News-in-Brief: Dean Laura Bayless Leaves College

On Feb. 24, President Urgo sent an all-campus email informing the College community that Laura Bayless would be stepping down from her positions as Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students at the end of the academic year. Five days later, however, Urgo sent another email explaining that Bayless had left her position and would be on leave the rest of the semester.

According to her online biography, Bayless received her B.A. in Speech Communication/Mass Media from Denison University in Granville, Ohio; her M.S. from Miami University of Ohio in College Student Personnel Services; and her Ph.D. in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies from Virginia Tech University.

Previous to working at St. Mary’s, Bayless worked as Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and then Dean of Students at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia. In 2007, Bayless became Dean of Students of the College and in 2011, she was promoted to Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students.

In 2010, Bayless was honored as an American College Personnel Association (ACPA) “Diamond Honoree” for her outstanding and sustained contributions to higher education and to student affairs and in 2011, she was awarded the Commission for Administrative Leadership Senior Level Professional Award. Bayless also served on the ACPA: College Students International Assembly as the Coordinator-Elect for Commissions.

In his email, Urgo said he would be searching for an interim replacement for the 2012-2013 academic year while a national search is conducted for a permanent dean.

In accourdance with stated College Policy, numerous administrators refused to comment on the specifics of her departure, though in the email Urgo said, “Laura’s visibility and positive energy has made a difference on our campus. I invite you to join me in wishing Laura well as she embarks on her future endeavors.”

Summer Sees Staff Changes

Last year during a President’s Council meeting, it was proposed that the positions of Assistant Director of Student Activites and the Judicial Affairs officer should be two different positions instead of a joint position held by one person.

Before this decision, Clint Neill held both positions; now he has decided to retain the position of Assistant Director of Student Activites so that he can better focus on the needs of the students and not be split between two positions. “It was too much for one person, ” said Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Students Laura Bayless. “We were only able to do the most basic things.”

However, now that the positions have been split, each director can focus more heavily on his or her specific field. Neill now has the time to focus more fully on campus-wide programming such as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer programming, civility involvement, and leadership development.

Taking over Judicial Affairs will be Regina Curran J.D. Curran worked at Coastal Carolina University and obtained a Juris Doctorate in Public Law from Roger Williams University.

Dean of Students Laura Bayless was recently promoted to Vice President for Student Affairs, a position formerly held by Mark Heidrich and Mike Freeman. Bayless was awarded the position by President Joe Urgo after she took on extra responsibilities last year. She will be building on her responsibilities from last year.

A new Vice President of Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty was named this fall. Beth Rushing was named via the Board of Trustees and began her position on July 1. Rushing was found from Isaacson Miller, a search firm employed by the college. “The search committee did a great job of putting material together to help candidates understand the nature of the job and the particular strengths of St. Mary’s,” said Rushing. “When I left my campus visit, I knew that this was the place I wanted to be, and I was thrilled when President Urgo called to offer me the job.”  She was previously at Washington State College. In a press release Rushing stated, “For many years I have admired the public honors college mission at St. Mary’s. Liberal arts institutions are unique in their holistic focus on students. They create the conditions for students to expand their skills and knowledge and deepen their understandings of themselves as citizens and stewards of the world. St. Mary’s fosters this through close student-faculty interactions and an amazing array of co-curricular opportunities for students.” Rushing plans to spend some time this year listening to what the campus community has to say and use these conversations to guide her in the upcoming years. “The results of this conversation will be a set of strategic priorities that we can all agree upon, and that will guide our work for the next several years,” said Rushing. So far Rushing says she has been “extremely impressed,” by a warm and welcoming community here at St. Mary’s. “I’m looking forward to learning how to sail, to attending our theater and music performances, to cheering our athletic teams, to classroom visits and crepes in the Great Room,” she said. Her email is brushing@smcm.edu and she is also available on Facebook.

Ciji Tidwell, formerly the Area Coordinator for International Support Studies has left the college. According to Kelly Smolinsky, Tidwell left to be with her fiance and the search for her replacement is underway.

Sharon Murray, formerly the Administrative Specialist to the Dean of Students has retired from her position at St. Mary’s. According to Bayless, Murray is enjoying her retirement by reading on her Nook, cake-baking, and making band camp uniforms for Leonardtown High School.  “She loved her job, but could retire, and so she did,” said Bayless. Murray’s position has been replaced by Lisa Youngborg.

