My name is Michaeljit Sandhu, and I graduated from the College in June 2013. I was a Summer Links participant in 2010 after my first year and a program coordinator this past summer. I also worked as the volunteer referral student staff at the University Community Service Center (UCSC) during the 2012–2013 academic year. I am writing to respond to a number of points made by Elly Daugherty in her February 14 letter to the editor. A number of people have already written eloquently here in the Maroon and elsewhere about the problems with the dramatic changes that are happening at the UCSC, so I will confine my comments to points brought up in Daugherty’s letter.
Daugherty begins her letter by writing, “Open communication is central to successful programming and is a hallmark of the University Community Service Center.” The latter half of this statement is patently false. Almost no students, community members, alumni, or faculty were given a say in the changes to Summer Links or the other shifts that have happened at the UCSC during the past year. I worked at the UCSC for the entire 2012–2013 academic year and the following summer, and I didn’t hear a single word about the changes before UCSC Director Amy Chan sent a mass e-mail to inform students, faculty, and community partners of predetermined changes. Daugherty offers no evidence to suggest that my experience was unique. Is this really an example of the “open communication” that Daugherty praises?
Later in her letter, Daugherty writes that “the UCSC continues to be responsive to influences both within our student body and in the communities that surround UChicago.” Daugherty doesn’t offer any examples of how the UCSC has been responsive, so I will focus on how unresponsive Daugherty has been during her push to enforce changes to Summer Links. Although Daugherty touts a “mutual commitment to Summer Links” in her letter, she has done very little to show her commitment. Last spring, I personally invited Daugherty to attend any Friday training during our summer. Despite this ample lead time, she never attended or made an effort to meet with our group. The process by which the “thoughtful changes” to Summer Links were decided upon (though, to be clear, Daugherty never actually details that process) ostensibly came through the Summer Links Review Committee, initiated by Daugherty and composed almost entirely of administrators unfamiliar with the Summer Links program. The materials that the Review Committee used to evaluate Summer Links were created by Trudi Langendorf—who ran Summer Links for seven years before she was restructured out of the UCSC—and the three program coordinators for this past summer, myself included. But none of us were informed that the program was to be dramatically changed, and Daugherty never asked to meet with the program coordinators or other alumni of Summer Links to discuss our thoughts on the program or to solicit suggestions for how it could be improved. Additionally, Daugherty scheduled the Review Committee sessions for September, when most students were off campus and after Trudi was already gone from the UCSC. It is hard to see how one could characterize this as an example of “constructive dialogue.”
But the examples of Daugherty failing to exemplify her ideal of “constructive dialogue” don’t stop there. Daugherty and Chan did not even announce the changes to former Summer Links participants. Many of us found out about them through word of mouth from program applicants. Even after more than 1,000 people urged Daugherty to restore many of the most important aspects of Summer Links, she refused to directly respond. Although she writes that she believes “in the passion and dedication demonstrated by the alumni of Summer Links,” she has never shown that she actually cares about what participants in the program think. Instead, it seems that Daugherty wants to stop “confrontation” and “build greater understanding” only once she has already had a chance to implement the changes she wants.
—Michaeljit Sandhu, Class of 2013