As Vice Prez of Student Affairs Retires, Position Faces New Challenges with Student Government and Faculty
As of Jan. 1, York’s Vice President of Student Development, Dr. Geneva Walker-Johnson stepped down from her position of three years and was replaced by Dr. Vincent Banrey effective immediately until a replacement search begins later this semester.
The announcement, made by President Keizs, broke to all York students via email on Dec. 17. The announcement stated that VP Walker-Johnson, who was in charge of overseeing all student activities and funding for three years leading up to her decision, deeply valued her time at the college. President Kiesz thanked her for her “many contributions to the Student Development Department.”
“Her contribution to the establishment of our ROTC program, as well as her deft handling of welcoming back our students to campus following Hurricane Sandy,” Keizs said. “Her thoughtfulness toward students on the long lines at the start of each semester, are among the tangible and intangible service the vice president brought to bear at York.”
Unfortunately, towards the end of her time year at York, Walker-Johnson faced opposition from members of the college’s student leadership. According to e-mails sent early last December to the VP, SGA requested on several occasions job descriptions to clarify the Vice President’s role in Student Activities, as well as other faculty members including former executive director of Compliance Programs and Legal Affairs Olga Dais and current Director of Student activities Dr. Jean Phelps. SGA said they were “in need of [these] job description[s] in order to meet Club activities smoothly and transparently.”
“I believe, SGA has taken very serious steps towards student activities,” SGA President Shaikh Amin wrote in an e-mail. “We are stronger than ever for fighting students’ rights. We won’t lose it for sure. We are here for the students. We will be here for the students.”
“The SGA is asking for Transparency and Clarity of the Department of Student Development including Student Activities, Association,” he continued.
The President also requested the name of the official SGA advisor.
Tensions rose in December after Association meetings were called during finals week, a crucial time for students participating in the SGA, rendering them unable to fully commit to the appointments.
Following the lack of communication between the Student Development and SGA, action was taken by SGA through petition. The petition attempted a removal of the VP as well as Dr. Phelps and Ms. Dais. Although not all members of SGA agreed, a majority vote counting 21 of 31 members signed the petition according to SGA Treasure Ahmed Adam.
THE VP’S SUCCESSOR
Walker Johnson’s successor, Dr. Vincent Banrey, told Pandora’s Box in an interview that he has high hopes for what he can bring to the table. His plans for the new position include working with President Keizs, college administration, student government and academic affairs to continue to improve and increase effectiveness for students. He said the focal point of his work here at the colleges is to make York a student-focused environment.
“There’s no students, there’s no school,” Banrey said.
Banrey has not only worked in the CUNY system before, he is a long time alum. He previously worked in Medgar Evers College for 14 years in student affairs and enrollment management and at LaGuardia for 23 years in multiple positions in student affairs. Banrey also graduated from several institutions within CUNY. He received his associate’s and his bachelor’s in Business Administration from LaGuardia and CUNY baccalaureate respectively and his master’s in public administration at Baruch. He also received his doctorate in higher education administration from NYU.
Banrey believes York has much to offer. He said that the students have “a large variety of academic offerings” at the college. He also points out York’s increase in student enrollment over the years as a prime example of people taking notice.
Banrey says that his transition, although very busy, has been a smooth one.
“We have our management team in place, we’re already working on a division newsletter that’s going to come out in February highlighting student success at the school,” Banrey said.
Newsletters are one of the many things Banrey hopes will help new students adjust as well as keep enrolled students in the know of what’s happening with their college (as the college already did in the past). He began an initiative Jan. 14 providing transfer students a chance to get acquainted with the campus before the start of the semester with rolling orientations. Some of these orientations introduce basics York students are all too familiar with including seminars on financial aid, admissions, the registrar and others with representatives from each department present to answer any questions.
“The plan is to see if we can have a mini orientation in March, another one in April, another one in May and maybe have one in June, so that all those new students that are coming in, we would have worked with them ahead of time,” Banrey said. “They would understand financial aid, they would understand cunyfirst, degreeworks, facts, how to use that system. They have their financial aid in place so that by the time we get to August, we already processed a lot of our incoming students and we have a fun orientation.
Banrey also wants to get registration for freshmen opened up earlier which would keep them from being stuck with less than ideal schedules. He hopes that all of this will provide structure to how students are integrated into York and increase student satisfaction and engagement.
Banrey is working with newly appointed assistant deans Paola Veras who was the previous director for Services to students with disabilities, and Randolph Punter, who worked in financial aid and career services for 25 years.