Unrequited Love

Eric Love, despite being a champion of campus diversity, wasn't given a counteroffer by IU when Notre Dame called. Love was not the first — or the last — to leave the department. Students and staff still question why DEMA has let this happen.



A thunderous applause greeted Eric Love as he walked onto the IU Auditorium stage, his waist-long dreadlocks tamed into a ponytail.

His presence in Bloomington marked his second return to the place he called home less than three months ago.

He traveled from the University of Notre Dame to introduce a performance at Raas Royalty, an Indian dance competition he helped bring to campus.

Under the glare of the spotlight, Love looked out into the crowd and recognized the faces of students he guided throughout his decade-long career at IU.

He felt proud of these students. He thought about the first time he worked with some of them to organize the event.

He remembered watching this program and others continue to grow each year. He remembered meeting with the student organizations he advised. He recalled the countless one-on-one conversations with students who just needed someone to talk to.

He realized this would be his first year attending the event as a guest and not ?a host.

The visit back to campus was bittersweet. His most recent memories at IU were marked by his sudden resignation, his tear-filled going-away ceremony and how his supervisors did little to convince him to stay.

His joy was apparent, but his grief discernible. The community was familiar, but no longer his own.

***

Love served as the director of the Office of Diversity Education under the Office of the Vice President for Diversity, Equity and Multicultural Affairs for 10 years, during which he gained recognition across campus as a champion of diversity.

In addition to coordinating diversity events such as the Unity Summit, Love served as an adviser to six organizations representing student communities in greek life, advocacy and culture.

As a result of his involvement in student life, he became a de facto mentor for many students on campus.

In November 2014, Love decided to leave IU for a higher-paying position at Notre Dame.

His sudden resignation and absence of a counteroffer from IU raised questions among those familiar with his work as to how negotiations led to his departure.

However, Love’s decision stemmed from years of feeling underappreciated by DEMA leadership. In his final months at IU, a series of events between Love and his supervisors pushed him to resign.

He was informed that his job would be reclassified and that he would likely get a raise. But the raise never came to fruition. His office was moved without his consultation. Negotiations surrounding Notre Dame’s job proposal between Love and DEMA leadership consisted of one email thread.

Love’s departure caused an outcry among students, staff and faculty. However, his exit is the latest in a string of DEMA staff resignations that began under the department’s previous administration led by Edwin Marshall.

Virginia LeBlanc, former director of the Hudson and Holland Scholars Program, resigned in 2011. After leaving, she began a federal lawsuit against the University claiming unequal pay and sexual harassment.

Dan Woodside served as a professional adviser within the Hudson and Holland Scholars Program and left the department in 2011 due to lack of resources and salary raises, he said. He now works as director of academic services in the IU Athletics ?Department.

Anthony Scott, former interim director of HHSP, resigned in 2013. After working in the program for a year and a half, he applied to become permanent director but was not offered an interview.

Former DEMA vice president Edwin Marshall resigned in 2013 after six years of serving in the position. Paul Edwards, special assistant to the vice president of DEMA, resigned the position the same year. The administration’s term was marked with student protests against the way DEMA leadership handled recruitment and retention of minority students and staff.

The following year, the University made changes — including appointing new leaders for the department — to improve its diversity efforts.

James Wimbush, the dean of the University Graduate School, was selected to succeed Marshall as vice president. Martin McCrory, a faculty member in the Kelley School of Business, became the vice provost for educational inclusion and diversity and vice ?president of DEMA.

Despite the changes, Love resigned less than a year and a half into Wimbush’s ?appointment.

Two weeks ago, Stephanie Power-Carter, director of the Neal Marshall Black Cultural Center, stepped down from the position to focus on her responsibilities as faculty at the School of Education. Power-Carter did not say her decision to leave was a result of issues with the department’s leadership.

DEMA has now hired a consulting firm to perform an assessment of the department’s diversity achievement and progress. On Tuesday, the firm will be offering open sessions to receive feedback from students and staff.

The new administration seeks to boost recruitment and retention of minority students and staff at IU. However, the continual departure of minority staff members has led students to question DEMA’s ability to meet these goals.

***

When Love became director in 2004, his hire came with a set of promises.

The University committed to providing him a secretary and an office in what is now the Neal-Marshall Black Culture Center’s conference room, a spacious area with windows facing the Musical Arts Center, Love said. At the time, Love did not discuss expectations for his future earnings. His starting salary was $49,950.

For almost four years, his promised office sat unused as Love continued to request it, Love said. In 2008, the space was turned into its current use as a conference room.

Love also never received a secretary, making him the sole full-time staff member for the office. His main support came from several student hourly workers. By the end of his time at IU, Love was responsible for engaging more than 46,000 students in diversity education.

