AAU’s Vice President for Enrollment and Communications, Jeta Sahatqija, announced plans to better student support post-admission and streamline communication in the wake of an argument between the former Student Council (SC) President and the Student Life Coordinator (SLC) over a two month delay in reimbursement. 

A recurring problem is the system of repaying students for approved club expenses. All clubs, with the exception of sports clubs, submit reimbursement documents to the SC Treasurer who then registers requests to the SLC, Marie Brendzova, foreshadowing miscommunication between processes. Sports clubs hand in receipts to the SLC in a physical mailbox checked infrequently, said former SC President, Simone Stansbury.

The university’s planned transition to a for-profit organization will fund changes to certain administrative departments—like the Student Service Center and Student Affairs—according to a memo from the President’s office, as students have commented that communication and assistance is lacking after the admissions process. 

 “This means that starting in July, I will oversee the entire journey of our students and alumni, from the first point of contact when they show interest in AAU to their graduation and beyond,” said Sahatqija who will head the soon-to-be merged departments.

The plan will merge the Student Affairs and Admissions Departments and create two new divisions: Student Support and Resources as well as Student Experience and Engagement; the latter will encompass the Student Life Center, the Career Office, and Alumni Office.

Photo by: Ela Angevine

These changes came to light during a meeting between Admissions Specialist Clea Boban, Sahatqija, and Stanbury after the verbal confrontation with Brendzova that happened in the Student Lounge on May 23 in front of four students. The argument ensued as a result of Stansbury waiting two months to be compensated 5000 CZK for Rock Climbing club.   

“I was uncomfortable with the interaction, particularly because other students witnessed it as well,” Stansbury recounted, “Incidents like that shouldn’t occur on campus, especially in a designated safe space…My main concern moving forward is to insure it doesn’t happen again.”

Waiting weeks is a common occurrence for clubs’ reimbursements or cash advances, according to Student Mentor Clara Berens. Stansbury echoed that sentiment, adding that, in the case of repaying students, not having an organized process, such as a spreadsheet like the one Student Council uses, is frustrating for everyone involved.

“Relying solely on cash advances isn’t realistic for college students because they can take up to two weeks. Club needs can change quickly, making it hard to predict exactly when, where, and how much money will be needed,” Stansbury said.

Brendzova expressed frustration because Stansbury had commented about the delay to another staff member instead of talking directly to her if there was a problem, but Stansbury emphasized she did not mean to go over Brendzova’s head. The root of the problem is an ineffective compensation system that relies on students to indicate communication instead of filling out a standard form, according to Stansbury.

The Student Life specialist’s job outline was unclear as the position was previously held only part-time by Daniel Padolsky, with Brendzova as the first full time SLC, according to Mila Garrett who interned under the SLC. However, Brendzova seeks to transform the reimbursement system, so students only file cash advances requests instead of pre-paying from pocket.

The SLC started at AAU in October, taking over the tasks of planning events, organizing student ambassadors and mentors, reimbursing clubs’ approved spending, mentoring an intern, and collaborating with clubs to better cater events to students interests. Sahatqija recalled looking forward to working with Brendzova as they shared a strong desire to support students and make information more accessible, especially Brendzova being a former student herself. 

“I don’t feel like I’m someone’s boss…I want to be more like a friend instead of someone who is giving you rules and policies…this is not always good,” explained Brendzova about her intentions, “Sometimes you have to be very professional and be on a different level, so that is something I am learning still.”

Brendzova said her goal is to enrich campus life by hearing straight from students what they are interested in. As she has only been in the position for nine months, Brendzova said it is a work in progress.

“I’m trying to be helpful to students, and if there is some issue between either me or between the students—doesn’t matter—I want to be involved and come to a conclusion where the students will be satisfied,” concluded Brendzova about how she plans to resolve conflict in the future.

Student Mentor Grace Hatch felt that the communication with the SLC was “adequate” and her experience “ha[d] been pretty good” working with the SLC. Hatch added that Brendzova often mentioned wanting to support the students.

“I think [Student Life and the SLC] will improve with time, as the nature of a new role being made in the moment, but this year was a bit rocky,” said Garrett, “[Brendozova] needs to learn to ask for support when she needs it from other faculty…When giving tasks to students and especially mentors, the tasks need to have a clearer and more defined scope.” 

Sahatqija emphasizes the importance of students feeling comfortable reaching out to faculty and administrative staff with any issues and plans to continue developing spaces for open communication—a key focus for the administration. Troubles, like the aforementioned argument, is an example of what the Vice President of Enrollment and Communications wants to avoid and improve upon.