On Wednesday, Jan. 9, students and alumni posted letters written to President Ohle to their Facebook pages, Youtube channels and personal blogs. These letters, which were sent to President Ohle on Dec. 12, 2012, asked for his resignation.
“There are many things I love about Gustavus, but ultimately it’s the people—the community— that make it the strong institution that it is,” 2011 Graduate Bethany Ringdal said. “My life has been utterly changed by my Gustavus professors, and now I see how they-and by extension, current and future students-are being hurt by the Ohle administration.”
“I chose to write a letter to President Ohle because I wanted to express to him that this isn’t about him as a person, it’s about his leadership style,” Senior Ian Shay said. “To a certain extent, such a request isn’t a positive thing, so we wanted to do this in a spirit of good will. I have found some of the unilateral decisions he has made have been disturbing, and professors have been belittled and disheartened.”
A number of students emphasized the need to respect all parties involved in this issue.
“President Ohle is a part of the Gustavus community, so we need to respect him. We attempted to resolve this issue in a positive way. We tried to find a way to ask him to resign without disrespecting him as a person,” Junior Kelly Dumais said.
Each letter was personalized by its writer, and was accompanied by a gift, as a sign of good will and respect.
“What’s important to note is that every student or alumni who writes a letter or signs a petition has a reason for doing so – their own story of hurt and concern regarding the Ohle Administration,” Ringdal said. “Every one of us has stories of a favorite professor in tears, an institution wounded, or a budget choice poorly made that moves us to act.”
Students and alumni also feel that their grievances have been ignored by President Ohle’s administration.
“President Ohle is running the college from a business perspective,” Dumais said. “While we understand that the business aspect is important, it cannot be pursued at the expense of our mission, our education, or our community. It is possible to pursue the business aspect in addition to this, and that is what we demand. His administration has undermined all of our five pillars. If he doesn’t respect the pillars, I don’t want him to represent me.”
“It has now been over a month since we sent our letters, and we’ve received no response at all,” Ringdal said. “Since a direct appeal seems to have failed, concerned students are going public with their letters and now with petitions asking for an end to the Ohle tenure. All of this is done in a spirit of shared concern, rather than one of animosity. This is not an anti-Ohle movement-it’s a pro-Gustavus movement.”
In addition to these letters to President Ohle being made public, two petitions on change.org (one for students and another for alumni) have been created and are being circulated, with 85 and 97 signatures, respectively. These petitions, asking the Gustavus Board of Trustees to end President Ohle’s presidency by the end of this academic year, outline the writers’ opinions of the ways in which President Ohle has “undermined the pillars on which this community stands.”
The students involved feel that students can provide a unique voice into this issue.
“We are the heartbeat of this institution and this community, but we aren’t controlled by it,” Dumais said.
“Our voices are credible when it comes to how the college is being run,” Shay said. “The college environment has an important effect on our education. This issue is very much the business of students. It is very much our place to let our voices be heard in this discussion. I would encourage students to write letters to President Ohle and the Board of Trustees expressing their concerns, to read and sign the change.org petition, and educate themselves about this issue.”