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The Scarlet & Black

The Scarlet & Black

Chicago admissions recruiter let go

By Peter Sullivan

Marlene Jacks, Associate Dean of Admissions and Coordinator of Chicago Regional Programming, was let go about three weeks ago after having worked at the College for 11 years.

Jacks’ termination comes particularly hard to minority students who established a close relationship with her.
“She was a mentor and she was a friend,” said Charisma Montfort ’11, a board member of Concerned Black Students. “Sometimes if I called her she would drive I think from Davenport and have dinner with me.”

The absence of Jacks’ supportive presence on campus will test some urban, minority students’ willingness to remain at the College. “Students stayed because of Marlene,” Montfort said. “As far as the first and second years [in CBS], what is keeping their trust in Grinnell College?”

Vice President for Diversity and Achievement Elena Bernal takes a larger view of the problem beyond the firing of Jacks. “There’s been a need for more support [for minority students] for a very long time,” Bernal said.

Bernal pointed to institutional structures as a problem for minorities rather than simply one firing. “How on Earth are we bringing social change without changing those structures?” Bernal said.

According to Bernal, this past week a needs assessment of the College’s multicultural programs was approved. The assessment is tentatively slated to begin after Spring Break.

Montfort speculated that Jacks’ absence could adversely affect the number of students coming to Grinnell from large cities. “In an urban area like Chicago people are very connected. It’d be interesting to see how many people don’t come here because of this,” Montfort said.
The Office of Admission plans on filling Jacks’ position after the search process in the spring or early summer, according to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Seth Allen. “We intend to ask students to be a part of that process in finding Marlene’s replacement,” Allen said.
Bernal views the recruitment problem as one of both quality and quantity. “We don’t need one person recruiting, we need multiple people. We need cross office coordination otherwise we just isolate minority staff,” Bernal said. The class of 2013 has the largest percentage of domestic minority students in the College’s history, at around 25 percent.

The biggest reason for student frustration with the administration comes not simply from Jacks’ firing, “My biggest issue is not that she was fired, but that there was no notification,” Montfort said. She and other CBS members found out about the firing through rumors at first, and only had a discussion with Admissions after going to Dean of Students Travis Greene and being referred to Doug Badger, Director of Admission.

The reasons for her firing remain confidential for legal reasons, leaving some students wondering. “Clearly if she was able to impact us all that well, she was doing her job,” said Rose Chavira, also a member of CBS.

Students are concerned her replacement will be unable to develop the same relationship with students. “There are some big shoes to fill,” Montfort said.

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