Change at the School of Management

Editor’s Note: This letter was sent to the faculty, staff and students of the SOM on Monday, Nov. 24 by SOM Dean Cathy Minehan.

This is a difficult time for the School of Management. I have been hearing, and I know many of you have heard as well, a wide array of rumors concerning Mary Dutkiewicz’s departure from Simmons. Today, I want to say as much as I can to help you understand a complex situation with the hope that we can have a common understanding about this.

This is a difficult conversation to have because it involves a human side, as well as structural and organizational side. What I share with you today are difficult decisions – ones that I know have a very human impact.

Some, but not all of you, are aware that the SOM and the College suffered when it became clear this past summer that a long time employee in the SOM Program Office had misappropriated student funds and converted them for her own personal use. That employee was terminated this summer.

We know about this misappropriation because some months ago the College engaged legal and accounting experts who conducted numerous interviews, and reviewed hundreds of documents and data files. These reviews and analyses prompted many discussions among senior management, including members of the Board of Trustees. Not surprisingly, decisions have been made as a result of this truly unfortunate occurrence.

It is my understanding that Helen will inform the Simmons community today about the occurrence of the fraud, and she will share lessons the Simmons community can take away from this sad event. She will share this with the broader community just as the College refers this matter to appropriate legal authorities for prosecution.

The fraud that occurred has made clear that some of the processes we had in place at the SOM did not serve us well, and that the SOM needs greater discipline and accountability in its operational controls. Some changes could be implemented immediately and I did so.

In particular I made certain changes last summer related to the use and oversight of Simmons credit cards and student professional development funds. But recognizing that those steps would not be sufficient, I began to consider how I might restructure our staffing to tighten controls still further. An additional goal was to reduce costs in the administrative operation, as is typically done in a reorganization.

In this context I decided that, effective immediately, the Program Office will report directly to me. It will be reshaped in terms of its size and its responsibilities. And this decision has led me to conclude that this reorganization will not include a role for an Associate Dean for Administration and Program Management. Therefore, Mary Dutkiewicz will be leaving immediately, but she will be doing so with resources and assistance to help her in the coming months as she begins a new chapter of her professional life.

Mary has been a mainstay of our community and a great source of support to its students, past and present. I am grateful to her for all of her contributions over the years. Having read their numerous statements and emails expressing anguish and loyalty to Mary, I also recognize that many students are upset.

While I truly wish that things could be different, effective management oversight and the protection of financial resources require prompt, transparent and unambiguous decision making when oversight breaks down. This is true in the business world; it is true in higher education; and it has to be true at Simmons as well.

Going forward, the Program Office will be reshaped but we will need to work together to address any other issues that may arise at the end of the semester.

For now, students in the undergraduate program should look to Associate Dean Lowe and me for support, while graduate students should work with Associate Dean Deyton and me.

I know that faculty members are also concerned, and they have expressed those concerns to me directly. As we go forward, faculty members should look to me to solve immediate issues. I also will rely on them to step in as academic advisors for students as necessary.

Alumnae have shown concern as well. I have heard from many of them. I will be reaching out collectively and individually to them.

Institutions large and small, public and private, are judged by the way in which they respond to adversity. I am confident that we in the SOM will move forward from these very difficult events with renewed vigor and commitment to our culture and principles.