UCC loses second director

The University must now fill the two top administrative positions at its counseling center after the second-in-command tendered her resignation last Monday, nearly one month after a campus-wide assessment of the department’s operations and clinical care.

The resignation of the University Counseling Center’s Associate Director Barbara Brown, which was not announced until Friday, comes less than two months after former director John Dages left his post. The pair became targets of public allegations in late November about mismanagement of the center, which saw an exodus of 11 counselors since fall 2009.

Brown firmly denied a connection between the criticism brought to light by a Nov. 17 Hatchet article and her decision to leave the center. After eight years co-leading the center, she said she would instead devote more time to her private practice on Capitol Hill, but did not offer further details as to why she left.

She declined to specify her involvement in GW’s month-long review of the center, which began in mid-December, but said she felt strongly that the comprehensive evaluation “will assist the UCC and the entire University.”

“We all want the best for the students, and that has been the primary focus at the UCC,” Brown said.

The University has no immediate plans to replace Brown, and the interim director, Senior Associate Dean of Students Mark Levine, will absorb any additional administrative tasks, Konwerski said. He declined to comment on Brown’s reason for leaving, saying GW does not discuss personnel matters.

Konwerski said he and Levine are working with current staff to maintain “continuity of care” as Brown transitions out of her role.

“We’ve made sure there was never lack of attention to counseling,” Konwerski said.

When Dages announced his resignation in December, several former UCC employees expressed concern that the center’s “hostile work environment” would not see changes until Brown was removed from her post as well.

“Barbara needs to leave for there to be a real change. She’s going to carry on with her personality, screaming at the staff. I know some former staff members would continue going back if she was gone,” a former staff member, who asked to remain anonymous because she still works in the counseling field, said then.

Two more counselors have left their posts since January, Dean of Students Peter Konwerski said last week. Four new clinicians have been hired, two of whom are already working, University spokeswoman Michelle Sherrard said. The other two hires will join later this month.

Another former employee at the center, who worked under Dages and Brown, said their “incompetent leadership” spurred perpetual staff turnover, making it “hard to keep up that continuity of care.”

Levine deferred questions to Sherrard, who said other UCC staffers will cover “Barbara’s small clinical caseload.”

She added, “As an experienced manager on the DOS leadership staff, Mark continues to capably manage this transition.”

The University is about a week away from launching a nationwide search for a new director, Konwerski said, adding that Human Resources is still in the process of writing a job description based on results of the counseling center review. Sherrard said Human Resources is evaluating the overall “operational structure of the UCC.”

During the review, three committees of staff, faculty and students created recommendations to improve the center’s operations, clinical care and outreach. Konwerski said last week he and Levine were still in the process of analyzing recommendations they received Jan. 12, some of which were shared with Provost Steven Lerman. The dean declined to provide details of the review’s outcome for the second time since receiving the documents, saying he would be ready to discuss the assessment “in the next few weeks.”

“Despite Barbara’s transition, we’re going to be going through a process to make staff are still responding to students’ mental health concerns,” Konwerski said.

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