RENSSELAER, Ind., Feb. 9, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- In the wake of the February 3, 2017 announcement that private St. Joseph's College would temporarily suspend all activities on campus for at least the 2017-18 academic year the school's alumni join its faculty, staff and students in shock.
Alumni now ask the College's administration and volunteer leadership for details and, most importantly transparency, about what to expect for the immediate future. Earlier this week, Saint Joseph's Board of Trustees Chairman Benedict Sponseller failed to provide answers while speaking to faculty and staff on campus at Shen Auditorium.
"I have been able to view and read the transcripts of both (Faculty and Student) Q&A sessions and I am embarrassed at what I saw. Because I saw nothing. I saw a decision made long before the faculty, staff, students and SJC Community had any opportunity for input, the sharing of experience or intellect," said Mark Andrew Zwartynski, SJC 1974.
"There has been a lack of transparency from the Board of Trustees at SJC and their spokesperson. I know several alumni have reached out to try to help and have not received anything but ridiculous condescending remarks," Zwartynski added.
In the session, Sponseller answered "I don't know," when a staff member asked why was there so much overtime being offered to housekeeping when their school faced mounting debt. He only responded "I'm sorry" to a single mom who asked what is she going to tell her son when they have no food or are homeless. A professor asked if the school will honor contracts and health benefits, Sponseller's response was, "We are going to the Indiana State Attorney General to see if we will be allowed legally to access funds from the endowment to help in severance and transitions. But don't hold me to that because I really don't know."
"The Board members do not deserve to be on that stage and the alumni are taking it back! I truly believe they had no idea how many alumni were watching and demanding answers and yet the Board thinks they could just hide behind an email announcing they failed us. Why aren't they talking to us?" asked Melissa Marshall, SJC Class of 2006.
In addition, the college continues to send promotional mailings to prospective students asking to "Come Home to Saint Joseph's College." A Rensselaer resident and parent of a Rensselaer Central High School sophomore received the mailer on February 8, just days after the college announced the "temporary" closing.
"I just could not believe it. Our entire community is devastated by this, and I believe I speak for most when I say we will do whatever we can to help this situation," said Kristie Meyer Housman.
"It is important for each of you to know that this (suspension) is not due to a result of decreased interest in Saint Joseph's College. In fact, at the end of January 2017, the Admissions Office was:
1) Up 11.2% in applications over last year (1271 vs 1143).
2) Up 19.8% in admitted students over last year (957 vs 799).
3) Up 57% in deposits over last year (44 vs 28).
4) Up 17% in the number of campus visits over last year (509 vs 435).
Let it be known that these numbers came from a great team who were working incredibly hard to bring in what was looking like a near-record (if not record) freshman class," SJC Admissions Staff Member Brian Studebaker confirmed.
In the days after the announcement, the alumni uncovered $6 million dollars spent on "Office Supplies" in 2014 as well as emails from November 2016 that show no urgency for fundraising to save the school from the financial strain.
Alumni are now confused about whether funds are being raised in an effort to generate sustainable long-term operations and discussing whether Board members should remain in their positions.
"I, too, read the minutes from the meetings and noticed that Sponseller said they intend to open a 'new SJC.' As an alumnus, why would I ever send my child to a school that is still run by the same board that ran the last one into the ground? He said he has no intentions of stepping down as chairman. The first move in my mind, especially to show the banks you're serious, is to clean house on those that made the poor financial decisions to begin with. In addition, had they released this budget crisis much sooner, I suspect there would have been a bigger movement to get him out of that position," said Drew Halliar, SJC Class of 2007.
Multiple attempts to contact College leaders by representatives from the alumni group have been unsuccessful. The St. Joseph's College Alumni Association has requested a formal meeting with members of the Board of Trustees. Alumni leaders simply seek additional information and transparency in the factors that led to the Board's decision to suspend operations.
"This is an open request on behalf of the alumni of Saint Joseph's College and many other alumni requests to the Chairman of the Board of Trustees to participate in a meeting. It is truly ironic how the amazing faculty at SJC mentored us to be the cream of the crop in every industry. We are working in the legal, capital, health, marketing and communications markets in every major U.S. city. We demand transparency, accountability and the chance to be heard. This is much more than another Catholic College closing its doors. We expect and deserve clear answers and open dialogue," said Marshall.
About St. Joseph's College
Saint Joseph's College, is a four-year, Catholic college offering 26 majors, 4 group majors, 32 minors and 10 pre-professional programs. Founded and sponsored by the Missionaries of the Precious Blood, SJC is located in Rensselaer, Indiana.
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SOURCE St. Joseph's College Alumni