Associated Student Government (ASG) leaders at Mt. Hood find themselves picking up the slack for several vacant Student Life staff positions, after significant upheaval in the Student Union.
Within the last two years, the Student Life department has lost a bookkeeper, an ASG adviser, the manager of specialized student services, and an events coordinator.
Upon being hired last spring and arriving in July, Justin Core, MHCC director of student life and civic engagement, has filled in for the work normally assigned to these positions.
Bruce Battle, director of communications for MHCC, said he wouldn’t call the situation “understaffing” because that implies the college has a choice.
He said the personnel changes were unpredictable and that the hiring process to replace departed employees is “complicated.” Core was hired to fill those vacant roles until new staff could be hired, he said.
Battle couldn’t specify a timeline for the hiring of replacements for the other departed employees.
This is not the first time multiple responsibilities have been reassigned, within the MHCC organizational chart.
During the 2016-17 school year, MHCC eliminated three top administrative jobs, and the MHCC District Board of Education agreed to create a new chief of staff position to assist President Debbie Derr in day-to-day duties. Derr told the Gresham Outlook newspaper the moves were made not just to save money, but said the college has “redistributed our workload… We are redefining and prioritizing our work.”
When David Sussman, former manager of specialized student services who assisted in some ASG duties, resigned in 2016, Derr told the Outlook that the administrative cuts were unrelated, but that “any time a position is open we reexamine (it) to prioritize… and make sure we have positions (staffed) to move us forward.”
Current ASG President PonyBoy Peterman and Vice President Carey McIntosh agree that Core juggles his duties well. But they also said their transition into the new school year was challenging.
With the majority of the student government members being new, ASG members have had to adapt to their positions with far less staff guidance than in previous years.
“It makes life a lot harder. We practically started from ground zero,” said Joelle Lian, a student and director of the Student Activities Board.
Last week, it was announced that the events coordinator, Pam Kuretich, had transferred to another administrative position. Despite the “new challenges,” McIntosh said, the ASG team plans to carry on and noted that Kuretich still helps ASG members as a resource.
Peterman said he hopes for new staff members to be hired soon, and that he is optimistic for the future.
Core said during the summer training ASG focused on change and adaptability, and despite the lag in Mt. Hood filling the staff vacancies, he is optimistic about his “engaging” and “dynamic” team of students.