The recently appointed chief of marketing and communications, faculty and staff representatives commented on improving morale at Texas A&M University-San Antonio following claims by poor leadership and toxic work environment the former Marcom leadership.
Jarrick Brown, president of the staff council, said the university is working on a better work environment “not just for the marketing department, but for the entire campus”.
“I will say, as staff council chair, from this article and from information known to faculty leaders, that this is part of our strategic plan…we are working to create a good work environment across campus,” Brown said.
The strategic plan includes holding town hall meetings, staff engagement surveys, roundtables with senior directors, and gathering feedback from faculty and staff to improve the on-campus experience, Brown said.
Scott Gage, president of the American Association of University Professors at A&M-San Antonio, said he hopes employees will reach out to his organization to advocate for them in the future.
“While AAUP is most representative of faculty, we stand in solidarity with all workers at all levels,” Gage said. “To know that some of our colleagues have been treated in this way is deeply concerning.”
Gage said Jeanette De Diemar, former vice president of promotions and external relations, caused a lot of damage at Marcom. He said the point was that complaints were being made and “the mechanisms of our university were not such that staff were being heard”.
Gage said university leaders should bring stability to the university and boost morale.
“That article makes it clear that none of that happened,” Gage said. “If there are parts of the campus where there is discrimination or a hostile work environment, it shows.”
Gage said these issues affect students, staff and faculty work. In addition, it harms the university’s ability to achieve the institution’s goal.
Jesse Pisors assumed the role of Vice President of Promotion and External Relations on March 28. He said Marcom should “strengthen and expand the university’s brand,” particularly at A&M-San Antonio, the department’s primary focus.
Since Pisors has been heading the department for a few weeks, he has “not fully formulated” a mission statement for university relations and funding, he said.
“I know where I think we need to go and where I want to help lead this group,” Pisors said.
Gage said John Sharp, system chancellor at Texas A&M University, recently visited the A&M campus in San Antonio. A survey conducted found that only a very small percentage of Bexar County is aware of the existence of A&M-San Antonio, Gage said.
Pisors said the university is working to develop brand awareness within the community.
“When we as a university sponsor or participate in an event in the community, it strengthens our brand,” Pisors said.
Throughout De Diemar’s tenure, Marcom experienced high turnover. According to Gage, high turnover is a concern because it affects the university’s ability to efficiently fulfill its mission and market itself.
Gage said the previous working environment at Marcom damaged the university’s reputation among future potential employees; it gave the impression of Marcom, where “professionals might not want to work”.
“I’m concerned about our ability as an institution to move forward and really fulfill our potential because we have the potential to be an amazing university,” Gage said. “We need people who are talented, capable and committed, and the turnover rate we’re seeing hinders our ability to hire those types of people.”
However, Brown said that turnover is not an exclusive problem for A&M-San Antonio; it’s all over the world because of the pandemic.
“It’s the great resignation, and it’s not just in higher education,” Brown said. “It emanates from all companies and businesses.”
Brown added that the pandemic has also changed the mindset of employees, preferring to work from home.
University members also feel burned out by the pandemic. Gage said the university needed to better recognize burnout.
“The university has done nothing to acknowledge this in any meaningful or substantive way,” Gage said. “I know I don’t know what that would look like if they did, but I know it would seem like more than just a cursory comment about how hard it was. I think that would give a lot of people a morale boost.”
Brown said the university is “working diligently” to change the campus culture for staff and faculty, although the change will not happen overnight.
“I will say that Dr. Matson (and) the President’s Cabinet are doing everything we can to make this a campus where faculty and staff want to stay and work for a long time,” Brown said.
Pisors said he believes there is a “positive feeling” about Marcom. Although workplace culture “isn’t established overnight,” he said.
“I want to establish and lead the creation of a positive and encouraging workplace culture at Marcom that is a place where people want to work and want to stay,” said Pisors. “That’s why it’s very important to me to create the right kind of culture for employees within Marcom and I would say that everywhere I went.”
Pisors said administrators can encourage employees to stay longer by helping them develop professionally and foster a sense of accomplishment.
“I think once employees start seeing that attitude and mindset from their leaders, I think they’re really going to want to stay,” Pisors said.