This past year, The Gettysburgian has identified eight full-time employees of color who have left Gettysburg College: 11% of all full-time employees of color, and over 50% of all administrators of color. Students and staff members report feeling the loss of these employees and the desire for a more diverse administration.
The Great Resignation has impacted turnover rates at Gettysburg, resulting in an 8% increase for all employees between 2020 and 2021. In four of the past five years, however, the College reported a higher turnover rate for underrepresented minority (URM) employees than for white employees. In 2021, 21% of departures were URM employees compared to 16% of white employees. In 2017, URM employees accounted for nearly double the number of departures than white employees.
The Impact of Departures
When former Chief Diversity Officer (CDO) Jeanne Arnold left Gettysburg College for St. Francis College in June 2021, the College turned to Darrien Davenport, originally the Assistant Vice President of College Life, to fill the role in the interim until he left for the private sector later that year. After Davenport’s resignation, Dr. Carlos Tasso Aquino became interim CDO that August for the following eight months. The Gettysburg administration is currently conducting a national search through WittKieffer—a search firm where Davenport is now a consultant—for someone to permanently fill the position.
“When a person of color departs, the absence resonates even more due to the fact that we’re under-represented and we often tend to function as more high-profile community members, in part, due to that underrepresentation,” said English professor McKinley Melton.
The Office of Student Activities and Greek Life (OSAGL) has also lost two notable administrators of color: Associate Director Caitlin Lindsay and Assistant Director Zana Morris. Both were succeeded by white employees.
Executive Director of Communications & Marketing Jamie Yates recognized that several people of color have resigned from the College recently and pointed to the national trend of mass resignations following the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In the case of departures of people of color, we recognize the importance and impact of their presence on campus and what is lost when they leave the College,” said Yates.
Other people of color who have recently left include Marcela Service Manzo Vessi, former Assistant Director of the Center for Career Engagement, and Charmaine Cruise, former Dean of Academic Advising and Student Support Services. Some faculty of color have also left Gettysburg, leaving gaps where students previously saw themselves represented in the classroom.
Britney Brunache ’22, a psychology and theatre arts double major and Black Student Union President, feels the effects of the lack of faculty of color and noted that she usually puts in a personal effort to write her final papers about race and psychology to provide a diverse perspective. At the same time, she wishes she could be learning from more professors of color.
“You can get away with not having a professor of color because not all of them are spread out within the different departments, which is a problem,” Brunache said.
Although she did not take any classes with a Black faculty member, she connected with faculty of color such as history professor Scott Hancock and professor Melton through their advising to students involved in BSU.
The recent increase in faculty of color departures severs relationships that Brunache deems crucial to students of color at Gettysburg. “I feel like it’s alarming that the faculty of color are leaving at the rate they are, especially because … they have all created some sort of relationship with the students of color that in their absence has affected all of us.”
The United States Department of Education published a report in 2020 that found that institutions with a more diverse administration had fewer reports of bias incidents against students. Creating and implementing effective inclusivity policies at higher education institutions has also increased the graduation rate for low-income students and students of color.
“A diverse administration is as important as a diverse faculty or student body because the administration is often in the role of making decisions that impact the entire campus community and will shape the future of the College in significant ways,” said Melton.
When Arnold, who arrived at Gettysburg in August 2014, assumed the inaugural position of CDO, she initiated the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI), a tool to assess actual and perceived intercultural competence levels that became required for new employee hires and has been used in groups across campus, including by students.
The IDI has become one way to improve the ways that College employees and students interact and account for diverse perspectives in their work. “[What’s important is] not even exclusively seeing diversity in administration. I think it is having culturally competent workers accessible in administration,” Interim Director of the Office of Multicultural Engagement Monique Gore said.
Prior to her departure, Arnold also helped institutionalize the College’s climate study process and launched the Inclusion Partner Program to systematize the way the College approaches hiring from a diverse candidate pool. Arnold worked with co-chair Music Education Coordinator Brent Talbot to lead the Bias Awareness Resource Committee to assess bias incidents, the resources to support a diverse student body and inclusive campus programming. The results of the report helped inform the College’s commitments to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) principles for the 2021–22 academic year.
“All four initiatives—the diversity infrastructure review, the curriculum, the strategic plan, and our new CDO—will profoundly and systematically impact Gettysburg College, and our student and employee experience, for many years to come,” said Yates.
