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May 1, 2014

Residence Life operations to be reviewed

Student Life and Support Services seek student input

By Jordan Gonzalez

Students protesting

The department of Student Life and Support Services will be conducting a review of the operations of Residence Life during the last few weeks of finals.

The review will be four-fold, consisting of a customer service survey (emailed to any residential students), a town hall meeting (May 6 at 7:30 p.m.), student focus groups with randomly selected students and an ongoing email account – csureview@csuohio.edu).

The review is in response to issues that cropped up after several student protests which occurred in-person and on social media over the termination of a fifth-floor resident assistant (RA) from Fenn Tower, Dan Jakubisin, which occurred on April 11.

The Twitter hashtag #TeamDan received a lot of attention from Cleveland State University students (there is even a twitter handle, @TeamDan_CSU) where students tweeted to University officials support for Jakubisin. There were also two sit-in protests in the Fenn Tower lobby on April 15 and April 17, which attracted more than 50 students, according to Katie Anderer-DiMichele, who helped organize the in-person protests.

“This was kind of a last straw for a lot of residents as well as RAs,” Anderer-DiMichele said. “This stirred up a lot of underlying problems that have been happening throughout the department.”

The Cleveland Stater reached out to Residence Life and inquired what exactly Jakubisin was terminated for, but director of Residence Life Meg Nicholson diverted the question to John Soeder, the Cleveland State media contact, who said that the “university does not comment on personal matters.”

The Residence Life staff never disclosed the reason for his termination to any of the students, either.

According to Anderer-DiMichele, there was no money in the Residence Life budget to purchase trophies used in an awards banquet that is normally held. Jakubisin then purchased trophies with his own money for the banquet. He then said he was fired for “insubordination.”

Interim Vice Provost and Dean of Students Boyd Yarbrough said although he can’t speak of the details of why Jakubisin was fired, he said so far only one side of the story has been told.

“There is always another side to the story,” Yarbrough said. “I’m not prescribing any [malintent] at all, I’m simply saying there is more to this story and it is the collective story that led to the employment decision.”

Originally it was reported by The Cauldron and several unnamed students that there was a “formal investigation” of Jakubisin’s termination underway by Yarbrough and Clare Rahm, Assistant Vice President for Campus Support Services.

Yarbrough and Rahm said there is no specific investigation of the termination, but instead said they will be conducting the four-part review. They said they’re seeking a balance between a single issue and any greater concerns about Resident Life. Part of what students brought to their attention was a bigger picture that wasn’t focused solely on Jakubisin, Yarbrough said, which “[reinforced their] desire to look at [issues surrounding Resident Life] holistically.”

“An investigation implies it’s focused on one specific act or aspect or element, and it actually has a connotation that something is wrong,” Yarbrough said. “I think a review has a more appropriate context of let’s look at the big picture and gather as much data as we can, as much feedback as we can, to see what is right and what can be improved.”

But that isn’t to say they’re discouraging discussing or understanding more of the termination of Jakubisin. Rahm, whose duties include “contract oversight” to American Campus Communities (ACC; the third-party company that manages Residence Life), said this review method is open to all aspects and concerns students might have.

“We do also view the email address that as a means by which people can bring anything they want to our attention,” Rahm said. “If people choose to use that to advocate for any certain personnel changes or actions, that’s certainly their prerogative.”

For some students, there is concern that their voice won’t be heard, since it’s finals week and students will be distracted.

“I think [the review] is going in the right direction,” Anderer-DiMichele said. “[But] the student aspect of it – getting people to actually fill out the survey, to send emails to the account that they set up – that’s going to be the pressing issue, because I know a lot of people have things to say but getting people to actually take part in this formal review is the challenging part.”

Anderer-DiMichele has taken some steps in bridging the gap between the students and what they’d like. She met with Rahm early in the week to discuss what she is concerned about.

“I focused on that it’s not really the ACC [that is the problem], but the people they employ,” Anderer-DiMichele said. “Not really the company, but those who are here running it at CSU.”