SPU community reacts to President’s resignation

Provost, faculty, staff, and students provide their point of view on Martin leaving the University

Kyle Morrison, News Editor

Dan Martin’s sign outside of his office in Demaray Hall. (Marissa Lordahl)

SPU President Daniel J. Martin unexpectedly resigned on Tuesday, ending his nine year tenure with the university. Martin sent an email to the entire SPU community announcing his plans to leave the university for a new opportunity as the Division Vice President for St Luke’s Health in Houston, Texas.

While most members of the SPU community were caught off guard by Tuesday’s announcement, Provost Laura Hartley had known for about a week before. She will be the acting executive in charge until the board of trustees assigns an interim president.

“He called me the Monday of spring break. I was one of the first SPU people he told,” Hartley explained. “I was surprised, I was saddened, and I also felt a lot of empathy and compassion for him, because I understood that this has been a tough year in lots of ways. Nine years is actually a pretty long term for a President, so in that sense it’s not unusual.”

Hartley expects the process to find an interim president to take at least two weeks and possibly as many as two months. She said she would be willing to take over interim duties officially if the board decides to go in that direction. Overall, she wants the SPU community to know that SPU is prepared for the transition.

“SPU is going to be fine, we have a really strong leadership team, we have a strong board of trustees that works well together,” Hartley said. “SPU will be different under a different President but the students will still have the same high quality education experience, the faculty will still be there in the classroom with them, and I’ll still be here in the Provost role.”

Head of faculty senate Carlene Brown explained that she understood Martin’s desire to be closer to his family, but his sudden resignation still caught her and the rest of the faculty off guard.

“I’m not surprised that Dan Martin would move on, he’s been here nine years. The suddenness of leaving is the hard part, and the part that faculty are reeling from is how quickly he’ll need to leave to do whatever he needs to do,” Brown explained.

Brown explained that Martin’s departure will create a moment of pause in faculty and that she is eager for the chance to connect with everyone at the faculty senate next week.

“Any academic institution is always thinking strategically forward. It’s only been 24 hours but there are some initiatives that will just need to go on pause, because a new administration is going to bring in new thinking,” Brown articulated. “Faculty will have opportunities to engage, we have senate next week, that will be important.”

Staff Council President Gina Whitehouse was in the middle of a staff council meeting when she heard the news of Martin’s departure. She said that while she is happy to see Martin pursue a new opportunity, the timing isn’t ideal with the pending board decision on the statement of human sexuality.

“That came through and I was just shocked, I couldn’t really conduct the meeting for a few minutes,” Whitehouse explained. “At first there was a lot of shock… I’m really happy for Dan that he’s making a move that is good for him, because he’s had a lot of loss. But the timing with the upcoming board decision is just crazy.”

Many students said that while it was surprising to see the President leave the university, there seems to be a disconnect between them and upper administration that doesn’t make the move completely jarring.

“I don’t really have a reaction,” Sophomore Ellie Duenow said. “Upper administration as a whole have a huge impact on the school, but like one person doesn’t have that much of an impact. Just one person resigning, I don’t think will have that huge of an impact.”

Dan Martin talks to student during new student orientation fall of 2020. (Marissa Lordahl)

As Martin moves on community members and pundits will be faced with the inevitable task of defining his legacy at SPU.

Basketball player and sophomore Chris Penner says he will always be thankful for Martin’s role in making sure the basketball team had a season this year.

“My reaction to his resignation was pretty severe. He was one of the big reasons we were able to have a season. He pushed for us. Only three teams in our conference got to play and without him pushing for us to have a season, we wouldn’t have gotten near as many games if any,” Penner said.

Ben Hansen left SPU after fall quarter because of what he believes to be a lack of equity towards minority students at SPU. He believes Martin could’ve done more to increase diversity and inclusion on campus.

“We need someone who is more fit to lead the university towards equity and inclusion and he was somewhat unfit for that. What really contributes to it is the lack of action, it would’ve been nice to hear a statement of support for queer students,” Hansen explained. “This made it harder for us to fight for justice because we didn’t have the backup of someone who actually preached engagement with the culture.”

Hartley had an entirely different opinion on Martin’s legacy regarding inclusion and social justice.

“I think he’s been really committed to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion and that shows in his establishment of the first vice president for diversity, equity and inclusion and bringing in Dr. Sandra Mayo into that role. He hired me as the first female chief academic officer,” Hartley explained. “So those pieces of diversifying leadership as well as prioritizing that (diversity) for our campus are very significant.”

Dr. Brown says she will always be thankful for Martin’s willingness to embrace the arts and his love for SPU.

“For a President to come to not one, not a couple, but most of the concerts of the music department and the theater productions and the art showings. To know that Dan Martin was seeing us and engaging with us meant a lot,” Brown explained. “He has a huge heart for this community and he gave it his 100%.”