University Counseling Center director John Dages resigned Thursday after former employees levied complaints of “dysfunctional” leadership under his watch.
But as UCC transitions to a new director, the University must work to re-establish the trust with the community that has been tarnished.
Students who sought UCC help were at least indirectly impacted by Dages’ alleged poor leadership. When students are dealing with troubling issues, they should be able to develop relationships with staff members. The frequent staffing changes that occurred under Dages and associate director Barbara Brown’s leadership inhibited students and counselors from building those strong relationships.
The University Counseling Center must be an upstanding organization within the community. In their syllabi, professors cite the UCC as a 24/7, attentive organization where students should go when dealing with stresses. This fact should be upheld.
Some have even noted that UCC’s reputation of mismanagement is known across the country, damaging not only the organization’s reputation, but also the University’s.
The University is in for a long haul when it comes to changing this image. But with Dages’ resignation, it can begin to do so in earnest.
While Dages has resigned, Brown, the other source of concern, remains. A former employee told The Hatchet that Brown would scream at employees who were not performing up to her expectations and that she is disconnected from student concerns.
Whether the University decides to let Brown go or keep her on, it must seriously bear in mind the claims that have been leveled about her. Her leadership might continue to foster the negative environment so many former employees spoke of, which then would harm students. Dages leaving the University Counseling Center does not mean the matter has been resolved; Brown’s leadership must be addressed as well.
This issue also sheds light on the absolute necessity for the University to have no-fear, direct channels of communication through which the community can report complaints. Last month, University President Steven Knapp sent a message to the community encouraging people to use a tips hotline to report concerns in order to resolve just that. The tips hotline is a laudable means for employees or students to cite complaints. And the University’s investigation into Dages’ and Brown’s leadership has also been a strong response to the staggering number of employees leaving the organization.
But this issue had clearly existed for much longer than the few months during which the investigation has been happening. When student health was in question, prompt decisions needed to be made, even if it meant more swiftly taking the drastic step of seeking the director’s resignation.
Of course, changing leadership should be a last resort response to an issue. But when that leadership might harm student mental health, these decisions are necessary. The community should not have to worry that it is seeking help from an organization that is not 100 percent fit to care for its needs.
In the future, we can only be hopeful that organizational concerns do not have to reach a critical point before they are addressed. And as the University Counseling Center changes its leadership and tries to regain the trust of students and the community, the University must keep a keen eye on any warning signs to ensure that student mental health will not once again be in jeopardy.