivotal role in the evolving academic and social realities of the academy, it is crucial that you remain engaged in transformative discourse with President DeCoudreaux, administrators, faculty and peers.
You want to ensure that you are heard and propose ideas that have the potential to navigate the College into an even more remarkable future. Collaborating with the president, faculty and staff (the soul of the College) and President DeCoudreaux, you could be in the vanguard of making the seemingly impossible a reality.
Great leadership produces results that translate across time and are memorialized as daily principles that strengthen individuals, communities, institutions and countries.
From demanding racial and ethnic change in the 1960’s to challenging the gender paradigm in the 1990’s, students have brought their ideas and strategies to the table and elevated the mission to reflect greater demographic and pedagogical inclusiveness. But the human toll these decisions extract on those laid off can be devastating, especially in an economy experiencing turbulent free fall.
It also can have a deleterious effect on the larger community, as professional and personal alliances are tested and partnerships dissolved. Such decisions also may require others to take on additional responsibilities that can push them into overdrive.
Each person let go brought a particular set of valuable skills and breadth of experience to the table. They often forged intellectual and personal bonds with students and sometimes their families. Their work involved integral partnerships with staff, alumnae and members of affiliated communities beyond Mills. In some cases, what they brought to the table will become woven into the fabric of Mills’ institutional memory and embedded in its pedagogy.
Continue to value and learn from the professional contributions of those let go. Now with “bigger fish to fry in deeper grease,” they have to recover and gain new footing to move forward and stabilize their lives. Compassion, support and ongoing commitment to them as friends and allies can serve as a stabilizing factor for them.
Thousands, including old school alums and new school students, are passionately vested in passing Mills on to future generations of women, as well as men willing to engage with a community where women’s voices and actions drive the leadership and discourse of the institution. Remain fierce, focused and academically and socially engaged Mills women. Over the course of your professional growth and the breadth of your leadership, current peers, or administrators could become part of a team you lead. It certainly is not out of the question, that from the desk of the White House, one of you may rise to the station of being responsible for making strategic decisions that could lead our deeply fractured country into becoming a phenomenal nation.
Daphne Muse is a writer, social commentator and Chief Visionary Officer for Grandmothers Going Global. Over the course of four decades, Muse became a Mills Woman while serving on the faculty, as a Scholar at the Women’s Leadership Institute and Director of the Women’s Leadership Institute.