ITS Releases Three Employees

On Tuesday, Vice President for College Services John Kalkbrenner and Vice President for Academic Affairs Paula Smith emailed Grinnell College faculty and staff concerning the reorganization of Information Technology Services (ITS).

Ray Kuntz, an external consultant, was hired as Interim ITS Director in July 2012 and has since been working to restructure ITS. The College is now searching for someone to replace Ray Kuntz as ITS Director and plans to fill the position by June.

“We’re moving more towards a team structure,” Kuntz said. “Teams are going to be a little more self-directed than they have been in the past, as opposed to hierarchical management.”

The new structure entails restructuring ITS internally and the termination of three members. Kuntz explained the need to let some staff members go.

“There [are] skills we need to bring in that we don’t have,” he said. “And we’ve been trying to build skills within our staff in some of the roles, but it just takes so much time to build the skills—years and years—that you’ve got to bring in some leadership that can jumpstart you in a lot of critical areas, if you’re going to really move the needle on change.”

The changes were announced with only a couple of weeks remaining in the school year. Kuntz said this plan has been in the works since January, with the decisions being made in a “collaborative decision process” with Kalkbrenner, Smith and senior ITS members. After the announcement on Tuesday, ITS is wasting no time in taking action.

“Changes are effective right now,” Kuntz said. “We just want to keep this thing moving in a positive way … We’re ready.”

Three people have been let go by ITS, but three leadership positions have opened up.

“We’re adding three new roles, which are Relationship Manager, Project Office Manager and Operation Manager,” Kuntz said.

Some students have expressed discontent with the release of College employees and don’t see the College’s reorganization as justified, especially at this time of the semester.

“ITS made these changes suddenly, with no warning, two weeks before the end of the semester, without considering the fact that next week is arguably the most difficult of the semester, with exams to follow,” said Amber Gruner ’13, who is a Technology Consultant (TC).

Additionally, students expressed concern at the lack of transparency in the process.

“I was very surprised to hear the news of the ITS reorganization occurring. But then again, I really shouldn’t have since they never consult students about their changes. They just do what they think is right,” wrote Nancy Hernandez ’13, a TC who completed an Assistive Technology internship last fall, in an email to the S&B.

Despite these concerns from students, Kuntz believes this reorganization is the right move for the College.

“Our goal is to increase efficiency … We must add resource to areas that the campus is screaming for help on and we just don’t have the skills,” Kuntz said. “So we’ve got to respond to that. You’ve got to keep the ship running.”
Kuntz says the changes ITS has made this week were in the best interest of providing support to the student body.

“Our objective here is to serve the students, serve the community,” Kuntz said. “That’s why we exist as a department.”


'ITS Releases Three Employees' have 8 comments

  1. May 3, 2013 @ 12:47 pm Ian Young

    “Releases”? I believe the correct term is “fires”. Or “lays off”. “Releases” sounds like a euphemism picked by ITS themselves.

  2. May 3, 2013 @ 1:55 pm Anonymous

    I am so upset at this turn of events that it is difficult for me to appropriately express my feelings, but I will try. I am furious with the lack of respect ITS has shown to Karen McRitchie. I do not know who the other two employees are, but if they are anything like Karen, ITS is simply digging itself into a deeper hole with their decision to let them go as well.

    Karen is one of the best things that has ever happened to ITS and the TC Corps. She was removed from her position as head of TC Corps at the beginning of the year, and replaced by someone who was willfully ignorant about the details of his new position. I can not blame him for simply being new to the job, and I am sure he is doing the best that he can, but the simple truth is that on Karen’s worst day, she still shined. It was foolish to replace her. Many students were devastated by the news earlier this year that she had been reassigned, and for her now to have been let go in such a manner is nothing less than despicable.

    Not only am I furious about the way in which the college has handled Karen’s “release,” but I am disgusted by the callousness shown in reassigning Assistive Tech to Academic Support, who I doubt have any experience in this area and enough to do already.

    Great work, Grinnell, in firing (and treating like a criminal) a woman who dedicated years of her life to ITS, overlooked the TCs, Assistive Technology and a group for Women in Technology, always with a smile on her face. If this is how you treat your best employees, I wonder how you plan to get money from those of us who love them.

