Bye Bignall: Director of Greek Life resigns

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Thea Gonzales contributed to this article.

On Monday’s Greek Council meeting, representatives, presidents of Greek organizations and executive board members were informed by Katey Bignall of her departure from Augustana College at the end of the 2017 academic year.  

This decision was not made lightly. Bignall has been the Director of Augustana Greek Life since July 2009 but has been in communication with administration for the past five months regarding the value of her position on campus.

Bignall told those in the meeting that her own personal values did not match those of administration, and the decision to leave was of her own accord. She will continue to fulfill her duties until the end of the 2017 spring term. Ken Brill, the Director of Student Life and Leadership, will be taking on her responsibilities temporarily.

The council was also informed along with her departure that the position of Greek life director will be terminated “due to budget cuts,” according to members of the council, and will not be replaced.

However, a review process is underway for the position, and Sam Schlouch, Senior Communication Director for the college, said it is too soon to begin finalizing the status of the position’s future.

“It’s incorrect to say that we already decided that position is going away – that is not true. What’s going to happen now is that now that Katey submitted her resignation, there will be a formal review of that position to determine how do we best do that job going forward,” Schlouch said.

When a staff member leaves the college, the review process includes having a cabinet member, a supervisor of the department and President Steve Bahls present to submit a proposal for the position and evaluate it, seeing if any modifications need to take place.

“My hope is we’ll have an understanding before Katey leaves. It’s still too early to speculate,” Schlouch said.

Schlouch hopes the campus community will “bear with us” as the process moves forward and wants to assure the student body that the Greek community will continue on, regardless of who holds the responsibilities.

“I don’t think that members of the Greek community have anything to worry about with the way that we will continue to support them going forward, so from my understanding I don’t think that we will see changes because of the departure of one person,” Schlouch said.

The lack of communication among those involved created confusion during the initial announcement.

President of the council, Franco Sposito, was informed a month in advance of Bignall’s decision. He served as a facilitator answering people’s questions during the meeting, but not much guidance was given to him on handling the situation.

“This is something that will become a problem later on. There is so much leadership coming from Katey and that office…Without it, it’s hard to imagine how Greek Life will function,” Sposito said.

Elections for executive board positions will take place in two weeks, and Sposito said it will be up to next year’s council to handle what comes next. He will stay in touch with the new executive board when the transition takes place, as most of the leadership will be coming from the council.

The council serves as the liaison to the 14 Greek groups on campus, with 14 different chairs responsible for the representation of the groups. It also handles advising and events such as tailgates, the new member process and recruitment in the spring.

Sposito said the relationship he had with Katey was essential, with the president making sure the council runs smoothly and the director assuring the stability of Greek Life as a whole. Without the partnership, Sposito believes the responsibility will fall heavily on the president and the council, which is a big responsibility for the students to undertake.

Public relations and technology chair of the council, Montserrat Ricossa, shared her reflections over the decision made with Bignall shortly after the meeting.

“From my perspective, Ken already does so much on campus, and this added title will be overwhelming. I just feel like it’s not fair to the 43 percent of the campus,” Ricossa said. “Katey is the voice of the Greeks, and our fear is that administration will push us to the side.”

As of this year, over 40 percent of the student population is involved in Greek Life at Augustana, and the system has been around for more than 100 years.

Ricossa understands how the director of Greek life made tough decisions regarding Greek organizations at times, but sees those decisions as necessary for that position to establish order and communication with the rest of the campus community.

“Even though she isn’t the most loved, she’s what we need,” Ricossa said.

A petition was started shortly after by Ricossa and other members of the executive board with the goal to show administration how important this position is to a majority on campus. Regardless of who fulfills the position, Ricossa and others find it necessary for the position to continue.

Within an hour, 382 people signed the petition.

Many students expressed concerns on social media on the decision and felt it would be detrimental to the greek community without the direction of a Greek Advisor. A demonstration is planned to take place on May 3, the same day as Symposium Day, in response to the decision.

“This is a peaceful demonstration and we want to prove how important the Greek Life Director position is in a civil manner,” the Facebook page for the demonstration announced.

Bignall hopes to find a position in Higher Education to continue to help students after Augustana. She wants to assure the Greek community their value on campus as she finishes off the year.

“I think that the administration does respect and support the Greek Community, but due to budget cuts, they have to make a very tough decision on what positions to fill, what positions to leave vacant, and what positions to cut,” Bignall said in an email.

Bignall thanked current, past and future Greek members for making her time at Augustana memorable. She also thanked Brill for all the support and guidance over the years.

“Every member has helped me become the person and professional I am today,” Bignall said in an email.

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