Restructuring of Admin. Reflects New Openness

This summer, and in his first few weeks of the school year in office, President Joseph Urgo has already implemented many subtle changes to the way administration deal their business, and restructured the administrative duties of multiple offices.

Perhaps the biggest change has been the creation of the President’s council, which consists of the Dean of Faculty, the Vice President for Development, the Vice President for Business and Finance, the Dean of Admission and Financial Aid, the Dean of Students, the Faculty Senate President, and the Assistant Vice President for Trustee Relations. This council reports directly to Urgo, and has been tasked with such duties as staffing the faculty senate and providing recommendations as to the college’s future direction.

This new administrative structure is a far departure from that under former President Jane Margaret O’Brien, who has a reporting structure in which all deans and vice presidents (save for the Vice President of Business and Finance) would report to the Provost, who in turn would report to O’Brien.

Perhaps the most striking change that has occurred as a result of these administrative changes is the discontinuation of the term Provost itself, to be replaced by the title Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of Faculty. Urgo stated in an all-faculty email sent during the summer that, “The [discontinuation of the title] is more in keeping with the reporting structure we have in place now, and indicates my desire to work closely with student affairs, admissions, and all other campus constituencies.” He further stated that it was more in keeping with what he saw as the purpose of a college like St. Mary’s, and said, “At a small school, I’m more used to [the deans] all reporting to the President.”

Larry Vote, who has taken on the new title, said, “it is a symbolic change in that…the President has decided to accept more direct responsibility.” He further stated that he would retain many of his current duties outside of this reporting hierarchy, such as oversight of academic programs, as well as new duties such as working with the Athletic department (formerly under Vice President of Planning and Facilities Chip Jackson) and continuing education/life-long learning. He stated special interest in taking over the athletic side of things, saying that he felt it would better align academic aspirations with athletic aspirations and would exemplify the NCAA model of the “Scholar-athlete”.

Vote is not the only member of the administration to have experienced a shuffling of responsibilities, which have in turn taken the burden off administrators such as Vote and Vice President of Business and Finance Tom Botzman who had to do multiple jobs during the transitional period between O’Brien’s and Urgo’s presidencies. There are now, for example, separate personnel for trustee relations and development, duties that were both taken over by Botzman in the transition.

The office of trustee relations specifically is a “function we haven’t had [at St. Mary’s] for a while…it had always been an additional responsibility”, according to former assistant Vice President for Life-Long Learning and new Vice President of Trustee Relations Kathy Grimes. She further said that, “having someone that is focused on [trustee relations] lets us brainstorm how students can get involved with trustees [and] how we can expand the relationship with trustees.” Beyond just this focus, Grimes also is in charge of managing Urgo’s commitments to students and making sure that the lines of communication between him and students remain open. She emphasized the desire her and Urgo have to hear from the campus community, and mentioned the ability to contact Urgo directly and anonymously through the web site (

Other notable changes include the movement of Public Safety management to Dean of Students Laura Bayless, management of the Waterfront to Jackson, and management of the Department of New Media to the new Vice President of Development Maureen Silva. Silva, who arrived at the college this summer, said, “to be embraced by the community has been quite gratifying…I am incredibly happy to be here.”

Although many of these changes seem mostly inconsequential to the average student, the sum total of these changes will mean a more streamlined and effective administration. Jackson said, “[It] all has to do with aligning different departments in ways that provide the most efficiency and effectiveness.” Botzman pointed out that, ultimately, a more streamlined and effective administration means less tuition increase from year to year, and an all-around more affordable collegiate experience.

He also said that, “[it] was not so much about budget, but about building a team and hopefully being more efficient.”

Many administrators were very optimistic about the changes taking place under Urgo. Botzman said, “I was doing three jobs, and now I’m only doing one; I’m ecstatic!” He added, “We can do a better job about what we need to do.” Vote said, “I think with this President, who is very proactively student-concerned, [these changes] should be a good thing.

Silva echoed these sentiments, and said, “There’s tremendous opportunity for success here…there is fabulous work being done.”