  3. May 3, 2013 @ 2:48 pm Holden Bale

    “We’re moving more towards a team structure,” Kuntz said. “Teams are going to be a little more self-directed than they have been in the past, as opposed to hierarchical management.”

    vs.

    Three people have been let go by ITS, but three leadership positions have opened up.

    “We’re adding three new roles, which are Relationship Manager, Project Office Manager and Operation Manager,” Kuntz said.

    Are these statements not in conflict?
    You’re going to have less hierarchical teams that are more self-directed, and so the positions that you’ve opened up will be filled by… new managerial staff.

    Firing can be plenty justifiable, but the most senior ITS staff have historically been lacking knowledge of IT industry best practices and current technology. They’re out of touch, and they’re not skilled managers to begin with. The three people that were released were people who were in the weeds. The problems start at the top. I fail to see how this realignment is consistent with what Kuntz initially promised, and with the original point of the IT strategic planning process that happened two years ago.

  4. May 3, 2013 @ 3:28 pm Jarrett Thompson

    I heard about this first thing on Monday when it happened. I was very upset with the college. I know the members who were fired, and they were very experienced staff members and deserve their jobs back. When they say, “it just takes so much time to build the skills—years and year”, I wonder if they realize that the people they fired, had years and years of skills. One of the staff members who was fired, had 26 years in at Grinnell College, but was let go, with no warning… The reason for these firings, is that Grinnell is outsourcing the jobs to the consulting firm that Ray Kuntz is working for. Mr. Kuntz is not even employed by this college, he is employed by a consulting firm that Grinnell College outsourced work to. It is a shame that outsourcing is an issue even at a place like Grinnell. Grinnell has tried to outsource other positions in the past such as dinning services and security, but luckily they have failed. Statistics on outsourcing (by colleges comparable to Grinnell) have had very poor results. Shame on the person who signed off on this situation, shame on you!

  5. May 3, 2013 @ 3:56 pm Amber Gruner

    What this article completely fails to mention is that effective last Monday, Grinnell College no longer has an Assistive Technologies Specialist, and has no intentions of hiring one. Assistive Technologies are being redistributed to Academic Support – a well-meaning, helpful department *that currently exists to support faculty* with absolutely zero training in disability support. Students who need Assistive Technologies RIGHT NOW are being redirected to someone with absolutely no experience.

    It infuriates me that the needs of students were not considered when these administrative decisions were made in ITS, and I am extremely concerned for what this change means for the students on campus with disabilities and for our campus as a whole.

  6. May 4, 2013 @ 1:46 pm Claire Forrest

    I am a student on this campus who has used assistive technology since elementary school. Even though I was aware of many assistive technology offerings before coming to college, the assistive technology coordinator at ITS introduced me to many more devices that made my college classroom experiences even more accessible to me. But what about the students who have no prior experience with assistive technology? What about the many students on this campus who are not aware until they come to Grinnell that they have learning disabilities and need assistive technology? Who will show them the wide array of products and help them figure out what works best for them?

    I believe that assistive technology is something you don’t understand until you see the students who need it use it. You’ll see how it changes their classroom experiences and makes their lives more manageable. Without someone to head assistive technology on this campus, this viewpoint is missing. There simply must be someone to assist these students on campus, and to think otherwise is a huge oversight.

  7. May 4, 2013 @ 2:15 pm Anonymous Two

    Tsk, tsk. Shocked, you are, at the callous and self-serving college> My friends, Grinnell has a long history of firing high-performing employees, who perform at high levels of productivity and excellence. Yet, other favored employees (and we all know these) are able to remain employed while doing nothing and being incompetent. Grinnell exists in its own bubble. No wonder we keep falling in the rankings. It’s how you treat the least powerful that reflects your core values and principles.

  8. May 14, 2013 @ 8:48 pm BH

    I worked in the ITS for 2.5 years a few years back. Had 1 review in that time frame of 2.5 years. Had 1 pay raise in those 2.5 years. Got fired. Lost out on my 2 wks of sick accumalted, 2wk of pto, and 1 wk of vac. I was there everyday, on time, did my work or so I thought. Had a few things happen that were out of my control. I agree with a few postings, and actually warn friends about taking employment there. Oh well, I still wish those some more luck than I had. bh


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