Text obtained from a student handout to Trustees in front of the Aurora Inn on May 6.
To the Board of Trustees of Wells College:
We, students of Wells College, feel it necessary to address this letter directly to you, as we feel our concerns have been improperly mediated and, in some instances, censored. Monday, May 3rd, a collective of student leaders presented President Lisa Marsh-Ryerson with a petition signed by over 300 students stating our wish to organize an open forum with the Board of Trustees. This letter is intended to outline our dissatisfaction with the current leadership of senior administration, specifically with President Lisa Marsh-Ryerson, as no such forum was allowed.
We believe that since the co-education decision, Wells has experienced an identity crisis. We no longer know how to advertise our institution as a unique liberal arts college. Instead of highlighting our best assets, such as an incredibly renowned faculty, we promote our school as an all-encompassing institution, suitable for all students and interests. This approach is firstly deceiving for new students, and also causes a large division in our focus, ability to retain students, and resources. A lack of focus fosters internal confusion and dissent, difficulty in establishing strategic plans and pursuing a common vision for Wells College's future.
The strategic planning process and subsequent restructuring has lead to the alienation, through lack of transparency and honest communication, of many of Wells' best resources -- Alumnae, Faculty, Staff, and Students. Wells is unable to attract and retain engaged students because students are not permitted to engage in any meaningful dialogue and decision-making. Rarely are suggestions and input of student-committees taken seriously. Furthermore, well-connected alums are being ignored; for instance, one alumnae, a professional in the field of branding, who had worked with multi-national corporations, offered ideas to improve Wells' public relations, but was not taken seriously.
Deficit and debt is not the cause of community concern; it is President Ryerson's leadership. Even though St. Lawrence College in Canton, NY has over $20 million dollars in institutional debt, their students are not protesting against the president. Although President Ryerson is nationally visible in higher education organizations, her leadership at Wells has caused grave discontentment, division, and distrust; moreover, the atmosphere resulting from this leadership has caused students to question whether Wells College is the right institution to complete their undergraduate studies.
Sixteen years is too long. Our vote is no confidence.