Students question motives in Martin firing

No reason was given when Carol Martin, advisor for the Student Activities and Leadership Program (SALP), was informed over winter break that her contract with PSU would terminate June 30, leaving many student groups upset, confused and wondering why.

Martin was responsible for advising the spiritual, political and advocacy clusters in the program, which include groups such as the Progressive Student Union, Food for Thought and BCM Christian Challenge.

"It was very surprising that this happened," Food for Thought employee and graduate student Dimitris Desyllas said. "I think she is the best advisor we’ve ever had." Martin and her students had a very good relationship, he said, and he cannot understand why Martin is gone.

Martin’s bosses were reluctant to reveal details about the decision.

"The employee knows the reasons," SALP director Tonantzin Oceguera said. She also said that Martin’s termination was a "personnel decision" and that because of her "talents and expertise" she was relocated to the Office of Affirmative Action.

"I think people look at their team and reevaluate," Dean of Students Wendy Endress said, "and that’s what happened."

Many students, however, are speculating that they may have had other motives. "Carol Martin stood up for student rights when administrators haven’t." said Jason Lowery, a concerned student who knew Martin. "Because of her services to students, I feel that she’s been wrongfully terminated."

"She was too liberal and activist," Lew Church of the Progressive Student Union said. Martin was very supportive of controversial and progressive student groups, Church said, and they may have been a reason that she was fired.

"It’s not a personnel issue, it’s a personal issue. They’re not putting the interests of the students first," Cassidy Blackburn of the SALP advisory board said.

His largest concern is that the administration did not consult the advisory board before making a decision to fire Martin, Blackburn said.

"There is a pattern at this university," Desyllas said, "where the students are undermined when major decisions are made that affect them."

The Food for Thought Caf퀌� is the process of writing a complaint to Oceguera and other department heads.

Students are also concerned about the effect Martin’s termination will have on the future of their student groups. Student fee budget hearings are this week, and Erin Devaney, Student Fee Committee liaison said the change is "extremely untimely, considering that all of the student groups she advises are being thrown into the budgeting process without an advisor who knows their history, mission or importance to the university."

College Democrats president Molly Woon does not know who her new advisor is. "The communication has broken down."

Martin has been reassigned to the Office of Affirmative Action as a "Special Projects Coordinator." Her duties will include coordinating Disability Advocacy Cultural Association conferences and the Sexual Diversity Task Force.

As for replacing Martin when her contract expires in June, director Burt Christopherson said, "It will all depend on if we can find external funding for it."

Oceguera says that the student groups Martin advises will be absorbed by the remaining advisers. If they receive the funding for it next year, she says, they may hire another adviser. Oceguera wishes to take the opportunity to gather student feedback and possibly restructure the way SALP groups are clustered.

"Now we have a gap. Instead of filling it with a new spot, we may fill it with something that better addresses student need," Oceguera said.