Love said his work merited his repeated requests for a new space and extra support.

“I wasn’t getting big raises every year, but I thought if they gave me the office with windows and the secretary like I was told from the very beginning, that would have helped,” he said.

When Wimbush entered office in 2013, Love had not received bonus or merit pay. His salary increased to $57,304. His only raises consisted of 1- to 2-percent increases for cost of living.

Love met with Wimbush shortly after his appointment and asked him for the office, secretary and raise. In March 2014, Love said he met with his supervisors a second time and again asked Wimbush and McCrory to consider his requests.

Wimbush later told Love they hoped to refocus his job on consulting with satellite campuses, fostering diversity among their staff and faculty, Love said.

As part of the suggested reconfiguration, Love would obtain a new office with windows in the basement of Memorial Hall. The new duties also held the potential for a raise.

Though Love said the specifics of the position remained ambiguous, his superiors assured him the move would be a step in the right direction.

Vice President Wimbush did not comment on the details of Love’s claims.

Love relocated to Memorial Hall in the summer of 2014. However, the suggested change in role, raise and reclassification never came to fruition during his time.

Julian Glover, his former graduate assistant, said the move left Love feeling ?dejected.

“To be moved out of the Culture Center which he viewed as his home and his rightful place on campus was absolutely devastating to him,” Glover said. “Nothing short of devastating.”

Though Love continued to do his work, Glover said he witnessed a change in his zeal to connect with students. The new office represented a devaluation of Love’s work that Glover said caused him to reconsider the worth of his efforts.

Wimbush said he had not known about Love’s negative sentiments toward the move.

After moving to Memorial Hall and being told to shift his focus away from diversity initiatives, Love began considering employment outside of the University. Though Love was able to easily decline other job offers in the past, Glover said the relocation changed Love’s perspective.

“That move was really symbolic of the devaluation of him, his work and his contribution to the University,” Glover said.

Love’s relocation was also poorly received by students. Robert Sherrell, political action chair of the Black Student Union, said the move made Love’s services less effective.

“It’s almost like you’re moving a firefighter out of the firehouse to maybe a house down the street,” Sherrell said. “You’re still a firefighter. You still have the job title. You can still do the job, but you’re doing it in an environment that isn’t exactly as conducive as doing the job as you once were.”

***

Love never sought a new job. But in June, Notre Dame officials began contacting him through his LinkedIn account.

They encouraged him to apply for director of staff diversity and inclusion, a position which would involve developing diversity training and initiatives for staff and faculty. Despite their interest, Love harbored reservations.

“Even then I wasn’t going to apply because I love IU,” Love said. “I love Bloomington, and I really love my job even under the current situations.”

Ultimately, the encouragement of students and colleagues pushed Love to submit an application. He initially hoped to use the offer as a bargaining chip to negotiate a raise with DEMA. In his final full year, Love earned $58,450.

In late September 2014, Notre Dame notified Love that he was selected for the position. He then contacted Wimbush and McCrory with the intent to negotiate his stay at IU.

“I hope you are both doing well,” Love wrote in an email. “I have been offered a position at Notre Dame, similar to my current position here. I was not looking for a new job, but they recruited me and asked if I would apply.

“I was notified yesterday that I have been selected. I am very interested in staying at IU and I am wondering if you are willing to meet with me to discuss retaining me here.”

Several hours later, at 9:13 p.m., Wimbush congratulated Love and said the offer spoke to IU’s strong pool of talent:

“Of course we’d hate to lose you because you’ve made tremendous contributions in many areas, and have helped us through many difficult situations over the years,” Wimbush wrote in his email response. “However, I also know you’ve expressed concerns about your role and the support you’ve been ?provided.

“While I’m committed to supporting your efforts, I’m also one for making sure that people consider their own interests carefully and make decisions in accordance with those interests.

“In other words, Notre Dame could be providing you an opportunity to do much more than can be done here as well as at a pay level that we currently can’t match. I want you to do what you feel is best for yourself.”

Wimbush said he would be traveling all week and couldn’t meet with Love, but he wanted Love to make the decision that was best for him.

Love said the email was the only correspondence he received from the University discussing his opportunity at Notre Dame. Wimbush said he did not know what Notre Dame offered, nor did he ask for specifics before responding to Love’s email. Wimbush did not present Love with a counteroffer.

He declined to comment on the negotiations due to privacy reasons. McCrory could not be reached for comment.

Despite the email, Love hesitated to tell others about his job offer.

“Even after I got the initial response from Wimbush, I just thought that something might happen and they still might change their mind or offer me something,” Love said. “The truth of the matter is, I would have stayed for a fraction of what Notre Dame offered me.”

