A Private Letter to Our Vice President Regarding the Situation in Our Office
Editors’ Note: In the fall of 2014, permanent Admissions staff wrote and delivered a private letter, obtained by the Quest, to Trulove detailing their concerns about his management style.The names of the Admissions staff who signed this letter have been redacted.
The work environment in our office has become untenable. The hope and optimism that we felt on your arrival have been replaced with an atmosphere that is awkward, frustrating, tense, and well on its way to becoming outright toxic. We all want to be able to do our jobs and do them well but this is becoming increasingly difficult.
First and foremost, the fact remains that because of your error in judgement we have lost in Andrea someone who was a highly regarded colleague as well as a mentor and a friend. The impact of this loss in incalculable. Sadly, it cannot be remedied. The question of forgiveness is a private one that can only be resolved by each of us on our own and is beyond the scope of this document. We can only hope that your expressions of remorse are sincere.
Trust and respect are related and, we believe, earned. These hadn’t yet been built in your brief tenure. While we recognize that the incident with Andrea is in the past, the fallout from that incident has brought into stark relief a host of issues, concerns, and grievances that seem to us related to the failure in judgement that has put us in this position. Because in the past you have not only solicited our feedback but placed a value on honesty and dissent, we share with you here an enumeration of these issues, concerns, and grievances. We do so out of a desire to find some way to move productively forward. For many of us, Reed is more than a place to work; our colleagues are not just co-workers but friends.
While the loss of Andrea’s presence in the office cannot be remedied, we believe that by addressing these points you can mend at least some of the damage done and begin to re-establish the grounding needed to earn our trust and respect. We sincerely hope that you will respond to this good faith effort to improve the conditions of our workplace with an equal show of good faith on your part.
We acknowledge that the work you’re doing is unprecedented at Reed and that there will inevitably be a period of adjustment. However, the management patterns that have arisen in the past months are problematic beyond the scope of this transition. Respecting your staff means setting clear goals for us, and then trusting us to do our jobs well. Your attempts to be involved at every level of the work this office does have resulted in reduced productivity and a growing sense that we are being micromanaged. Your failure to effectively use senior staff has not only resulted in an increase in your own workload but has also created confusion and inefficiency. At times, supervisors at every level don’t know the tasks that have been assigned to their supervisees. We would also encourage you to better learn the systems used in our office before making major changes. Because of these issues, many of us have not been able to do our daily “real” jobs for months.
There is currently a pattern where an idea is presented to the staff, the staff raise concerns, we use the bulk of our meeting time discussing them (and neglecting the rest of our agenda), only to see the original idea pushed through without taking any staff concerns into account. We’re grateful for the time given to discussion of concerns. However, true listening entails processing, and correspondingly adjusting the course of action. Moreover, in some situations, we see that you do not make room for discussion or even slight disagreements, requiring your staff to be 100% in agreement with your decisions. We fully understand that there will be times when ideas are not changed, and that is your prerogative as our VP. However, during those times please respect our expertise in the field by offering a more thorough explanation.
On multiple occasions you have stated that you value transparency. We strongly feel that you are nowhere near as transparent with us as we are expected to be with you. This ranges from a constantly closed and locked office door and unviewable calendar, to a tendency to ask us to “just trust” you without explaining the logic behind your decisions. Our new financial aid model is an excellent example of this. Many of us have processed applications for years with the understanding that we would not agree with every decision. Under the new model most of us do not understand what we are doing or why; some of us were not even informed of the change. We see this lack of transparency as disrespectful.
Upon your arrival, we saw and appreciated your efforts to get to know each of your professional staff. The information gathering stopped there, however, and has not approached the institution at large. Reed has many unique traditions and an idiosyncratic student body. To know Reed is to spend time with our stakeholders (i.e., students, staff, faculty, related campus offices, and visitors). Instead, you have cancelled your appointment with the Student Body President multiple times and do not appear to know the names of student workers. You are surrounded by students, alumni, and people who have dedicated their lives to the College. Please take advantage of this wealth of knowledge. During his first year as President, attended Hum 110 for a year. We’re not saying you have to do precisely that, but it’s an example.
We worry that the original incident and the aforementioned concerns may damage the reputation of the Office of Admission and Reed College. For instance, the data you presented at the Enrollment Division Meeting on December 2 — that our black ED applicants’ SAT scores had risen by an average of 700 points — was incorrect and based on a statistically insignificant sample size. If questionable data like this were to make it to the college’s leadership, let alone the public, it could seriously jeopardize the credibility of the College, the office, and its professionals.
It is no longer possible to ignore the dysfunction in our workplace. We want to build a productive and mutually respectful working relationship with you. We see this letter as the first of many steps in a tough process forward; we are ready to do the hard work that comes next.