St. John’s College to retain presidents at both campuses

St, John’s College in Santa Fe. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

SANTA FE – St. John’s College will retain a president on each of its campuses while also having one of them serve as president over activities shared by both the Santa Fe and Annapolis, Md., sites, according to a notice sent to college staff, students and alumni Friday.

The changes were approved by a unanimous vote of the Board of Visitors and Governors in a meeting in Annapolis.

Mark Roosevelt, president of Santa Fe’s campus, will serve as collegewide president for a term of up to four years while also continuing to direct affairs on the local campus.

Chris Nelson, long-time head of the Annapolis campus who has said he will retire at the end of the next academic year, will continue as Annapolis president. After his retirement, a successor will continue in that role, according to the letter from the college deans.

This appears to be a bit of a switch from original discussions in which critics feared that a collegewide president would have full control over both campuses. With this vote, St. John’s administrators explained that each campus will have a president directing its local affairs.

The collegewide president would also oversee shared activities with a cabinet including the other president, deans, and chief financial officer. That group would be responsible for budgets and financial oversight.

In a previous story, the Journal reported that Jim Reische, St. John’s chief communications officer, said the combined campuses, with a budget of about $50 million, have been suffering an annual structural deficit of $11.5 million in recent years, which it has made up through donations and other financial sources. Combining some of the administrative functions and laying off some people was intended to reduce spending and the structural deficit.

The deans said in Friday’s letter that they are happy with the result, believing it preserves the college tradition of faculty governance. “After extensive dialogue the board and faculty leadership arrived at an arrangement that improves administrative accountability while honoring faculty supervision of the curriculum,” they wrote. “It guarantees faculty on both campuses direct access to presidents with executive powers, and real influence over the broadest range of decisions affecting the Program.”

The result of the discussions has been improved communications between faculty and the board, they added. “Finding an appropriate solution for these times required discussion and reflection,” they wrote. “Some of the public debates were difficult, even heated. Ultimately, we arrived at a solution through the respectful exchange of opinions.”

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