George Waggoner, former Director of Campus Technology Support Services, has retired from his post this summer. Tom Botzman, Vice President for Business and Finance, said that Waggoner “tried to do what is best for the students and facilities but he [also] tried to do what was best in his heart and I hope that I can say that about anyone who can retire.” Currently, Michael Gass is serving as interim Director of Campus Technology Support Services. Under Gross, IT will be looking to address services that are redundant in the system and upgrading Blackboard.

Another change in the Technology Support Services Office was the departure of Erik Horton, Web Programmer and Development Specialist. Horton left to accept a position as a Network Engineer for CSC. He accepted this position, he said, because it was “[his goal] to make [his] way out of a web development field and into more of a networking role.” Horton also stated that the abrupt departure of his former boss David Emerick contributed to his sudden depature, although he states “my interest in a different field has always been there.”

Correction: As originally published, Clint Neill’s name was spelled with one ‘L’.

Director of Public Safety Resigns

On Tuesday, April 12, Dean of Students Laura Bayless confirmed that former Director of Public Safety Christopher Santiago is no longer employed with St. Mary’s College.

Santiago, who formerly served as the Assistant Director of Campus Safety for Keene State College in New Hampshire, began his work as Director of Public Safety on Sept. 7, 2010, making his tenure just over seven months long.

David Zylak, Former St. Mary's County of Maryland Sheriff, will serve as interim Director of Public Safety (Photo from msa.md.gov)
David Zylak, Former St. Mary's County of Maryland Sheriff, will serve as interim Director of Public Safety (Photo from msa.md.gov)

On Tuesday, April 12, Dean of Students Laura Bayless confirmed that former Director of Public Safety Christopher Santiago is no longer employed with St. Mary’s College.

Santiago, who formerly served as the Assistant Director of Campus Safety for Keene State College in New Hampshire, began his work as Director of Public Safety on Sept. 7, 2010, making his tenure just over seven months long.

In an email to Student Affairs, Bayless stated that “Dave Zylak, the former director of Public Safety for St. Mary’s County, will be our interim director of public safety as we initiate a search for the new incumbent.” Zylak, a former St. Mary’s County Sheriff, will officially start on April 25, until which time Bayless will serve as the Interim Director of Public Safety.
According to the Maryland General Assembly website, Zylak, a Democrat, was elected as sheriff of St. Mary’s County in 2002 and left office in 2006 after he was defeated by current sheriff Timothy Cameron.

In an interview with The Point News, Santiago declined to speak about the situation leading to his resignation, and said, “[the decision] was mutually beneficial for all involved. This is an opportunity to be respectful and professional. It’s important to not burn bridges.”

Urgo said, “there was no disagreement with Santiago’s vision, [and] no clash of principles.” He added, “I feel fortunate to know Santiago and I predict he will have a successful career.”

Though he confirmed discussions had been ongoing within the administration a good deal of time before the seemingly sudden decision occurred, Urgo said he could not comment further since it is College policy not to discuss personnel matters.

Bayless, although similarly not wishing to comment on specifics, said, “much of [Santiago’s] vision for Public Safety was right on. I really like Santiago, he has a lot of good skills and knowledge.”

Santiago did, however, express his desire to thank the students, staff and faculty of St. Mary’s for his time on-campus. “I want to thank [Joseph] Urgo, Dean Bayless and Vice President [of Business and Finance [Tom] Botzman for their leadership and support and the opportunity to be Director [of Public Safety]” he said, adding, “my decision to leave was mutually best for the College, myself and my family.”

Santiago described his decision as, “very difficult,” and said, “I poured my heart and soul and all my energy into St. Mary’s. I am proud of my accomplishments and have learned from my failures.” He added, “When I came to campus the relationship between [the Public Safety] office and students was strained. I worked hard to change that and I hope students feel I heard them.”

“I had a vision and there was a lot of work to be done. I am proud of what I had done. I value myself as an educator and that’s a part of being at a higher education institution; we are here for you [students].” Finally, Santiago wanted to thank the Public Safety staff, “for all their hard work and understanding my vision and being open to change.”

He said, “I am most proud of leaving the office better than when I arrived.”

Santiago said that he did not yet know where he would work next, but mentioned looking for something local since his wife still works for the College’s Events Department.

Santiago said, “I appreciate and value the students and I will always treasure the relationships I built with them. I will continue to be a member of the SMCM community as a member of the general public.”

Santiago concluded the interview on a more positive note, and expressed his continued affiliation with St. Mary’s Seahawks. He said, “I am an avid sports fan and will continue to support St. Mary’s athletes.”

