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Academic Disorder: BU Honors Program Struggles to Cope With Lack of Leadership

By Joe Arleth/”The Voice” Managing Editor

The future of the Bloomsburg University honors program hangs in limbo as its members wait for news updates regarding the suspended search for the next director of the organization.

With the retirement of former director Dr. Emeric Schultz at the end of last semester, the University worked throughout the Fall to find his replacement.  When students left campus for the winter break, they were left with the impression that Dr. Stephen Kokoska would be offered the position, as he was recommended by the Honors Advisory Committee (H.A.C.) for the job and was appointed to that post by University officials on Dec. 12, 2008.

Dr. Stephen Kokoska was appointed head of the honors program in December, but that position is currently under debate. (Photo from http://www.bloomu.edu/admin/acad/mat/faculty.php)
Dr. Stephen Kokoska was appointed head of the honors program in December, but that position is currently under debate.

Less than a month later, however, things had changed radically.  At the start of the Spring semester, members of the program learned that a complaint had been filed in regards to a bias in the application process, and that Kokoska’s appointment would be put on hold pending an investigation.

The crisis has left Honors students frustrated and worried about the immediate future of the program.

“Many of the students are confused,” Joanne Topper said. “As an exec-board member, I can see where their frustration lies.”

Much of the frustration felt by the members of the program and Topper herself revolve around uncertainty within the program, especially in regards to the program’s current status, as well as future operations.

“With no director we cannot continue with certain functions of the program such as recruiting students and conducting interviews to continue its growth,” said Topper, the co-senior class representative for the honors program.  “Also, we do not have anything to say to prospective honors students or even those already accepted into it because of all that is unknown.  I can definitely see this negatively impacting the program if it is not resolved soon.”

The program has already felt the negative backlash of this situation as their day-to-day operations have been stifled as a result of it.

“A major roadblock now deals with the program’s funds. We can’t access our money because we have no director to sign off on anything,” said Kylene McClarren, the program’s H.A.C. representative.

The inaccessibility of funds not only hinders the program’s social events, but also the community service projects they perform, a key component of the organization.

“We were trying to set up our next service project at the Ronald McDonald house, but we can’t even purchase the food required to do that now.”

Not only has the organization’s financial situation become strained due to the circumstances, but several other key roles usually fulfilled by the program’s director have been hindered as well.

Duties such as planning and directing the group’s meetings, teaching required honors courses, and just having a presence of leadership within the program are all either being performed by temporary replacements, or are entirely absent.

Many in the program also remain upset not only because of the lack of a director and its consequences, but also because they felt that the best candidate had already been selected.

Those students believe that Dr. Kokoska already has a strong relationship with the members of the honors program, carrying over from his time served as interim director in Fall 2006 while former director Emeric Schultz went on sabbatical. Since then, Kokoska has remained highly active in the program, frequently attending events sponsored by the honors students, and volunteering his time and services to the program.

“He’s already served as the director for a semester and did an amazing job,” said McClarren. “He got to know a lot of the students really well and even hosted dinners with the students just to see how things were going with them.”

Honors student have been told by the University that resolution to this situation will be announced by next week; however, some within the organization are not as optimistic.  Regardless of who is ultimately named the program’s new director, the already appointed Dr. Kokoska or someone else, the truth of the matter is that the group, the students who participate in it, and the faculty and staff dedicated to running it, will suffer in the meantime.