Since Arnold’s departure, the College has committed to hiring a new CDO to promote Gettysburg’s DEI initiatives and sit on the President’s Council. The College also intends to implement an additional senior position in the Office of Diversity & Inclusion. Currently, there are no full-time employees of color on the President’s Council.
Although high-ranking administrators do not interact one-on-one with students to the extent that professors do, the Provost’s Office and other administrative roles are responsible for other elements that dictate the student, faculty, staff and administrative experience at Gettysburg, including hiring and providing resources to particular departments, initiatives and programs.
“Everybody wants a piece of the pie, and it’s not an infinite pie,” professor Scott Hancock said of the work in administration to determine how to allocate resources and decide who to hire. “So [the administration] has to make those decisions, but that’s why you need a diverse group of people in administration to figure out how we prioritize and what counts as priority.”
On top of the benefits of diverse perspectives in the administration, the administration’s work to implement inclusive practices, such as a diverse curriculum and completion of the IDI, ultimately impacts the student experience.
For Brunache, having administrators and professors of color is beneficial for two primary reasons: “[first,] to see people who look like you in professional spaces to show that you can make it too, and [second,] have students be more comfortable talking to administrators about their worries and be able to relate to each other.”
Challenges with Retention
While Gettysburg’s number of domestic faculty of color has increased slightly over the past five years, from 20.1% to 21.9% of the faculty, this trend does not account for increasing turnover rates among employees of color, nor anecdotal evidence of faculty dissatisfaction.
“We hear how we’re improving with faculty diversity, we see graphs,” said Hancock. “What we don’t see or hear are voices of the so-called diverse people that we aren’t doing better with, supposedly. We don’t hear stories about those who left. We don’t get charts and numbers and graphs about the number of Black women who have come and gone. We don’t hear about how content or satisfied or happy Black and brown diverse students have or have not been.”
Associate Provost for Faculty Development Jennifer Bloomquist is the only Black person in a senior academic administrative position and the only woman in a senior administrator position within the Provost’s Office. In 2018, she also became the first Black woman to reach full professor status. In a letter to Provost Chris Zappe, Bloomquist noted that she feels isolated as a woman of color in the Provost’s Office.
Although faculty, administrators and staff have left for a variety of reasons, employees of color’s dissatisfaction is apparent in their high turnover rates.
“We’re doing better at hiring more employees than we are at retaining employees,” said President Iuliano’s Chief of Staff and Strategic Advisor Kris Stuempfle.
Dr. Kafele Khalfani began partnering with Gettysburg to focus on DEI initiatives when upon Interim CDO Aquino’s departure. Khalfani assessed why employees are leaving Gettysburg through exit interviews conducted by human resources, though participation was minimal. Employees have cited a variety of reasons for leaving, including career advancement, compensation or benefits, work-life balance, flexibility with remote work, a desire to leave the rural area or faculty collegiality. In addition, some have left for other higher education positions, including Jeanne Arnold, while many others have transferred to the corporate world.
“We want to understand why folks are leaving [and] make sure that … the culture and the climate are responsive and supportive to our faculty, our staff, and especially our students,” Khalfani said.
While the College declares itself to be an equal opportunity employer with a commitment to “providing a diverse and inclusive learning and working environment,” once employees are hired, their retention depends on a combination of factors, including the professional culture, the environment at the College and in the surrounding community, and their compensation.
“When people leave for a better job, I think it’s often more than just salary, so I think that we should be asking, ‘What makes that job better? … What isn’t making this enough of an inviting, attractive environment that [people of color] will want?’” Hancock said.
Moving forward, the College seeks to both fill vacancies and understand why faculty have left. The College’s success with achieving DEI commitments depends on the execution of curricular and strategic plan promises, the hiring of a Chief Diversity Officer and the assessment of diversity infrastructure.
“There’s significant work to be done to ensure that our rhetoric is matched by our actions, which requires a sustained commitment to the values that are supposed to be at the heart of our mission as an institution. Action plans are important, but follow-through is even more so,” said Melton.
Students, faculty and administrators were hopeful that the College will make meaningful strides, but also emphasized that it will require a community effort.
Editor’s Note: During the reporting of this article, the College held public information and interview sessions for four Chief Diversity Officer candidates and information may have changed. Katie Oglesby & Alli Dayton contributed to reporting for this article.
This article originally appeared on pages 6–8 of the April 25, 2022 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.