California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

California Lutheran University's Student Newspaper Since 1961

The Echo

President Varlotta Must Address Students On Recent Internal Conflicts

Infographic by Ca’ren Franklin – Digital & Multimedia Editor
“I believe there needs to be more than just an apology letter, there needs to be an invitation of feedback, and an open timeline of moving forward that we, the students, can voice safely and supportedly.” Echo Reporter Charlie Johnson said.

President Lori E. Varlotta absolutely must address the recent and ongoing internal conflicts to students in an authentic and honest way. Varlotta is doing a disservice to students through her silence, as well as a disservice to herself. 

I came to this school first in 2019, I loved the campus, energy, professors and most importantly the sense of community. Varlotta has served as California Lutheran University’s President for over three years as of now.

Never could I have imagined such turmoil in such a short timeframe, an opinion I’m sure many students have shared. Varlotta has made continuous headlines since the recent “no confidence” resolution by members of Cal Lutheran’s faculty assembly, which resulted in a 122-3 vote urging for change and resignation.

Despite this, Varlotta has yet to directly and authentically address this subject to Cal Lutheran students. 

Cal Lutheran has never had such a vote passed, and for Varlotta’s response to consist of treating this as some sort of simple “dissatisfaction” from faculty is just disappointing.

I feel like I should not have to research to find out my own university president’s thoughts on a vote of no confidence regarding her position. It feels as though almost every peer I’ve spoken with about these matters has claimed this is the first they are hearing of it, or they have just heard some rumors in classrooms.

“I heard issues just from people talking, my roommates, people in classes and on social media,” junior Bria Novotny said. 

I’m not alone in finding her lack of communication and engagement towards students problematic. 

“Honestly, at this point, I feel like she might’ve let it drag too much, maybe it’s a little too far gone now,” senior Ezeah Nevarez said. “I think everyone already has their set opinions about her, what she’s done, you know she’s been president for quite a while now and I think she had quite a bit of time to fix her image if she wanted to do that.”

Nevarez said that prior to recent events, he didn’t even know who Varlotta was; an issue of lackluster engagement that seemingly plagues multiple students, touched upon previously through an opinion poll conducted and published by The Echo. 

I personally first started noticing issues within our campus administration and Varlotta when a professor privately spoke with me about how difficult, toxic and frustrating it had become between Varlotta and faculty, long before the no-confidence vote was passed. I’m ashamed to admit that early on I assumed it was just simple disagreements among board members. 

Since then, I have had numerous faculty members speak to me and other classmates about the ongoing issues. I’ve seen faculty speak distressed and anxiously about the topic, a disheartening sight for a university I once associated so heavily with the word community. Perhaps more disheartening, I have recently been informed of a website entitled “Not My Hiram.” 

The website, which was last updated in 2018, discusses Varlotta’s previous university critiquing her in a very similar fashion to recent sentiments. I find this information’s timeline particularly important, as blaming the pandemic seems to be an easy scapegoat for university issues. These issues of student mistrust of administrative action seem to predate any pandemic-driven troubles for campuses. 

It may sound trivial at this stage to be pleading for student outreach and communicative action from Varlotta, as I’m sure many students have their minds already made up about her. However, I still believe there is always some way of rebuilding trust. The problem is that it needs to start from the top and it needs to be initiated by the person who ignited the initial distrust. Any possible form of rebuilding trust within our upper administration will still take serious time and effort.

“I think a lot of people feel that she’s done enough damage already,” Novotny said.

Novotny also said that Varlotta very well may be able to redeem herself, but it might take years at this stage. 

Varlotta absolutely must address the students, provide an opening for feedback and criticism, as well as show a level of respect for us. Right now, this rumor mill and “out of sight out of mind” approach is just not going to cut it. Even if there’s action being taken behind the scenes to better some of these issues, administration should let students know. 

I believe there needs to be more than just an apology letter, there needs to be an invitation of feedback, and an open timeline of moving forward that we, the students, can voice safely. The longer it takes to hear of, let alone see any real action taken by Varlotta to address this among students, not just faculty, the deeper that distrust will grow.

As turbulent as the community spirit may be right now, I’m proud to say I attend this university. I genuinely love and care for this campus, the faculty, and my fellow students. Redemption and change may not take place by the time I graduate, but I hope for the sake of faculty, staff, parents, future Cal Lutheran students, and Varlotta herself that the circumstances stabilize. 

However, what I’m seeing so far does not provide me with much hope. There must be a fundamental change in how situations like this are handled. Whether that change lies within Varlotta vacating her role, or Varlotta changing how she executes her role, actual change must happen, not just the promise of change.

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    Mikayla GMar 19, 2024 at 2:48 pm

    THIS THIS THIS!!! Since Varlotta’s start in my sophomore year, I’ve heard nothing but dissatisfaction, so much to the point I’m still keeping up with it even after graduating. Her presidency is disappointing, and it hurts to see nothing is being done from her office regarding the issue!

    I hope word spreads around campus and students and faculty can organize to demand change soon. Rooting from afar!!