Student Letters Prompt Student Life Restructure

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Student Letters Prompt Student Life Restructure

By James Barrows and Kristen Lavan

After two months of discussion, decisions on the restructuring of Student Life have been made, prompted by student-written letters outlining their grievances against Student Life.

The restructuring came about when Marielle Cuccinelli, former Resident Assistant, and Lidy Connolly, Vice President of Administration, collected student letters, which outlined students’ complaints about Joe Cross and Julia Carrano. The letters were either sent directly to Mrs. Connolly or collected by Marielle and forwarded to Mrs. Connolly. Tom Zupicich, who sent his own letter and met with Mrs. Connolly, confirmed, “Yes…Marielle said I could either send it [the letter] to Lidy or send it to her.” The meetings with Mrs. Connolly, to further discuss complaints, happened at 300 W. Grand in a second-floor conference room, to ensure “confidentiality”. Meetings were either set up directly with Mrs. Connolly or through Marielle. Occasionally, said Dr. Connolly, students would request Marielle sit in on meetings.

The Pelican interviewed two students who met with Mrs. Connolly, and reviewed a total of four letters. While each letter gives personal experiences and opinions, the letters generally discuss the way in which Student Life disciplines students who have broken the rules. The students cite their mistrust in the Student Life office, and its operation of day-to-day tasks and situations, specifically lack of communication and attitude.

Additionally, some expressed concern over the nature of the relationship between Mr. Cross and Mrs. Carrano. These insinuations were dismissed. Dr. Connolly said, “There was a big difference between the assertion the students had and reality. The letters were perceptions and not realities…but the structure is better for the students.” The perceptions were not the primary driver for separating Mr. Cross’ and Mrs. Carrano’s offices, according to Dr. Connolly.

Neither Lidy Connolly nor Dr. Connolly would give an exact number on the amount of letters received, or the amount of students interviewed. Dr. Connolly said, “I don’t know how many letters were written.”

Dr. Connolly spoke to “about fifty” students and faculty after the initial collection of the letters, searching for the “fundamental big issues” in the complaints. “What really triggered it [the restructuring] is one of those kids came to me and said he wanted a richer, better, Catholic experience on campus.”

He continued, “For years and years, we’ve [the faculty and trustees] had the conversation of how can we integrate what goes on outside and what goes on in the classroom…Let’s finally put a significant emphasis on formation.”

When asked about the formation previously taught by Dr. Michael Barber, Dr. Connolly responded, “At one time we thought it was valid. We put students in these classes, they’ll take Theology classes, they’ll take three Philosophy classes, and in there they’ll soak it all in, and they’ll come out on fire. But it doesn’t work.” He continued, saying that he talked to students on both sides of this. “Students told me that [the intellectual] doesn’t work for them, especially the artists…my kids absolutely loved them [Dr. Barber, Dr. Kincaid, Dr. Peterson, and Dr. Harmon], but it lost half the students.”

The new Vice President for Student Formation, who has not yet been hired, will account for the perceived lack of formation. The new VP will manage both Mr. Schneider and Fr. Eleuterio, and the rest of the outreach team. “I want someone who’s trained in managing formation of young people…someone who understands the intellectual formation, but manages the practical.”

“I see Austin does bible study. I really have no idea if that’s an efficient use of his time, if it’s the most optimal way of doing evangelization to college kids. I don’t know that. I would guess not.” The specifics of how the new hire will manage or how he will improve formation remains unclear.

Mr. Schneider and Fr. Eleuterio will move into the former office of Mrs. Carrano and Mr. Cross. Mrs. Carrano, now Dean of Student Success, will share an office with Deb Culbertson, Director of Career Services.

Joe Cross and Jonathan Sperling, the new Co-Directors of Residential Life, will operate out of townhouse 478, which will serve as the new Jude. This relocation is something Dr. Connolly has wanted for awhile; he believes it’s important for the Student Life office to be on Latitude33 premises. He said, “I don’t think residential life happens between 8am and 5pm at 220 [building]. It happens between noon and midnight at Latitude.” One of the Co-Directors will be on duty every weekend.

Formerly the duties of Joe Cross, Mrs. Connolly is handling maintenance request forms and all Latitude33 relationships. Whether or not these duties will be delegated to the new Resident Life team, Joe Cross and Jonathan Sperling, is undecided. Dr. Connolly said,  “Both of those guys will report to Lidy, since she manages the contractual relationships.”

For Dr. Connolly’s full statement, click here: Organizational Restructure

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