New Director of PS Discusses Plans for Campus Security

New Director of Public Safety, Chief Christopher Santiago has been working over the past few weeks to implement new policies. (Photo by Kevin Baier)
New Director of Public Safety, Chief Christopher Santiago has been working over the past few weeks to implement new policies. (Photo by Kevin Baier)
There’s a new face around campus, and it’s not just the lonely, lost First-years. The new Director of Public Safety, Chief Christopher Santiago, arrived on campus just over two weeks ago, on Sept. 7, and already has a few projects in the works and big ideas for the St. Mary’s community.

Santiago was born in Puerto Rico and raised in Boston, and attended the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. He received his A.S. and B.S. in criminal justice from Mount Ida College in Newton, MA.

For a year after graduation, Santiago worked as a Residence Director at Mount Ida before becoming the Captain of the Police Department at Simmons College in Boston, a position he held for five years.

From there, he worked for seven years as the Assistant Director for the Department of Public Safety at Keene State College in Keene, NH.

Now, he’s here at St. Mary’s as the Director of Public Safety, where for the past two weeks he’s been busy getting together policies and procedures, meeting with countless other departments and the President, and getting acquainted with the College.

During his meetings, he has discussed issues, concerns, and relationship-building with the other departments of the college, including Athletics, Food Services, Residence Life, and the Business Offices.

However, his primary concern is general organization of the Public Safety image. He has plans for a new and better facility, vehicles, and uniforms, and because he wants greater transparency into Public Safety’s (PS) services, he’s reworking their website.

Santiago also has plans to re-orient public safety; at Tuesday’s staff meeting he discussed PS being “customer service oriented and student focused.”

In order to make the officers and the department more approachable, he will increase the use of foot patrol, bike patrol, and golf cart patrol and decrease car patrols.

It’s “all about the students” for Santiago, who is open to new ideas from all members of the community. “I will bend over backwards to make student programs successful and safe,” Santiago assures, explaining that he went to an SGA meeting and is working with student leaders to “think outside the box.”

To demonstrate this, Santiago has future plans for parking on campus. He met with the business office to discuss the process for acquiring permits through Portal. Nothing will be changing for this year, but there are possibilities for the Fall of 2011, including renaming the lots, grouping the lots, or creating less lot-specific permits.

And the surge of towing on campus, the majority of which occurred before his arrival, has quieted down recently. Sixty-two cars were towed, most in the first week, but since then, few cars have been towed.

Santiago was able to clarify that the grounds for towing are not displaying a college decal. “Officers take a hell of a beating” for towing, Santiago explained, not just from students and not just at St. Mary’s, but everywhere.

He’s thankful for the parking on campus too, though, and says we’re very fortunate to have it, especially first-year students. The parking is beneficial for in-state students and extraordinarily helpful in an emergency situation.

The other topic relevant to college students is drinking, both underage and legal. Santiago explains that underage drinking is a “huge problem in the U.S., specifically for college-age students.”

He believes that in order to remedy the program, education and programming are necessary.

“My goal is to educate students that you have consequences for your choices,” specifically legal, physical, and academic consequences. Enforcement on campus is diligent but not harsh; all officers ask for is compliance and to have a conversation.

Recently, Santiago has heard a rumor that officers can’t ask students questions about what they’re drinking if they’re carrying a nondescript red cup.

He wants to clarify that officers can and will ask students anything, most often for an ID, and that open containers of alcohol, regardless of the age of the drinker, are not legal outside or in public places in residence halls.

If a student was walking by with a red cup, it is unlikely an officer would stop him or her. However, if the same student were weaving, had clothing in disarray, or was clearly disoriented, an officer might stop them to question them because officers have to consider the entirety of the situation.

Santiago also believes that there’s a deeper issue than underage drinking. “The alcohol is just the tip of the iceberg,” he explains. Santiago considers alcohol usage as an indication that students are struggling, whether with personal relationships, academics, family life, or other issues.

Therefore, Santiago encourages an open door policy with PS. “I want to encourage all members of the campus community to come introduce themselves, say hey.” Appointments to meet with him are always welcome, and can be made at the Public Safety Office or by calling.

He’s working on changing the image of PS too, hoping to establish a basis of mutual respect between officers and community.

Santiago has started a Public Safety Advisory group which currently has six members, and he “wants to be out and about,” and will frequently be walking around campus with his wife or his two dogs.