Dean of Student Affairs reassigned amid faculty union complaints

Story and Photo by Steven Matthews

Ramon Knox , the dean of Student Affairs, who has been reassigned to EOPS, oversees the office that the complaints are centered on.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of English Professor Kathryn McMurray.

Almost a month and a half after the union president complained to the Board of Trustees that the Office of Student Discipline and Conduct failed to address cases of student misconduct, the dean of Student Affairs, which oversees the Office of Student Discipline and Conduct, was reassigned after a closed door Board of Trustees meeting, that took place on Oct. 21.

Top school officials have decided not to comment citing internal personnel issues.

ASB President, Jan Paolo Canteras met first with Viking News to discuss the transfer and was not satisfied with how it was handled due to the potential loss of ongoing joint projects between himself and the Office of Student Affairs.

Full-time Faculty Union President Janet Hund, was the first to bring the issue to the Board of Trustees by reading a letter written by English professor Kathryn McMurray.

In the letter, McMurray detailed her experiences with the Office of Student Discipline and Conduct when she needed to refer a student to them for disciplinary reasons.

McMurray writes that she followed proper protocol when referring the students to the Office of Student Discipline and Conduct, but the problem wasn’t resolved in a timely manner.

“Students who yell at instructors, slam doors, slam desks, or insult and threaten faculty, in those instances I have reached out to Student Discipline, my department head and division dean at the same time, because the situation requires an expeditious response. Despite filling out correct forms, and carefully navigating communication with such students, when I finally discuss the situation with Student Discipline, I was always met with some skepticism and suspicion of my ability to manage my classroom.”

The letter continues by explaining McMurray’s feelings regarding being accused of causing the disciplinary issues she was reporting.

“The implication was that I took an action that caused the student to violate the code of conduct. To be clear, I have only ever reached out to Student Discipline when I have exhausted all of my other resources for dealing with a student’s behavior, so to be met with the assumption that I have caused the students misconduct when I’m reaching out for help is not only insulting and demeaning, but it also makes me less inclined to reach out for help in the future.”

The final point of the letter explained the issues regarding the Office of Student Discipline and Conduct’s negligent procedures when following up with McMurray after the initial report.

“Lastly, communication about students misconduct incidents was lacking in the extreme. Rarely did student conduct follow up with me about how the issue was resolved, leaving me at times very uneasy and insecure about the outcome. When there was a follow up weeks later, it came in the form of a somewhat vague email. This left me in a constant state of worry or concern on whether the student would return to class or campus.”

Viking News reached out to Professor McMurray for an interview where she confirmed that her experience was not an isolated incident.

“When I wrote it (the letter), I was speaking to experiences of several faculty members in many departments,” said McMurray.

McMurray also confirmed, that the issue has affected her personal sense of safety on campus.

When asked if she ever felt like she was in danger, her reply was swift, “I do now occasionally. I’m definitely leery of teaching nights or weekends now,” McMurray said.

The outgoing Dean of Student Affairs, Ramon Knox, maintained that his reassignment to EOPS had nothing to do with the complaints levied against the office under his purview. 

“My understanding is my transition was based on need by the district, for someone to oversee the office (EOPS) at the dean level,” said Knox. “It wouldn’t behoove the district to make a decision based on one or two faculty’s concerns, but there’s a whole host of faculty who interact with my office, daily, consistently, who have nothing but great respect and support, for the multitude of incidents that we handle over here.”

Knox said that the complaints don’t represent the entire situation regarding concerns that the Office of Student Discipline and Conduct weren’t dealing with professor issues with students in a timely manner.

“The role that we oversee is really about protecting a student’s due process, student’s rights, and sometimes that comes in conflict with a person’s ‘need to know.’ The person may want to know specific things about a student, that we’re not a liberty to tell them, because it’s a violation of federal rights,” Knox said.

Knox was also asked about the line of questioning that would make professors feel like they were being blamed for the issues in their classrooms, when they reported the incidents to the office of student conduct or discipline.

“What we have to look at is the intention versus the impact. Often times, when someone presents their perspective, we have to do our due diligence and ask lots of questions. And then we do the same thing for all those involved, while protecting the rights of students and making sure the campus isn’t at risk for anything. If the intention and the impact are not always the same, and anytime that we’ve asked a question that wasn’t received in the nature it was, we often apologize for that because that wasn’t our intention.”

Jan Paolo Canteras, the ASB president wasn’t pleased with Knox’s reassignment, or that ASB was left out of the loop when the decision was made.

“They (administration) didn’t give any specific reason why he’s being transferred, but the Board of Trustees actually has the right to do it, but the only thing is, I wish there was more transparency,” Canteras said.

Canteras is also disappointed because one of his goals as ASB president is to bridge the divide between the faculty and the students, a goal that he felt he was working closely with Knox to achieve.

Viking News reached out to President Reagan Romali, Vice President of Student Support Services, Mike Munoz, Union President Janet Hund, incoming Union President Kirsten Moreno, and Trustee Uduak – Joe Ntuk for interviews and all declined to comment based on the fact that it’s a personnel issue.

Viking News also attempted to contact the remaining trustees by phone for comments and the calls were not returned at the time of publishing.