By Kristen Linsalata
The new University President, Chief of Staff, and Dean of Students are all women—this is a first for LIU Post. Parts of the student population believe that this has changed the campus for the better, while others claim that gender should not be the focal point of analysis. Others say that it is simply too soon to tell if this change will be successful.
On July 1, 2013, Dr. Kimberly R. Cline took on the role of LIU President, a role that was held by David Steinberg for 28 years. However, this is significant because President Cline is the first female president to take office in LIU’s 87-year existence.
As soon as Cline came into office, she restructured the hierarchy at Post by eliminating the position of Provost and announced that Dr. Jackie Nealon would take the new position, and would be referred to as Chief of Staff. LIU Post Chancellor Theresa Mall Mullarkey was quoted in Newsday in July 2013, stating that eliminating the position of Provost on the LIU Post and Brooklyn campuses and streamlining the jobs into one Chief of Staff position, was meant to unite all residential campuses.
Nealon was not only appointed as new chief of staff, but also as vice president of Enrollment, Campus Life, and Communications. Nealon oversees admissions, enrollment, recruitment, financial services, academic and career planning, advertising, public relations, marketing, student success, retention, registration, residence life, non-traditional and adult student programs, and student life.
During the fall 2013 semester, Dr. Abigail Van Vlerah was appointed the new Dean of Students at LIU Post. Van Vlerah is responsible for student services, a position that will allow students to voice their concerns, needs or suggestions to her.
How does this women-led leadership compare to other schools? In March 2012, The Chronicle cited the American Council on Education’s survey, “The American College President 2012,” and the results were that the typical President is a married white male with a doctorate education.
The Census Bureau corroborates this claim with results that conclude that women are still earning less than men, and they often hold lower positions than men.
“I think it’s positive,” said Kirsten Corwin, a junior Education major. “I haven’t really gotten to know the new President, but I’ve noticed a lot of improvement around campus.”
Melanie Spina, a sophomore Journalism major, agrees. “The President really does want to make a difference. I’ve noticed the new amenities on campus such as the new smoothie shop at the Pratt, the Sweet Shoppe, the boutique on the second floor at Hillwood, and the non-alcoholic bar in the Pioneer Room,” Spina said.
However, Spina would not agree that the gender of the new administration is cause for much reflection. Spina stated, “Gender doesn’t matter. Just because you’re a female doesn’t mean you’ll do the job better. It is the credentials and experience that matter.”
Other students believe that the best way to identify efficiency is through comparison. Justin Barsky, a Digital Game Design and Development graduate student, has been attending LIU Post for the last seven years. Barsky has experienced the previous administration under Steinberg, and now this new administration with Cline.
“I didn’t even know what President Steinberg looked like until I graduated with my undergraduate degree,” said Barsky.
Barsky stated he really appreciated the e-mail that President Cline sent out to wish the students a safe holiday over winter break. “I never received an e-mail like that from President Steinberg once,” Barsky stated.
The campus is undergoing what Dr. Joan Digby, professor of English and the director of LIU Post’s Honor’s Program, calls a makeover.
Digby first came to LIU in 1969, and has seen many of the previous administrations. “In truth, it took many years to get equitable pay for women,” Digby said, as she recalled that when she first came to LIU, most of the administration was largely run by men.
Digby expressed that women have held administrative positions at the university in the past, but until very recently, the very highest positions and board of trustees have always been men.
“There have never been as many women in power,” Digby said. She characterized the new administration as “innovative” and “proactive” compared to years past.
Many believe that it is too soon to tell, as the administration has not been in place for a full academic year. “We may need to warm into the spring to see the outcome of this largely female administration,” Digby added.
Despite the outcome, the current administration is vital to the university as it is responsible for crucial aspects that make LIU flourish, succeed, and expand. Cline, Nealon and Van Vlerah have not responded to The Pioneer’s request for comments.