After student outcry, St. Norbert agrees to contract extension with Bruess

St. Norbert College President Brian Bruess (Photo: St. Norbert College)
St. Norbert College President Brian Bruess (Photo: St. Norbert College)(WBAY)
Published: Nov. 22, 2019 at 9:16 AM CST
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The St. Norbert College Board of Trustees has voted to approve a multi-year contract extension with President Brian Bruess.

The contract extension was approved by Abbot Dane Radecki.

The following statement was released by Bruess and the Board of Trustees:

"Thank you for sharing your thoughts and concerns over the past three weeks. The board met yesterday and had an open and productive discussion about the future of St. Norbert College. The board voted to approve a multi-year contract extension with President Bruess.

The Trustees are grateful for the outpouring of support for the College and President Bruess’ leadership. We have heard from students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents and friends who love this College and care deeply about its future. We have much work to do, but today we move forward confident in our leadership, united in our vision for the future of our college, and grounded in our Catholic, Norbertine and liberal arts traditions."

The board met Thursday afternoon to discuss the fallout over Bruess' decision not to renew his contract next year.

As Action 2 News reported earlier this month, Bruess announced his plans to leave when his contract expires next June, after only two-and-a-half years in the position.

He never publicly gave a reason why, but some students and staff believed he was being forced to step down.

About 20 board members went to a separate meeting Thursday morning hosted by the staff association.

While both St. Norbert faculty and students have had the chance to speak with the board, staff members felt their voice wasn't represented.

On Thursday, students held a protest during the trustees' meeting. The "Occupy SNC" movement planned a sit-in at the F.K. Bemis International Center on campus Thursday evening.

Separate from the movement, the Student Government Association stepped up to bridge the gap between St. Norbert students and the board of trustees.

"We just want to make sure the students know that we stand by them and we support them, and today we're just hoping to see how the board progresses and improves their communication and makes a decision that representative of the students," Sarah Rolfs of the SGA executive board said.

In a Nov. 6 letter to the college community, the Student Government Association expressed support for President Bruess' student-centric vision for St. Norbert College, including Title IX, efforts for campus-wide inclusion and student safety.

They also made a series of demands, including the removal of Father Jay Fostner from the campus. Fostner was accused of mishandling sexual misconduct allegations and equality concerns under Title IX. He was investigated and is currently on a year-long sabbatical. Fostner is expected to return to campus next summer.

"I think it's a step in the right direction. I think we need to continue in that direction with the trustees and especially encourage open communication," Kylie Marsden, also with the student government's executive board, said.

The Student Government Association condensed those ideas in a new letter to the board of trustees that was to be read as part of Thursday afternoon's meeting.

In it, they share frustrations regarding communication. "Students feel they have to be loud to be heard by the people in this room, and students are not satisfied with press releases," the letter said in part.

"I think something easy would just be an email to the whole community, instead of us finding out their decisions through a press release, so it's something even as straightforward as that," Rolfs said.

Action 2 News will update this developing story.