Brendan W. Clark ’21
Having graduated from Trinity this past year, I jumped at the opportunity to engage actively as an alumnus in the meaningful work that graduates of Trinity relish—shepherding the organization and safeguarding its resources for the benefit of future generations of Bantams. I have given what I can in time and money—and intend to continue to do so—because alumni engagement matters.
It is for precisely this reason—because the alumni voice is key to our institution’s success—that I felt compelled to write of my dismay at the recent decision to add to the ever-present and derisive administrative bloat that can plague an institution. This issue is not new: the Chronicle of Higher Education has reported on the issue for years, and Forbes quite aptly observed why College costs so much these days (hint: it is not the professors salaries—much less adjunct salaries—that are the prime driver of salary obligations). At Trinity, the Tripod has covered the matter at length.
Thus, one must ask, with the issue of administrative bloat readily apparent to Chronicle subscribers (which include, as I understand, many administrators at Trinity), do we really need a full-time, forty hour-a-week “Deputy Chief of Staff” position right now? Do we really need another administrator paid a hefty salary from the tuition, alumni donations, or the coffers of the Endowment? The answer should be resoundingly clear: “no.”
My real gripe with this position is the fact that anyone with the time to look would find that there are a half a dozen employees in the President’s Office who already perform the very responsibilities of this role. If you advertise a role, it would be appreciated if the language is differentiated from those that already exist, or if—at least—someone made an attempt to differentiate it.
The job description states the Deputy will “serve as a liaison from the president’s office to Trustees, individuals in higher education, government, civic and community affairs and business, as well as members of the Hartford and regional community.”
Does that sound familiar to you? It should. Is it not the job of Dickens Mathieu, Secretary of the Board of Trustees, to act as a liaison to the President’s Office with the Board? And is community relations not the job of Carlos Espinosa, Director of the Office of Community Relations, who serves “as a liaison between the College and the surrounding community.” Don’t we also have the Center for Hartford Engagement and Research with numerous professionals working to engage with Hartford? Are their efforts not enough?
Why do we need a liaison to the “government and civic community” when the very man to whom this deputy would report—the current Chief of Staff Jason Rojas—serves as the House Majority Leader of the General Assembly? Pray tell what better civic and government liaison could one have than a man in the second highest office in the legislature? I stand in stupefaction, awaiting someone who can name a better liaison to the government other than, perhaps, the installation of Ned Lamont himself as our Deputy.
Mind you, the President also has a “Special Assistant,” Karolina Kwiecinska ’16, whose responsibilities—admittedly—are not well-outlined on the College’s website. Are we to believe that she cannot assist with any of these tasks? Or, for instance, can the President’s Executive Assistant not support reviewing “her mail”? Are we really to believe that the five full-time, well-educated employees in the Office of the President cannot solve among themselves the management of the President’s “exceedingly complex schedule”? This is not the White House or a federal government which oversees a workforce of 2.1 million employees. This is a College with less than three thousand people on campus on any given day.
This position simply mirrors the responsibilities of other employees and, mainly, Mr. Rojas’ job. The responsibilities include “assist[ing] the [Chief of Staff] in monitoring and coordinating critical tasks” and partnering “with Chief of Staff…for planning and implementation of new projects.” So, this is a full-time, with benefits, assistant for Jason Rojas?
Mr. Rojas, to his credit, recently attained to a significant position in the state legislature: if the issue is that his work as Majority Leader adds to his work at Trinity, and consequently he requires additional support, then the College should draw from existing talent—and its denizens of full-time employees—to make up the difference.
A quick survey of other NESCACs and, in fact, most other institutions, fails to find a similar role. There is no “Deputy Chief of Staff” at Yale, or at Harvard, institutions twice our size and of far greater complexity. This current search reminds me of another position clearly essential to the success of the College that was advertised (and later withdrawn) around the time the COVID crisis arose: “Senior Speechwriter.” As to that one, I will only say there is no president of any college I can find who has someone whose sole responsibility is preparing remarks for the institution’s leader.
I want to be clear. I am not questioning the responsibilities many in this office presently hold and undertake. From my time as Tripod editor and as a student, I would aver that they often did a fine job in those responsibilities. I would say they have the capacity to do more—and to see the positions assigned to this “Deputy” completed among themselves.
What helps Trinity advance is the participation and charity of our alumni base, the rigorous education our faculty provide, and the students we bring to the institution. Who sits in the President’s Office—or how many employees work there—is not what matters. Our resources should be allocated to alumni outreach and investment in our students. I note, with sorrow, that engagement with “students” and “alumni” appears not once in this individual’s job responsibilities.
It seems even more in poor taste when we consider context. Trinity eliminated positions recently, some permanently, as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Some individuals who had worked at this College for decades were terminated and had little time to adjust. I may be young, but even I can tell that it takes a fair amount of gall to turn around a year later—when some of those employees may still be struggling—and suggest that we have the money for a duplicative job.
I would urge the College to reconsider—for the sake of students and alumni who care so deeply for this institution—and for the sake of its own integrity, to seriously evaluate the need for this role.
Brendan W. Clark ’21 is a recent alumnus of Trinity, the former Editor-in-Chief of the Tripod, and a J.D. Candidate at William & Mary Law School in Williamsburg, Virginia.