St. Mary’s Campus to Extreme Weather: Can’t Touch This

On Thursday, Sept. 2, and Friday, Sept. 3, the St. Mary’s campus community experienced rain showers and cloudy skies related to Hurricane Earl. It was the first weather-related incident of the college year and the first incident that could have required emergency actions.

A hurricane is just one of the many emergency situations for which the college prepares.

Laura Bayless, Dean of Students, said, “you gotta make sure…the storm drains are clear so that it can handle extra water.” Dean Bayless continued to say that providing non-perishable foods for students and making decisions on to have or to not have classes are some of the other important aspects of planning for hurricanes.

In the event of an evacuation, the college works with the St. Mary’s County Department of Public Safety to determine a location, and the manner in which to evacuate. In the event of coastal flooding, St. Mary’s County may decide to use the Michael P. O’Brien Athletic & Recreation Center (ARC) as an evacuation site; subsequently, the Red Cross would bring in cots and blankets.

In the case of evacuation of campus, Dean Bayless mentioned students with vehicles may leave themselves and go to unaffected areas, such as their homes. She said, “[Students] are welcome to stay on campus…but if you just want to go, then go.”

The college has insurance to help compensate for damages done to both private and public property. Tom Botzman, Vice President of Business & Finance at St. Mary’s College, said the college assumes liability for college-caused damage to private property. Botzman continued to say, “we do everything we can to make it good [for the students]…you’re the ones who live here.”

The state of Maryland insures the college for any damaged property on campus. Botzman said the college “files a claim” with the State, which then compensates the college relative to the claim.

Botzman described the state insurance program as a “parent organization” and “an agency of the state.” When describing potential costs, Botzman said the college pays no premium like those in private insurance plans. Rather he said, “It’s a part of how we operate, it’s a state-wide program.” Because the college is part of the state insurance umbrella, students and other members of the campus community do not pay for this insurance through tuition or fees.

On the student side of emergency preparedness, the resident life staff is in charge of communicating with students and making them aware of situations. Senior Charles Onwuche and Residence Hall Coordinator for Warring Commons (WC), said resident life staff uses email, direct contact, and signs to disseminate information to the students. He and the resident life staff “have a protocol for each type of emergency.”

Onwuche described how in some emergency situations the resident life staff works to put on games and activities for students. “We will cater to the students…[who] want an opportunity to relax and do something non-educational,” said Mr. Onwuche.

The college provides a comprehensive and detailed emergency guide on its website (http://www.smcm.edu/emergency/emergencyguide.html).

Dean Bayless Wins ACPA Award

Recently, The American College Personal Association (ACPA) with a Diamond Honoree Award honored St. Mary’s College of Maryland’s Dean of Student Affairs Laura Bayless. This award is given in recognition of Dean Bayless’ achievements in student affairs.

“[The Diamond Honoree Award] is meant to honor student affairs professionals who have done good work over the course of their career [in student affairs]” said Bayless. Dean Bayless was nominated by her colleagues and members of the Commission of Administrative Leadership.  A colleague of the Deans from Northwestern University, Tim Gordon was the member of the Commission who forwarded the nomination to the ACAP.

Dean Bayless colleagues nominated her because “she is an excellent thinker, leader, and person. She is able to help colleagues and students, realize their potential through thoughtful questions, consistent support and mentorship, and works to improve the lives of students through our professional work,” said Gordon.

Dean Bayless began her career in Student Affairs while she was still attending college at Dennison University. “I was a very actively involved undergrad both inside and outside of the classroom,” said Bayless, “Somehow during my senior year I discovered that you can do this as a job.”

Dean Bayless will continue her work in Student Affairs through her participation on campus and in the ACPA. “I plan to keep contributing to the campus I am on, and to the larger field in general…I am actually going to be presenting an article at the [National Convention] Conference,” said Bayless

On March 21 in Boston at the ACPA, National Convention Dean Bayless will receive her award In addition her friends, and colleagues across the country are honoring her for her achievement by donating to the [ACPA] foundation.

College Periodic Review Report Submitted for Campus Feedback

Acting President and Provost Larry Vote has asked that the campus community provide feedback on the current draft of the Middle States Periodic Review Report available on the Portal.

Every 10 years, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education requires a major self-study assessing the institution. Based on the self-study, the Commission reviews the College and makes recommendations for improvement. Five years later, the College is required to submit a Periodic Review Report. It responds to recommendations made by the Commission, outlines challenges and opportunities, looks at enrollment and finance trends and projects, assesses institutional effectiveness and student learning and links institution planning and budgeting. “It’s critical to our accreditation process,” said Dean of Students Laura Bayless. “It helps external people understand what we’re doing and helps us evaluate ourselves.”

