STORY BY COURTNEY FISHMAN
Two members of Drake’s presidential Cabinet have announced their resignation in the coming months amid the transition from current President David Maxwell to President-elect Earl Martin.
According to an email sent by Maxwell to faculty and staff on April 10, Provost Deneese Jones will step down from her position on May 31 and Vice President and Treasurer Deborah Newsom will follow suit a month later on June 30.
Students, however, did not receive an email until April 14, which Maxwell said was an oversight.
Students, staff and faculty have reacted differently about the two resignations. Some are surprised and saddened by Jones’ and Newsom’s departures while others are looking forward to a changing campus atmosphere.
“Some of those students, at least the ones that I’ve encountered, expressed sadness,” Sentwali Bakari, dean of students, said. “She [Jones] was such a mentor for them, that they didn’t have the opportunity to say goodbye, all of a sudden it’s just like ‘vanished,’ and that’s disappointing to the student.”
For senior Mark Reiter, Jones assumed the role as a mentor figure in his life, which prompted him to take action. Reiter and junior Jacqui Branch chose to celebrate Jones’ impact on Drake by writing chalk messages on the sidewalk to Old Main.
“We felt like there needed to be more than just a Facebook post about this in the student services page — that there needed to be more dialogue than that,” Reiter said. “The idea came from Jacqui Branch and I just talking about these feelings that we were having and how to express them, and we thought it was a pretty good way to write positive things about Dr. Dee, things that she was and is, to remind those administrators walking into the building who she was and what she did for this campus.”
Maxwell acknowledged the chalk messages, saying that they were “heartfelt and elegant,” but he continued to remain positive about the transitions facing Drake, especially regarding the interim leadership.
“When I became president in 1999, 16 years ago, there was one member of the president’s Cabinet who was not interim,” Maxwell said. “I think we have to see that as big of a contribution as any person makes to the institution that ultimately the institution itself is bigger than any single person.”
Faculty Senate President David Wright acknowledged necessary changes in the administration and, like Maxwell, is confident in the University’s future.
“I believe in my role as Faculty Senate president that it’s important to make sure Drake is operating the best way it can,” Wright said. “Cabinet had become dysfunctional and things weren’t getting done, so I’m not entirely surprised that there has been a change in the cabinet.”
Similarly, Bakari remains optimistic about the changes, but feels it will take some time to adjust.
“I think the recent departures and the interim folks have just created a set of challenges,” Barkari said. “I think that’s going to require a collective effort as we move forward, and I feel confident that that will happen. I feel confident that President Marty is going to come in and move the university forward and be able to address those challenges.”
Interim replacements for both positions have been announced. Beginning June 1, Joseph Lenz, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, will serve as interim provost for the 2015-16 academic year. Venessa Macro and Teresa Krejci, associate vice presidents of administration and finance, respectively, will provide leadership for Newsom’s position.
Jones and Newsom have worked at Drake since 2012. A national search for Jones’ replacement will begin in July once president-elect Martin arrives at Drake.
Cherié Moen, Jones’ administrative assistant, had only kind words to say about her boss.
“I would like to say that it has been a wonderful experience working for and with Dr. Dee,” Moen said. “She has been a true leadership role model.”
Additional reporting by Tim Webber