News

Faculty Move to Freeze Prior Center Director Hiring; Look for More Community Input

Ethan Bachand ‘22

Grace Bromage ‘23

Editors-in-Chief

At their most recent assembly, the College of the Holy Cross faculty passed a motion that called for a halt on hiring an executive director for the new Prior Center for the Performing Arts. The motion, brought forth by Professors Paige Reynolds from the English Department and Daniel DiCenso from the Music Department, requested the freeze due to no clear vision for the job as well as a lack of communication. The administration responded by planning future conversations about the hiring. At the same time, however, they still plan to push forward with their timeline.

One of the key tenets of the faculty’s motion was the nondescript job posting for the position, as it included no clear directive for either the position or the Prior Center. Professor Reynolds commented on the inefficiency of this method, saying, “We don’t want to hire somebody and then tell them ‘Figure it out.’ We want to figure it out collectively as a community of students, faculty, and staff that broadly represent the college.” Professor DiCenso echoed this sentiment, stating, “We need to know what the executive director is going to do before we hire someone.”

Another issue the faculty took with the current hiring process is the exclusion of the Holy Cross community from the hiring process. A few weeks ago, in a meeting with Isaacson Miller, the search firm enlisted to hire the new executive director, faculty were told that the goal was to send out an ad in December for the position and have a person in place by the spring. According to the aforementioned professors, when the faculty pushed back on the ad going out so soon the firm replied that “This ship has sailed.” Professor DiCenso spoke strongly about this lack of communication to the Holy Cross community, as he said “There was no communication that this was even coming. Basic information exchange was not happening.” 

Professor Reynolds made clear that their intention with the motion was not to prevent the Prior Center from opening. Rather, as she said, “We’re saying ‘let’s have a conversation about how many talented folks we need, let’s have a conversation about the vision of this center, let’s have a conversation about if we need an  artistic director or an executive director, an advisory board or an executive board’ because as it stands now, the building is completely outside of faculty authority.”

The College’s administration has responded to the request for additional dialogue, but plans to continue the hiring process. In an email correspondence with The Spire, Provost Margaret Freije stated that conversations are being set up to integrate community ideas into the search process. In her email, Provost Freije wrote “As we prepare to open this extraordinary building, I am happy to expand the group of students, faculty, and staff who will be engaged in a conversation about the goals for the Center as it will play a central role in the campus experience going forward. These conversations will be facilitated by an outside firm and will begin shortly after Thanksgiving break.”

She continued her statement, saying, “In addition, I will continue to gather input regarding the other staffing needed for the building. These conversations, which have already begun with the chairs of the arts departments, will be expanded to others in the arts departments and then we will invite input from anyone else who may have insight about the staffing needed to support a building of this nature.”

Despite the call for inclusion of more voices in the hiring process, Provost Freije indicated that the College will not slow down their hiring process. As she wrote, “We will use a timeline that will allow us to seek ongoing feedback throughout the process but in order to open this complex facility in Fall 2022, we will need to continue to move forward to put the appropriate staffing in place.”

President Vincent D. Rougeau shared a similar comment when asked about the faculty’s motion. Although he recognized the faculty’s comments, President Rougeau said, “We want the center to open fall [of 2022], and there are just some things that have to be accomplished in order for us to do that. So, the process will be slowed down a little bit …  and we’ll integrate the suggestions that we heard as best we can to accommodate the issues that were raised.”

As conversations about the Prior Center begin shortly after break, the professors made it clear why students should want to be involved in the planning process. Professor DiCenso remarked that “A huge amount of your resources, your tuition dollars have been sunk (and will be sunk) into this building … Students have a stake in their performances not being shoved to the side.” Professor Reynolds added on, saying, “We contain multitudes. [The Prior Center] is an opportunity for [students] to have the opportunity to express multitudes.” 

Cover Photo courtesy of the College of the Holy Cross

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