Bayless and associate professor of psychology Cynthia Koenig are responsible for drafting the document.  According to Bayless, they have pulled together experts from across campus to contribute to the draft but would also like to receive feedback from students. “We know a lot about the College, but we don’t know every detail. We want the document to truly reflect the College,” she said.

Students are asked to review the Report on the Portal and send feedback to selfstudy@smcm.edu.

Colleges Nationwide Look into Creating ‘Sexiling’ Policies

Although Tufts University has outlawed sexual activity in a dorm room when the other roommate is present SMCM will likey not adopt such a rule because of the difficulty in enforcing it. Photo by Tom Keen.
Although Tufts University has outlawed sexual activity in a dorm room when the other roommate is present SMCM will likey not adopt such a rule because of the difficulty in enforcing it. Photo by Tom Keen.

Throughout the history of collegiate on-campus residences, most colleges and universities have tiptoed around a particularly touchy subject that has lately received its own name and has only recently been openly discussed. That subject is “sexiling.”

The act of sexiling (making one’s roommate leave their dorm room for a certain amount of time in order to become sexually intimate with a significant other) is one of the oldest collegiate traditions for on-campus students. Many colleges and universities are beginning to look into this situation for the first time, due mostly to Tufts University’s new residence life rule that was enacted this semester. Tufts now states in its student life handbook that students “may not engage in sexual activity while your roommate is present in the room.”

“I support Tufts’ attempt to make the expectation of refraining from engaging in sexual activity when a roommate is present as clear as possible,” said Joanne Goldwater, Director of Residence Life. “However, I’m not sure how realistic it is to enforce.” She said that she had been a victim of sexiling her sophomore year of college.

The question, however, is whether sexiling is a big problem on our own campus. “Certainly,” said Laura Bayless, Dean of Students. “It does happen each semester. It’s not a new thing.” After polling 100 St. Mary’s students, 61 replied that they had already been affected, either by being sexiled or by being the roommate that had done the sexiling.

“Of course, we know it is happening on campus,” said Goldwater. “We see the students sleeping in the rec. rooms, we hear whispering/gossip, we hear third-hand about the issues, and we were all college students, too!”

Junior Joyce Miranda, who lived in a quad her sophomore year, recalled a time when she left her room to go brush her teeth only to be locked out of her room when she returned a couple minutes later. Even other students living just across the hall from a sexiled resident can become affected. Sophomore Leah Klump once gave refuge to a friend at three in the morning after the girl had been kicked out of her own room.

On the other hand, Tyne Lowe, a Caroline Resident Assistant in her junior year, has noticed that “it’s usually not a case of a note on the door saying, ‘we’re sexing.’” For most of her affected residents, it’s been a problem of the significant other of roommate number one being in the room so much during the day that roommate number two can’t concentrate on work. The biggest issue, therefore, seems to be the communication between roommates.

Page 45 of the College’s To The Point Handbook, given to all students, states, “Because some students prefer a restricted visitation policy and others desire a greater degree of choice in entertaining guests in their rooms, roommates must determine their own limitations.” If a problem arises, members of the Residence Life staff have said that the best thing to do is to talk to the other roommate or ask an RA or RHC to help mediate the situation.

Dean Bayless likes to refer to St. Mary’s College as a “community built on respect” and said that if students are sexiling their roommates all of the time, they are going against that philosophy. “Each person has equal access [to the room],” said Bayless. “Sleep first, study second, socialize third. Everybody’s room is supposed to be their room.”

Campus Drug Referrals Reach a Nine Year High

Marijuana is the most common illegal drug found on campus. (File Photo)
Marijuana is the most common illegal drug found on campus. (File Photo)

The Office of Public Safety recently released the annual crime statistics for 2008.  One statistic is particularly eye catching: drug use on campus has nearly doubled compared to the past nine years.

The report, dating back to 2000, shows the number of drug referrals on campus have sat around 40 and never went above 50 referrals for drug use.  However, in 2008 the number nearly doubled, with 90 referrals by Public Safety for students with drugs.

The annual crime report is a compiled list of crimes that have occurred on campus throughout the year.  It combines the statistics that Public Safety and Judicial Board compile throughout the year.  A referral is what Public Safety gives to a student who is caught breaking campus policies which sends him or her to Judicial Board for disciplinary action.

According to Sgt. Tony Brooks, Supervisor of Public Safety, that the most common drug found on campus is marijuana and that “students have gotten bold and are now doing drugs much more openly than in the past.”  He also believes that this trend in both increased drug usage and referrals is going to continue unless the College puts more pressure on students with tougher punishments against those that use and sell drugs.

