Leaving so soon, Kathy?

Dana Walden, Opinion Editor

As I’m sure many of you have heard, President Kathy Murray recently announced that she is retiring at the end of the 2021-2022 school year. She did this in a very short, very vague email that has left many students, myself included, feeling disgruntled. After a month of fighting with the administration over the Financial Sustainability Review, Kathy’s decision to make her retirement public has thrown gasoline on this institutional fire. 

Now, I’m not here to criticize Kathy’s decision to retire. Frankly, if I were in her position, I would consider an earlier retirement, too. Maybe it’s just because I’m a gossip, but there seems to be a new scandal or controversy at Whitman every few weeks. 

From the college’s handling of Title IX and Greek life to the administration’s response to the pandemic, poor Kathy can’t catch a break; she’s the figurehead of this college, and as such, bears the immense responsibility of leading this institution during devastating times. She also receives most of the blame for the administration’s mistakes, so I understand the need to step down earlier than anticipated. 

With that said, I don’t believe this announcement was made in good faith, and that’s because Kathy and the administration have been sitting on this information for several months. If she had waited just a few weeks to make her retirement known, or if she had made the announcement when she initially came to this conclusion, Kathy’s decision to leave would have been less rhetorically potent. 

The decision to announce Kathy’s departure in the midst of backlash against the FSR is, at the very best, terrible timing and terrible planning. At worst, this announcement is a thinly-veiled attempt at pushing through the FSR controversy and justifying the radical changes this administration is planning to make over the next year. 

No matter the intentions behind it, we can rest assured that the administration will milk this departure for everything it’s worth. Because she’s leaving in a year, Whitman’s higher-ups can justify any cuts or restructuring as Kathy’s “responsibility” to put the college in the “strongest position possible for a new president.”

Ultimately, I’m concerned that the administration will use Kathy’s choice to retire as a tactic to mitigate the student action that has gained traction over the last few years. The language in these updates communicates that we should be patient and calm, that the administration has more important things to worry about. We are now working with a lame-duck president, and transition in times of turmoil never goes well for those fighting for change.  

Sometimes, I wonder if the higher-ups at Whitman are connected to the community culture at all. This is the issue with the top-down structure of this administration: they make economically motivated, ill-advised choices that largely affect students, and do so without recognizing the contentious relationship they are creating.  

I love what Whitman stands for, but until this administration treats us like the competent people we are, students will always feel hostility toward them. The announcement of Kathy’s retirement reeks of manipulation, and students are too fed-up to overlook that. 

This fire will eventually die out, but it will burn along the way. This administration must acknowledge that the progress of this college lies in its students and faculty, and we have the largest stake in assuring Whitman’s prosperity. We will not be distracted from our aims.

Kathy, I wish you a restful and happy retirement, but until then, you and your team have a choice to make: You can work with the student body, communicate openly and genuinely with us, listen to us, or you can let the administration change this institution against the wishes of this community. You’ve got nothing to lose, and either way, we’ll keep fighting.