Vice President of Operations Linda Snyder will retire from Tufts at the end of this semester, after about four and a half years at the university. Since beginning her term in 2012, Snyder has overseen facilities services, dining, public safety and campus planning, among other departments.
Current Director of Capital Programs Barb Stein has been appointed as interim vice president. A search is already underway for a new vice president, and the replacement process will take between three and four months, according to Snyder.
“We have begun a search by posting the position of vice president for operations online and widely distributing the job description with many organizations that can bring wide attention among diverse candidates and organizations,” Executive Vice President Patricia Campbell told the Daily in an email. “I expect to have a new VP in place by the start of the fall semester.”
Snyder said that since joining Tufts, several positive changes have been made, which have strengthened the university’s commitment to mindful campus planning and sustainability.
“Tufts has a long and very well-respected commitment to sustainability, and I think that that’s been continued in strength while I’ve been here,” Snyder said.
Snyder mentioned specific steps that have been taken to try to reduce Tufts’ environmental impact, including the Sustainability Council, the American College & University Presidents’ Climate Commitment and the construction of the Central Energy Plant. Snyder explained that steps such as the Central Energy Plant amount to long-term investments for the university.
“Tufts didn’t have to decide to build a new Central Energy Plant with cogeneration and central chilled water. It could’ve just replaced boilers in the old power plant,” Snyder said. “It didn’t have to take that step, and that step is enormously important for the university.”
However, Nicole Joseph, a member of Tufts Labor Coalition (TLC), noted that many employees in Tufts Facilities Services have spoken about the struggle to keep up with these frequent changes to operations systems, which have not necessarily increased efficiency.
“There’s been a lot of history of [worker struggle] on this campus, and a big part of that is because people felt like there were a lot of sudden changes that didn’t make sense to them,” Joseph, a junior, said. “A lot of people don’t think that a lot of the changes that have been made are efficient, in terms of providing the services they are supposed to on campus.”
Joseph cited the trash buddy system as an example of a project that did not achieve its stated goals. Recycling bins replaced typical trash cans in campus offices, which instead took the form of much smaller “trash buddies,” small containers on the side of the larger cans.
“One of [Snyder’s] rationales for that was that it would mean that people were taking out the trash more on their own and that it would encourage people to not throw as much stuff away, but the trash buddies were so small that a takeout box wouldn’t fit in it,” Joseph said.
According to Joseph, this new waste management system only added unnecessary steps to the disposal process. An aspect of the implementation of the “trash buddy” system had janitors collect trash weekly instead of daily, which Joseph said made janitors’ workloads unnecessarily difficult.
Executive Director of Public Relations Patrick Collins defended the contributions Snyder has made to the Operations Division.
“We fully support our Operations department and the good work it does to ensure the efficient and smooth function of the university’s essential facilities and services, including campus planning, sustainable waste management and the oversight of all construction and renovation projects,” Collins told the Daily in an email. “In particular, we appreciate the leadership and experience that Linda has brought to bear during her time at Tufts.”
Snyder said she was also proud of the role that Tufts community input played in operations department decisions during her tenure but acknowledged that the department could do better with student involvement.
“We had students involved in the design of 574 Boston Ave. Their input was really helpful in thinking about how to create informal social spaces. We regularly work with students in the engineering school,” Snyder said.
On the other hand, Joseph said workers do not feel that they have opportunities to contribute their opinions before big changes are made.
Members of TLC, such as Eve Feldberg in an April 25, 2016 Daily op-ed, have also criticized Snyder for her role in 2015 custodial reorganization and lay-offs. The reorganization, which ultimately displaced 18 janitors, was the subject of a 2015 student hunger strike. It was officially implemented by DTZ, the company to which Tufts contracted out its custodial labor and which has since merged with Cushman & Wakefield (C&W) Services.
Collins responded that the reorganization was an important, cost-saving change.
“Regarding the reorganization undertaken by the company that provides Tufts with custodial services, as stated previously, the reorganization brought Tufts in line with standards at our peer universities and improved cleaning services while also increasing efficiency,” he said.
Snyder expressed her gratitude to Tufts employees and praised their commitment to making Tufts a better campus.
“I think that the quality of the people that work here is very high. Tufts is just very lucky to have a strong and committed workforce, and I am very sure that will continue,” Snyder said.
Joseph expressed concern that the main goals of the Operations Division seem to have been to cut costs, and not to focus on the long-term effects this would have on workers and the condition of university facilities.
“Tufts is not sending the message, with the current labor disputes going on on campus, that they are changing for the better in any capacity,” Joseph said. “If that’s the stance they’re still taking right now, I’m not sure if I have good faith in the university with this new hire to respect and uphold workers’ rights.”
Joseph said that, although it is difficult to manage budgets with the problems of overspending in the university and rising tuition, it is the job of the Operations Division to find a solution that works for everyone.
“I think at the end of the day as a new person comes in, I think it’s really important to value the knowledge and skills that people in the department already have. It’s good to bring a fresh set of eyes to something, but also, a lot of people have been working here for a long time and know what works,” Joseph said.
According to Campbell, Snyder has been a successful leader of the Operations Division at Tufts, and it is critical that her replacement continues her work.
“Linda has done a superb job of leading Operations, and I am confident we will find someone equally capable to fill this important position. The quality of our facilities and the effectiveness of operations is critical to the university’s success,” Campbell said.