Dean of Students Laura Bayless also had some worries about the statistics from the 2008 crime report. She is afraid that the College has a higher perceived drug use compared to national standards.

“The culture of the College has a relaxed view on drug use, specifically marijuana, which worries me,” she said. She said that drug use affects the students’ abilities to think critically, which then affects their school work, which should be their reason for being at the College.

Bayless said that there has not been any talk of raising the minimum sanctions for drug policy violations that are specified in To The Point, the College’s policy handbook.

Some students view the crime report and the jump in the number of drug referrals in 2008 compared to past years as astonishing information.  Sophomore Colleen Simpson said that she feels that people are just being foolish, and that they are getting caught more.

However, she thinks that this means that “Public Safety and Residence Life staff are taking a hard stance on drugs, which is a good thing in making the campus safer for all students.”

Overall, the jump in drug use cannot be defined as a trend with only one year’s set of data, but both Brooks and Bayless expressed that they feel that this trend will continue to rise unless something is done to bring a halt to the number of students using illegal drugs.  To see the full crime report statistics for 2008 and years past, visit the St. Mary’s Office of Public Safety Web site, http://www.smcm.edu/publicsafety/annualreport.html.

New policies added to student handbook

handbook
To The Point, St. Mary's Student Handbook (Photo by Dave Chase)

New policies have been added to the student handbook, To the Point, detailing new medical amnesty and Good Samaritan, sanction reduction, and missing person policies, as well as changes to older policies regarding the use of evidence in judicial affairs, appeals, and sexual assault.

One highly discussed policy was the medical amnesty policy, which says that students who require medical assistance while violating college drug and alcohol policy can have judicial charges deferred. Tied with this is the Good Samaritan Policy, where a student who is in violation of the campus alcohol or drug policies who seeks medical assistance for another student may be granted amnesty from disciplinary action.

Amnesty is considered based on the student’s previous judicial record and severity of and student disposition towards the incident. According to Clint Neill, Coordinator of Student Activities and Judicial Affairs, if a student has a previous judicial record of violating college policy, it could prevent the student from receiving medical amnesty.

There were many forums and discussions with students, faculty, staff, Public Safety, and local Emergency Medical Services (EMS) workers regarding this policy in the past several years.

“It was time consuming, but I think it was the best way…in terms of policies like medical amnesty that could potentially affect the whole, entire college community,” Neill said. “It was probably the best process for that policy because we got so much input.”

Dean of Students Laura Bayless said that she was “certain students are excited that the medical amnesty and Good Samaritan policy is in place.”

Junior Aaron French said this policy is “a really good thing that will encourage students to be safer and more responsible.”

Another policy that was added to the student handbook was a sanction reduction policy, which explains that Bayless will accept requests for reduction of long term sanctions at least one year after the policy. In order for the sanctions to be reduced the student must prove that they have learned from their mistakes and must submit a letter explaining this to the sanction reduction panel and a letter of recommendation from someone in the college community.

The third new policy is a missing persons policy that which was mandated by the 2008 Higher Education Opportunity Act. Students can report a missing person to Residence Life or Public Safety.

Each year To the Point is reviewed and updated by the Judicial Code Review Committee which, this previous year consisted of junior Sarah Shipley as the Student Government Association (SGA) president’s designate, the Faculty Senate president designate Danielle Cass, Clint Neill, and Laura Bayless.

Some of the changes that were made included alterations to the wording of policies regarding evidence in judicial hearings, appeals, and sexual assault. The evidence policy was changed to make it clearer that evidence can be gathered from a variety of sources, including testimony of witnesses, electronic and physical pictures, and reports from a sheriff’s office, public safety, doctors or residence life.

“We just wanted to provide more information for students as to what could be considered,” Neill said. In regard to pictures or other electronic material he said,

“Our practice is that the evidence for those sorts of policies should be supplemental evidence for an incident that is already documented. That doesn’t mean that that’s going to happen all the time.”

According to the Judicial Affairs Web site, changes in the appeals policy made it more clear that the appeals process is to “consider whether or not procedures were properly followed.” Changes in the sexual assault policy were also made to make it clear that sexual assault can occur when a student “take[s] advantage of another student’s physical or mental incapacitation.”

If students are interested in voicing their opinions on policies in the student handbook, they have several options. They can contact the Policy Review Committee in the SGA or Clint Neill or Dean Bayless to propose policy modification or change.

French said, “A lot of [the student handbook policies] seem very positive and seem to be taking into account a lot of student input.”