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Pollack steps down at Our Lady of the Lake

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Tessa Martínez Pollack

Tessa Martínez Pollack's tumultuous stint as president of Our Lady of the Lake University will end March 1.

Her decade-long tenure was marred by declining enrollment. The decision to eliminate 12 degree programs — including the B.A.s in Religious Studies and Mexican-American Studies — inflamed simmering consternation towards her among faculty and students. The Board of Trustees voted last week to buy out the remainder of Pollack's contract. While the embattled Pollack may be leaving, questions remain over what changes this will bring to the school.

"I'm hoping there will be a big change in policy," student Alexa Soto told the Current. Soto's hopes are shared by other pupils, who wearily watched Pollack as focused on so-called "marketable" degrees while neglecting the Catholic institution's liberal arts heritage.

At the very least, students are angling for a greater role in decision-making at the university. Pollack's management style ran into criticism amid the debate over cuts to the liberal arts.

"We want more student involvement and to have a student union outside the [Student Government Association]," Soto added.

Steve Blanchard, a professor of sociology and president-elect of the Faculty Assembly, is also hopeful that OLLU's future may be more collaborative.

"We're looking at some good prospects for what we would call 'shared governance,'" Blanchard said.

So who will be next to lead the 118-year-old institution?

Several students expressed a desire to see the Sisters of the Congregation of Divine Providence assume greater leadership. The members continue to serve on the board where they've brought balance to the more business-oriented members. The priority, according to Blanchard, is for OLLU to move forward with policies like the strategic development plan rolled out in January, which emphasizes diversifying enrollment while maintaining the unique socially conscious mission of the university.

As for leadership, "It's up to the board," says Blanchard. "If a sister were to come in as the next president, I doubt there would be any objection."

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