On Nov. 24, 2014, Love completed his last day at IU. On Dec. 1, he walked into Grace Hall at Notre Dame as a director earning $41,000 more than the position he left behind.

***

The response from the campus body toward Love’s resignation ranged from confusion to anger. Sherrell said his peers did not take Love’s departure lightly.

“He did a lot for diversity and inclusion for not just people of color but for people of different classes and for the LGBT community as well,” Sherrell said.

Sherrell remembers an event Love organized in which the Black Student Union collaborated with Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity and Asian international students to host a Halloween party.

“You don’t really see too many people pushing Black people and Asian people to come together and dance,” Sherrell said. “That’s something that only Eric Love could possibly think of.”

Although he did not turn to Love for personal matters, Sherrell viewed Love’s departure as a key missing piece in many minority students’ lives.

“If they’re not talking to Eric Love anymore, who are they talking to?” Sherrell said. “And if they’re not talking to anyone at all, that’s a ?problem.”

Glover said Love was an advocate for students that many fear no longer exists. He recalls listening to his best friend lament about how his absence represents a total loss of institutional support.

DEMA organized a farewell ceremony for Love in which the community shared parting words with the former director.

Several days before, students organized three separate ceremonies for Love, one of which took place in the Neal-Marshall Grand Hall. Though Love was the primary motivation behind students organizing the event, Glover said students wanted to voice their feelings about Love’s departure without DEMA administration in attendance.

Faculty and staff such as Doug Bauder, coordinator of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender Student Support Services, sent emails to DEMA administrators to express their thoughts on Love’s resignation. Bauder said he saw the situation as an opportunity to express the importance of Love’s work on campus.

“Somewhere along the line, people aren’t understanding all that Eric does,” Bauder said. “Maybe I could be a voice for that.”

***

Though DEMA spends millions of dollars per year to recruit and retain minority students and staff, Sherrell said he believes the department’s approach misses the mark in promoting diversity on campus.

“Its almost as if there are like these initiatives and new programs, but there’s not really a fire, an urgency to get these things done,” Sherrell said. “I mean, yeah, they’re going. But as long as there are people comfortable with the status quo, there won’t be really any change.”

Love was not the first member of DEMA staff to leave the department due to unfavorable circumstances.

In 2012, Virginia LeBlanc sued the University with allegations of gender discrimination and sexual harassment after resigning the year before. According to court records, DEMA told her she would not receive the same pay as prior directors of HHSP, all of whom were male, because of budget cuts.

LeBlanc said she later discovered the runner-up male candidate earned more money than her. She also did not receive compensation for teaching two classes while also working as director. The case was dismissed in ?October 2013.

The same year, LeBlanc’s successor Anthony Scott resigned as associate director of HHSP after he submitted an application for the permanent position and did not receive an interview.

When he asked a member of the selection committee, Scott said he was told he not advance in the process because his cover letter was ?too short.

“When that didn’t happen, it was sort of a sign for me that there was nothing left for me to do at the campus at that time,” Scott said.

Although minority student representation on the Bloomington campus has risen in the last several years, Glover said administrators sometimes lose sight of the people and resources that help students get through their four years — people ?like Love.

Sherrell believes DEMA does possess the resources available to improve the quality of life at the University. Students, however, should take the initiative to seek out and take advantage of these services.

In contrast, Glover ?equates the DEMA administration-minority student relationship as one between a castle with a moat and the populace stranded on the other side.

“To me, Eric was that drawbridge,” Glover said. “Now that that drawbridge has been demolished, it very much feels like there is no access.”

There is no timeline in place to reclassify the position or to hire a new individual for Love’s former position, Wimbush said. The salary lies unused, serving as a placeholder for the position.

DEMA will be working with consulting firm Halualani & Associates to guide the department in analyzing its diversity progress. Students will have the opportunity to voice their opinions to representatives from the organization in the Faculty Room in the Indiana Memorial Union on Tuesday.

Wimbush assures Love’s replacement will meet the standards needed to further diversity across all IU ?campuses.

“Even though he’s not here,” Wimbush said, “the work must and will go on.”

***

Clad in a blue and gold sweatshirt from Notre Dame, Love concluded his weekend visit to Bloomington with Sunday morning coffee with Bauder.

Although he still feels loss, Love said he stands firm in his decision to leave and is certain IU would have never given him the opportunity for which he was pursued by Notre Dame.

“I’m really sorry,” Love said. His voice faltered as his eyes welled up with tears.

“Sorry for the students that are feeling loss,” he said, smiling as the tears rolled down his face. “But, it’s okay. I’m doing really well.”

Like what you're reading? Support independent, award-winning college journalism on this site. Donate here.

More



Comments powered by Disqus