An open letter to Esther Barazzone

“I’m really glad my alma mater has gone out of its way to disenfranchise me as a graduate” … said no Chatham alumna, ever. 

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Dr. Barazzone, I don’t know what part of this piece I liked better, the part where you were labeled “tough and mercurial” or the part where former employees described Chatham as a “difficult workplace.” 

Or the fact that the sheer numbers did much of the talking in today’s Tribune-Review article, which testified to what much of the community has known. 

Since 2003, Chatham has had five directors/vice presidents for international affairs.

Its graduate school has had five deans since 2008, including a dean named in a reorganization this month. Its college for continuing and graduate education has had six deans since 2005.

Four people have been vice president for enrollment/admissions since 2008. Five people have been vice president for advancement since 2010, including one named this month.

“That amount of turnover in senior leadership would indicate that there is something going on, something not good,” said Donald Heller, dean of the College of Education at Michigan State University, who described Chatham’s turnover rates as “incredibly unusual.”

Because this is what the alumnae have known for the last five years. We’re convinced that the college’s demise was by design and not by default.

 

The fact that you and the trustees shirked the opportunity to comment speaks volumes about the state of the school.

Meanwhile, the woman who should be running the school – also an alumnae – was quoted at length in the story. 

Did you know that outgoing Michigan president Mary Sue Coleman gave her yearly raises BACK to the University of Michigan? Imagine that – a college administrator doing something for the good of the institution. 

Sadly, that is no longer the perception of your reign at Chatham. To paraphrase what my classmate, Sarah Barr, posted on the Facebook page of one of the alumnae groups … it’s clear that Chatham doesn’t care about its students. It doesn’t care about the college that lasted for nearly 150 years until greed and ego got into the way.

Has customer service become optional?

Seeing the screen of my BlackBerry cracked became the impetus for my search for a new smartphone. And took me to the Verizon Wireless store in Maumee, Ohio. When my husband and I walked in, we were greeted by two male sales associates and I explained what I was looking for – a BlackBerry Q10 with a comparable mobile/data/text plan.

Yet when I said “BlackBerry,” I got a few guffaws from the sales associates. Then I responded rather loudly:

“Are you judging me for using a BlackBerry? Really?”

Awkward pause from the two men who were helping me. Then one said he’d go back and check if there was a BlackBerry Q10 in stock. The other tried to convince me to go with a touchscreen phone and I stuck to my first preference. I wanted a damn BlackBerry.

I left without a new phone – which, in retrospect was a good thing. Because it got me more motivated to call out this store and its disrespectful employees. I don’t ridicule you for working at a Verizon store, so don’t ridicule me if I still prefer the brand of a dying mobile device company.

I got home and went online to order a new BlackBerry. But the more I thought about it, I was mad that a store would turn away money! So I sent a tweet to Verizon Wireless. And a few more before I got a response.

Then, as I was asking a customer service rep online about changes to my plan – I can no longer get unlimited data, but can get unlimited voice minutes and unlimited text messaging, and this disappoints me but I’ll deal with it – I told her about my awful experience at the Verizon store in Maumee. I asked her if there was any way I could email customer service.

There’s no way to email Verizon Wireless, and when I made a phone call, I was put on hold for 25 minutes before I hung up. (Gee, Verizon Wireless, what is going on with your company’s interpersonal skills?)

Anyhow.

I ordered my new phone. But in light of today’s exchange in the store of a company I’ve given my money to since October of 2001, I’m starting to believe this.

If this is how customer service is going to be handled in face-to-face situations, then I’m going to keep buying online. Can I at least get my upgrade fee waived for having to deal with this face-to-face foolishness?

Unleash your inner Gloria

Kate Upton unleashed her inner Gloria Steinem last night … and I sort of love it.

For a woman who has been so objectified – even though I kind of believe she’s in on the joke herself, and that’s a good thing, because to me that shows empowerment and ownership, combined with some self-deprecation – she took a stand.

My friend Tina (see the selfie post) immediately wrote back to me and said, I’m with Kate. And I agreed! Although my tweet didn’t necessarily convey it – and what great messages are sent in less than 140 characters?

As I told Tina, if one of us doesn’t say something, then who will?

Feminism is in a weird place right now – not necessarily where it was 25 years ago, when the mainstream media begged the question, “Is feminism dead?”

Women are asking for equal pay for equal work, and Ohio has become a battleground for reproductive rights. Hillary – a patron saint of women’s college graduates, along with Gloria – is our best bet for the 2016 presidential democratic ticket.

Meanwhile, more young girls are worried about taking the best selfie and can probably name more of the Kardashian sisters than they can the women in Congress or female CEOs.  I attribute this in part to the values that each generation of parents instills in their children – my peers and I are part of a generation that included immigration, the Civil Rights act, the second wave of feminism (my mom was required to wear skirts and pantyhose to work every day as a teacher in the 1970s – now, come on!), Vietnam and Watergate.

People 10-15 years younger than me were the children of Reaganism, yuppiedom, the Iran-Contra hearings, Princess Diana and Miami Vice. And because it seems as if values skip a generation – will we be impressing the values our parents taught us upon our children? –  it makes me wonder what has happened to feminism. Is it in a state of ambiguity? Is it slowly being revived or is it slowly being eviscerated?

Is it necessary for us to still stand our ground? Absolutely.

I’m currently reading “Girls To The Front,” about how the female punk scene in the early 1990s brought out a sect of feminism and empowerment, and allowed girls and young women to have a “safe space.” And I wonder, is there still a safe space for women, without being objectified, marginalized and even ridiculed? Heck, just look at the replies to Kate Upton’s post about the Los Angeles Country Club.

The death of Chatham College for Women really made me think a lot. Esther Barazzone, the school’s president, insisted that we’re reaching “gender equity” but why has Title IX and sexual harassment in colleges and universities become an issue this year? Why is President Obama championing equal pay for equal work? Why are we still being laughed at when we try to create and perpetuate #YesAllWomen, a movement that brings to light the issues that women still face?

With women’s establishments being knocked down and eradicated, we’re not building armies with each other, we’re now being forced to fight against something bigger than all of us. And I worry that instead of us banding together, we’re facing off against each other. And what does that accomplish?

So I really hope Kate Upton’s statement creates a backlash of sorts, or at least inspires people to think, hey, let’s stand up for something. Even if it’s the ham-handed creep at work who ridicules you for having a conversation about the treatment of women, or the commercial that hawks beer by using big-breasted, voiceless women in bikinis.

Kate, I’m with you. Please, continue being a voice. And I’m sorry if my tweet came off as flippant. But those Kardashian girls need to step up their game, like, last week.