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Staff member dismissal garners 200 petition signatures

Amy Rundstrom. Courtesy photo

Aleecia Pace, a junior general studies major at UNK, met with her adviser for a meeting on March 21. The following day, Pace received an email saying she would no longer be her adviser. 

Her adviser, Amy Rundstrom, the director of academic advising and career development, was dismissed the day of their meeting.

“She’s probably one of the best staff I’ve met here on campus,” Pace said. “(I think) it definitely questions where the administration is headed toward finding someone else to replace her because I think she was at the perfect spot in the career development (department). It’ll be tough finding someone who is better than her and fills the shoes that she had, in my eyes.”

Following Rundstrom’s dismissal, a petition was started by Carol Lilly, a UNK history professor. Lilly said the letter of resignation Rundstrom was handed stated “for no cause.”

The petition is not asking for Rundstrom to be reinstated, but that others are not given the same treatment.

“The sudden dismissal of Amy without any written explanation or previous notice was pretty shocking, considering that she is widely considered on campus to be one of the best employees on campus,” Lilly said. “It seems unethical in a university to fire someone who has worked here for almost 24 years, who has never had any bad evaluations, with no opportunity to improve on what they think they have done wrong.”

As of April 4, the petition has received over 200 signatures, more than 50 being anonymous. Half the signatures are from current faculty while the rest are from staff, students, parents, community members and former faculty. Lilly said the number of people willing to support the petition, once they found out they could do so anonymously, is telling.

Some shared their hesitancy to sign the petition.

“Many of my coworkers, and myself included, want to sign badly but are concerned about repercussions from administration since, as staff, we are not protected,” said one person when reaching out to Lilly.

Since the petition was sent, Lilly has received messages from former faculty and staff who said they were dismissed or were made to feel so uncomfortable that they quit. Lilly said the sudden dismissal of faculty and staff feels like it has become a pattern. Rundstrom’s case was the tipping point for ending that pattern because no excuse was given for her dismissal.

“So many people on campus feel a little bit at sea,” Lilly said. “We don’t know where the administration is going right now and why so many people are losing their jobs in what feels like such a random way. But if there’s a reason, we should know. If it’s a family, you need to share information with us.”

William Aviles, president of the UNK Education Association, said their fundamental reaction was disappointment and concern about the process of how she was separated.

The UNKEA expressed their concern in an email to UNK’s executive cabinet and college deans.

“As representatives of faculty at UNK, we would like to recognize the incredible contributions that Ms. Rundstrom has made to the University and especially to the faculty at UNK,” the UNKEA executive committee said. “We also want to express our enormous disappointment in her leaving. Importantly, the sudden ‘resignation’ of a long-standing member creates/adds to a feeling of unease and vulnerability among all employees at UNK.”

The petition was brought up at the UNK student senate meeting on April 4 by Logan Johansen, a graduate representative on the student senate and UNK modern languages teacher. The issue was raised again at the faculty senate meeting on April 6 by Linda Van Ingen, chair of the history department.

Kelly Bartling, vice chancellor for enrollment management and marketing, said the ongoing work of all units supporting enrollment is important to UNK.

“The remaining staff are doing an excellent job supporting students, and there are initiatives in place to fill an open advisor position, increase programming and tracking for career placement, and increase technology use for advising,” Bartling said.

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