Nicole Truesdell, who served as assistant vice president for campus life from March 2018 until January 2020, stepped down last month to transition into an “affiliated faculty role,” announced Vice President for Campus Life Eric Estes in a Jan. 25 Today@Brown announcement. Truesdell will continue in her role as senior director of the Institute for Transformative Practice.
The heads of various cultural centers at the University reported to Truesdell while she was assistant VP. During the transition, the Brown Center for Students of Color, the Sarah Doyle Center for Women and Gender, the LGBTQ Center and the Undocumented, First-Generation College and Low-Income Student Center are currently working under Estes’ leadership, while the Office of Military-Affiliated Students and the Global Brown Center for International Students have begun working with Loc Truong, chief of staff and director of strategic initiatives, Estes wrote in an email to The Herald.
Truesdell “chose to move out of the (assistant vice president) of campus life role because (she) was offered the opportunity to move into a faculty position where (she) can do the type of work (she loves) — teaching, engaging in praxis-based research and connecting with students, staff and faculty through the Institute for Transformative Practice in a collaborative way,” she wrote in an email to The Herald.
Truesdell’s transition follows a June 2019 controversy sparked by her termination of Joshua Segui, former director of the BCSC who worked at the University for seven years.
After Segui was terminated, students protested Truesdell’s lack of transparency, particularly once she hired an interim director of the BCSC without sufficient student involvement.
Students and several campus organizations signed and shared a petition in support of Segui. “We, the undersigned, demand that Brown University recognizes Joshua’s dismissal, the shady circumstances leading up to it and the administration’s dishonesty and lack of transparency in the aftermath as deeply unjust and shameful,” the petition stated. “We call upon the University to start taking steps to set things right immediately.”
Brown College Democrats is among several campus organizations who protested Truesdell’s actions. Brown College Democrats President Zoë Mermelstein ’21 said that the petition was written by allies of the student group. After Mermelstein spoke with Brown College Dems’ diversity coordinator, she felt that the circumstances surrounding Segui’s termination were questionable. She heard similar sentiments from numerous members of Brown College Democrats and knew it was an issue that the group could responsibly support.
“The fact that (Truesdell) is stepping down tells me that there was probably truth to the allegations, which again was something that we already believed when we decided to support (the petition),” Mermelstein said.
Former director of the Global Brown Center Christina Bonnell, who left the University fall 2019 to pursue a PhD, cited Truesdell’s leadership style as a potential factor in her departure from her position as assistant VP. “From what I observed and experienced, there was a disconnect between Dr. Truesdell’s stated values and her actual management style which negatively impacted staff morale and discouraged team-building,” she wrote in an email to The Herald. “I’m hopeful that Campus Life will continue to listen to their employees’ and students’ voices in the selection of a new Assistant VP.”
The University is currently searching for a new assistant vice president for campus life. “Later this semester, we expect to share further information on plans for our search process,” Estes wrote in the Today@Brown announcement.
In a Feb. 5 Today@Brown announcement, the Division of Campus Life publicized the search for a new BCSC director, emphasizing that a search committee will include three undergraduate students, one graduate student, three staff and one faculty member. “The BCSC is an important resource for the Brown community, especially students, and thus we feel it is important for students to hold the majority constituency of the eight-member committee,” the announcement stated.
The announcement also solicited nominations to the search committee through a Google form. “We are asking several established groups to help by nominating undergraduate and graduate students for possible service on the committee. Both undergraduate and graduate students will be able to self-nominate.” Nominations will be accepted until Feb. 10 at 11:59 p.m.