I remember visiting Malone for the first time five years ago and talking to the person who would soon become one of most influential people in my life: Dr. Chris Carmichael. This was the first time I met Dr. Carmichael. I had heard of the program he set up at Malone from my high school chemistry teacher. From her description, I knew it sounded like a program that I wanted to be a part of, and when I talked to Dr. C and saw the animals I would have the opportunity to work with, I knew for certain that Malone would be my home for the next four years.
From the beginning, Dr. Carmichael has encouraged me when I felt defeated and challenged me in the areas where I needed it the most. At my first meeting with him, before I had even decided where I would attend college, Dr. Carmichael was invested in my education. He asked me what I wanted to do, what my strengths and weaknesses were, what I was nervous about and what I hoped to gain from the program. Never once did I feel as though I was just another prospective student.
Over the years, Dr. Carmichael has become a mentor and a friend, in addition to being my professor. Though I am now a senior, it is for this reason that I feel so strongly regarding his treatment during this situation concerning his denial of promotion and tenure.
This past week, President King, Dr. Phinney, Dr. Goff and Dr. Tucker invited the zoo and wildlife biology students to attend a meeting about the future of the program. I attended this meeting, as did many of my peers. Before the meeting started, I had a good sense of what to expect. The zoo and wildlife biology students are angry, frustrated and hurt by this situation. I speak for them when I say that we are disappointed in the way Malone leadership has dealt with this state of affairs and I’m positive the leadership gained as much from the meeting.
I was frustrated most by the lack of information presented. After hearing for a second time that our professor was denied promotion and tenure and will not be returning for reasons we cannot know, we were told to just focus on the program and that no other questions would be considered. At this point in the process, we are concerned about the reasons our professor is being let go. However, I have not felt like Malone leadership has considered or even truly listened to the concerns of students.
What I’m not sure they understand is that by taking away Dr. Carmichael, they take away everything that the program symbolizes to us. As was stated by a student in the meeting, he is the foundation of the program. How do you run a program without its foundation?
I can say that for many of the juniors and seniors working in the serpentarium, it feels as though things are being turned upside down. We have built somewhat of a home out of the snake rooms from all the long hours spent down there working, studying or just being together, and each time we come back to see empty cages, our spirits are lowered once again. Knowing that all the animals except for two iguanas, American toads and some hissing cockroaches will be gone by the end of next week makes being at Malone difficult.
[pullquote] …this impacts us on more than the academic level.[/pullquote]
What I hope to communicate is that this impacts us on more than the academic level. I want Malone leadership to understand what effects their decision has on the students. I want them to understand from where the anger is coming. What we see is dishonesty, inconsistency, secrecy and a lack of consideration for the students. Whether any of this is true is debatable, but perception is important. If I am not mistaken, the leaders of Malone should be the examples of “Christ’s Kingdom First,” being role models to the students. And yet the handling of this ordeal doesn’t feel like “Christ’s Kingdom First.”
The way Malone’s leadership conducts itself serves as a model for us. Is this how we, as future leaders, are to conduct ourselves? The leadership may say that it is because we do not understand, and that may be true to some extent. However, I hope that they know that we are truly seeking to understand. Being brothers and sisters in Christ and of one Body, I hope that this does not simply fade into the past, but that there will be more transparency in moving forward and steps taken to bring reconciliation.
Melanee Hamilton is a senior zoo and wildlife biology major.