North Dakota State’s Military and Veterans Services has no employees except for an interim worker.
Four employees from the office and one National Guard education officer resigned or were asked to leave following months of perceived injustices toward NDSU’s military and veteran population.
On Veterans Day, three military students wrote a petition letter to President Dean Bresciani and Provost Beth Ingram, citing “inequities, injustices and mismanagement” against NDSU’s military and veteran students.
Tom Webb, a Marine combat veteran and one of the petition’s writers, worked his last day in the office Friday after tendering his resignation.
“I don’t feel veterans are being treated fairly on campus,” he said. “I want a resolution for the population.”
That resolution includes hiring a full-time certifying official, a full-time veteran services coordinator and providing a gathering space for the 450 students identifying as military members and veterans at NDSU.
Webb said some problems stem back to May when former certifying official Kaarin Remmich went on maternity leave.
Remmich’s duties were vital for students receiving their monthly stipends.
“The basis of her job was to certify the students and get that certification to the VA so (that) the VA would be able to pay the students based on the program of the GI Bill they’re using,” Webb said.
Many military students are under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, Webb said, and receive a $1,100 monthly stipend.
Remmich worked at Military and Veterans Services for seven years and was instrumental in programming as well as other duties above and beyond her job, Webb said.
“She cared so much; she was helping out while she was having her baby,” he said.
Eventually, Remmich left in August after accepting another job elsewhere.
Webb said Registration and Records treated Remmich poorly.
“I would see her crying a lot,” he said, adding, “They just kept on changing the title to make her sound more important but then loading more stuff on top of her without any more pay or any more benefit.”
Calie Lindseth, a National Guard education officer, applied for Remmich’s position following Remmich’s departure.
Lindseth had “an unmatched wealth of knowledge regarding all the benefit programs, access and reporting software, campus and community partners and NDSU military and veteran students,” the Change.org petition said.
Lindseth, who Webb said utilized NDSU office space because of an unofficial agreement between the National Guard and Remmich, wasn’t chosen as the certifying official.
Registrar Rhonda Kitch was brought in to manage the office.
Kitch dissolved Remmich’s unofficial agreement on Nov. 9, Webb said, and asked Lindseth to leave campus. However, Lindseth’s duties will still bring her back to campus occasionally.
Bison Connection associate Mike Paolini was tapped as interim certifying official.
Work study students had to train Paolini, which proved difficult, Webb said.
Meanwhile, Kitch, the petition said, “has evidenced in word and deed that she does not understand, or care to understand, the importance of honor, integrity, trust or leadership to the military and veteran community.”
Webb said the registrar put forth accusations of berating, bullying, blaming, intimidating, swearing and non-compliance but refused to give examples or complaints to Webb, the office’s highest ranking employee at the time, early last week.
“I felt that it wasn’t fair that she would say these things and would not give any kind of an example of what happened and just say it happened and then starts moving on from something else,” Webb said.
He resigned out of a “conscience thing.”
“You tell me that I’m doing these things and that I’m allowing these things to happen while I’m there, but then you won’t give me any example of what happened so I can fix the problem,” Webb said. “I feel I can’t trust you. So that’s why I left.”
Webb said the registrar’s office has been monitoring Military and Veterans Services since Monday.
An interview with Kitch was denied; Sadie Rudolph, NDSU’s media relations coordinator, redirected questions to Provost Ingram.
Military and Veterans Services works in Ceres 211, above Registration and Records and adjacent to the Counseling Center. It’s an awkward placement, Webb said.
“If you have students that think the counselors are watching them walk into the vets office like they have a problem, it makes it hard for some students to come into our office,” he said.
Since he started working at the office in June 2013, Webb said Military and Veterans Services has pushed for a veterans space on campus, larger than what the Ceres Hall office can accommodate.
Webb said he would like to see a space that can accommodate large numbers of military and veteran students as a gathering space.
Webb said the push for a space was met with “lip service” from the university for over two years.
“We don’t want special treatment,” he said. “We want a space to thrive.”
Webb and military students Colin Larrabee and Christopher Eggen sent their letter to Bresciani, Ingram, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple and all state legislators.
“When we were forced in a corner, we kinda felt like we had to fight back, and we may have gone a little overboard, but we had to get some kind of satisfaction,” Webb said.
The letter was successful in securing a meeting Friday among Webb, Larrabee, Ingram, equal opportunity specialist Lois Christianson and emergency management associate professor Carol Cwiak.
Webb said the hourlong meeting “really felt positive” but is “ongoing.”
Ingram said they “had a long meeting and useful discussion and outlined some next steps that I would take,” including setting up meetings for the personnel concerns surrounding Kitch and including Timothy Alvarez, vice president of student affairs, in the process.
Meanwhile, “Services will continue as they always have,” Ingram said, adding, “We have taken the first step, having conversations and making sure we talk to the right people and reassure people that we are concerned and committed to the veteran population on campus.”
For Webb, who said none of his actions are retaliation, the situation is all about service to military and veteran students on campus.
“All I want is a peaceful resolution,” he said.