On Oct. 2, news began spreading that Kelly Schroeder, former director of student activities, was gone. Everyone had heard something different: she quit, she was put on leave, she stepped down or she left for “undisclosed reasons.” At The Point News we are not able to report any non-speculative explantation on this story. Instead, we aim to cover the student reaction to the situation.
Schroeder has worked at St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM) for over 15 years, and her absence has resulted in an outpouring of support from current and past students. News about her leaving spread fast, with little-to-no word from the administration at the time.
On Oct. 30, an email was sent to all students at SMCM announcing Schroeder’s position as the new “associate director of [a]lumni [r]elations.”
Prior to this announcement, no email was sent updating students on the situation. This prompted many students to become upset, alumni to organize, and the Student Government Association (SGA) to hear concerns during student speak-outs. Posters were hung in the Campus Center sharing that Schroeder was gone without an explanation. Students began sharing what they knew on social media, including a Facebook page called “SMCM Alumni in Support of Kelly Schroeder,” currently with 529 members, where alumni created videos of support. Other students made an online petition which was read aloud at SGA Student Speakout on Oct. 3.
Many students have shared their inability to comment on Schroeder’s absence due to a lack of information, as well as the fear of their on-campus positions being jeopardized. However, some alumni were able to share what they knew, after the Board of Trustees meeting which took place on Oct. 21.
“I will say that I worked with/for Kelly for 3+ years. At that time there was a lot of turnover in the office and Kelly handled each change gracefully,” said an alumna who graduated this past spring and asked not to be referred to by name. “Kelly has always stood by her employees when she felt they were doing their best and fought for them tooth and nail when necessary.”
However, support for Schroeder has not been universal. “As a club leader, sadly, I did not have the same experience that I’ve seen other alumni describe in working with Kelly Schroeder,” Nicole Zimmerman, ‘14, explained. “Her actions towards the organizations I was involved in often felt arbitrary and capricious.”
But no matter students’ feelings regarding Kelly Schroeder, it’s clear that the situation has stirred up feelings of frustration among the student body. It’s been more than 20 days since Schroeder was put on administrative leave, with very limited responses from SMCM administration. A recent graduate, who also chose to remain unnamed, reached out to Dean of Students Leonard Brown, afterward saying, “Administration does not seem to respect the students’ voices and the institution seems to be taking a turn away from the student-centered education it used to pride itself on. I shared the response I got from the dean with other students and got assorted responses. He did not even take the time to sign the email or remove the “Sent from my iPhone” stamp.”
To contribute to the frustration felt on campus, administrators have shared that they are working with the student leaders, but according to many students, administrators have not reached out or addressed their concerns. Some students have reported feeling pushed aside, silenced and disrespected regarding this incident. Many alumni are asking for administrators to find a better way to work with and communicate with the students.
Many of the students we were able to speak to expressed their support for Schroeder. “I’m not as eloquent as other alumni, but I would just say I love Kelly and owe a lot of where I am today to her. I would hate for other students to have to attend a St. Mary’s without her,” said Megan Darby, ‘17. Students are hoping for a public explanation from the administration about what has happened this month, and where that leaves the students, the Office of Student Activities and Kelly Schroeder.
Update: Carolyn Curry, the Vice President for Institutional Advancement, stated in an all-student email on Oct. 30:
“Institutional Advancement announces Kelly Schroeder as the new associate director of Alumni Relations. Alumni engagement at our College is at an all-time high. Our Alumni Relations team, working hand-in-hand with the Alumni Council and alumni, lead and/or support a variety of key in[i]titiatives including Hawktoberfest, Bay to Bay Service Day, Alumni Weekend, Bookbag to Briefcase, GivingTuesday and micro[-]internships. We welcome Kelly‘s experience as we continue to work with alumni to strengthen our College’s impact and outreach.”
The story has been updated to reflect this change.