St. Norbert students rally in support of President Bruess

DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) - While the St. Norbert College board of trustees starts its search for the college's next president, dozens of students on the De Pere campus are showing support for the current president, Brian Bruess.

St. Norbert College President Brian Bruess (Photo: St. Norbert College)

As we first alerted you last week, Bruess is stepping down after his contract expires next summer.

"We want to know why. There's been so much left in the dark," St. Norbert College senior Amy Stel said.

Those protesters on campus don't believe it was Bruess' decision alone to step down in 2020. Students we talked with Tuesday said they believe there's more to the story than just Bruess deciding not to renew his contract.

"I think he decided not to be here anymore, maybe with some pressure from the board and other things. I think he is probably just unhappy with what is happening," Stel said.

Bruess was named St. Norbert College president in 2017. He has served as the voice of the college as it underwent an independent investigation into how the college handles sexual misconduct and equality concerns under Title IX.

Last week, when Bruess sent out a statement saying he wasn't renewing his contract, he never said why. Neither did the board of trustees, which thanks Bruess for his leadership and wished him well in the future.

Some students say there's more to the story that isn't being talked about, so they're demanding transparency.

"I am here because I don't know what to believe," St. Norbert College junior Ross Johnson said. "I think that's why many are here, is because we're not informed enough to make a decision."

"I just think our campus has been going through a lot the last four years. I am a senior, so I've gone through the change from [college president Thomas] Kunkel to Bruess, from everything that happened with Father Jay [Fostner] last year. There's just been so much happening. I understand if you don't want to deal with it anymore, but best thing to do is get it out there," Stel said.

The associate dean for student development agrees there may never be a complete answer. "There's still so much we don't know, and I am not sure what we will come to know," Corday Goddard said.

But he said students' voices are being heard.

"Their voices matter a great deal on our campus. Students sit on board of trustee committees. I know board members are very fond of students and concerned about student voice, because I have heard them ask about it in meetings. I think some of the students are just surprised by what happened the past couple of days," Goddard said.

The students started a online petition in support of Bruess which already has about 2,300 signatures saying they stand by him, they know what's going on, and they won't be silenced.

"I'm sick of seeing higher-ups take control of things and not letting people who are actually living it do things, and I think our students are trying to make a stand, and I think they are just pushing it out because of money and things like that," Stel contended.

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