Dear President Kent Devereaux,
I am writing to express my deepest concerns about the decision to lay off ACE staff members Peejo Sehr and Kay Beard. I am aware that the outcry about the staff cuts has not gone unnoticed, however the attempts by the administration to address student, alumni, parent, and faculty concerns have yet to even acknowledged the problem, let alone offer a suitable solution. The reason that the Goucher community is outraged at Peejo and Kay’s departure from the staff is not for fear that the Academic Center for Excellence as a support service will cease to exist, but rather that there cannot and will not be an Academic Center for Excellence that offers the same level of care and support to students without Peejo Sehr and Kay Beard.
Student support is essential on a college campus. College is often the first time a student is away from home for extended periods of time, and there is an abrupt change in a student’s academic and social life that can leave students feeling lost and alone. I can only speak from my experience, but my freshman year was incredibly difficult. I chose Goucher because of the tight-knit community that was advertised to me, but when I arrived, I realized that the whole admissions spiel was nothing more than a façade. In reality, the community is broken; bits and pieces can be found intact, but mostly the community can only be found in tiny nooks and crannies, each group hiding from the other to avoid communication lest it turn to confrontation. Yet, the school carries on, trying to forget our abysmal retention rate that causes even more fractures within the community. Being confronted with this reality as a first year was incredibly difficult, and I honestly felt like I had very few people who would listen to my struggle with college life until I found ACE.
When I walked into my first appointment with Peejo Sehr, I knew that I had found home. She was the first person at this school who truly listened to me, who saw me as an equal, and who wanted more than anything for me to succeed. Because of Peejo I found my voice, my community, and my own identity here at Goucher. The reason I am telling this story is not to be anecdotal, but rather to give a specific example of how ACE was instrumental in my decision to stay at Goucher after a very hard transition to college. I have talked to countless other students who have similar stories of feeling that ACE is their home and that the women who run it are their family.
Kay and Peejo have fought to support students holistically, by supporting them as individuals instead of as names on a page. Peejo’s meditation workshops have given students a way to destress and become healthier, happier people. Kay’s coordination of the Supplemental Instructors has helped raise student’s grades and give them more confidence in their classes. It is impossible to put a price tag on their contributions to the Goucher community, and the fact that their very positions were deemed as unnecessary to the school is the greatest of all insults.
The administration may have the power to make the decision to remove Kay Beard and Peejo Sehr from the staff, but they will pay the price if they do not reverse their decision. I can already predict what will happen. First and foremost, ACE will not be able to continue to provide the same holistic academic support that it previously offered, as Peejo and Kay were driving forces behind the push to mentor students in a way that would not just focus on grades, but also the health and wellbeing of the students. Because of this, students will not receive the same individualized support and attention, leading to more students feeling alone and frustrated at Goucher and making the decision to transfer. Not only will Goucher lose current students, but they will lose prospective students, as ACE as it is today (including Lucy, Peejo’s dog, who has been a support animal for many students at Goucher) is a major selling point of the school. Students’ grades will also drop, as there will not be enough trained Academic Coaches at ACE to support the number of students who come seeking academic support. It is not yet clear how the SI program will continue without Kay’s dedicated work, which yet is another reason why the academic rigor of the school will suffer. But above all, ACE will never be the home that it used to be to so many students and those students will remember the people who made the decision to take away their support network.
I understand that Goucher needs to make budget cuts in order to continue to operate, however I find it utterly perplexing as to how the administration could have determined that making cuts to ACE staff would assist in that endeavor. It is possible that for the time being having to pay two less salaries will save the school money, but if Goucher is thinking more long term, as it should, the results of this decision can only be negative. Furthermore, I very much doubt that any student on this campus would say that ACE resources are a waste of the college’s money and the fact that we, as a student body, were not consulted about our opinion on the value of the different administrative services is insulting. We, the students, are supposed to be the most important factor in this equation, yet it appears to me more and more that we do not matter, that we do not have a voice, and that we are the last people the administration cares about.
Class of ‘22
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