In case you have not heard, a late Friday evening e-mail announced to the Mary Washington community that President Judy Hample has decided to leave the University following the 2009-2010 school year to “pursue other academic interests.” As you walk across the Fredericksburg campus right now and the topic of President Hample’s resignation arises, a diversity of emotions can be observed. Some are surprised and some are not surprised at all. Some are disappointed and others are elated.
Most of this year’s graduating seniors have seen two presidents and an interim leave the University. It’s becoming routine, like midterms or Spring Break. They’ve experienced a firing, and now they’ve experienced a mysterious resignation.
If this year’s seniors have learned nothing else in their time at Mary Washington, they’ve learned two very different ways that someone can leave their job in the professional world.
Among the many questions that President Hample’s resignation announcement has prompted, one of the most important is what is going to happen next. Surely the University will not return to the same system of presidential search that brought us our past two short-lived ambassadors. What will the search committee and hired consultants do differently this time to ensure some administrative stability? Whatever it is, they owe it to the faculty, staff, students and the good name of the school to do it right this time.
Worse, the university has lost long-serving administrators under President Hample. Since Hample was hired, two senior university administrators have announced their retirement. One of them, former Dean of Student Affairs Bernie Chirico, said he didn’t want to retire when he announced he was leaving in January 2009.
“I wasn’t ready to leave Mary Washington,” Chirico said. “Hample is the sole reason I retired.” The other, Executive Vice President Rick Hurley, as of this week reversed plans to retire at the end of the year.
Does Hurley’s decision to return mean Hample had some bearing on his decision? Will Hurley pursue the presidency? The answers to these questions would be a lot clearer if Hample would give us some indication as to why she’s leaving.
Even though students, particularly seniors, are used to this kind of thing by now, we’d like to know what’s going on. The sad thing is that this kind of opacity on the part of the administration is par-for-the-course under Hample.
Provost Jay Harper recently told the Bullet, “I honestly don’t think anything significant will change for the students.”
Whether Harper thinks the university president’s actions have any bearing on the students or not, the reputation of the school is something that, believe it or not, has a bearing on our lives post-graduation. A school known for administrative disagreements, indecision, silence and a high turnover rate doesn’t exactly improve our image.
The first step to improving relations is to open the hiring process. Though Bill Frawley turned out to be the flop of the century, making him available in a public forum during the search was a good idea. Hample, on the other hand, seemed to drop out of the sky. One day we didn’t have a president; the next day, we did. We know choosing a president is a hard process, but it’s a good idea to put them on the spot to begin with, because it’s their job to handle pressure.
Whether you’re happy or sad that Hample’s leaving, it’s disappointing that this is the legacy of our school over the last four years. In reference to Harper’s statement, we’d like to go on record in saying that we don’t feel that way at all. We are the students, we care, and it matters to us.