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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Assistant director of the Outdoor Rec Center terminated, community responds

In an email sent to the 2,500 person Outdoor Recreation Center Listserv on June 12, Linda Rosenkranz announced that she will not be returning to campus in the fall.
a+group+of+backpackers+walk+past+a+sign+that+says+cottonwood+creek
Linda Rosenkranz leads this ORC adventure trip at the Grand Canyon in AZ on Wednesday, Mar. 8, 2017. The ORC hosts multiple trips per semester around the continental United States that are open to all members of the Vanderbilt community. (Photo/Alisha Newton)

Linda Rosenkranz’s position as Assistant Director of the Outdoor Recreation Center (ORC) was terminated on June 12, and the future of the ORC is unknown at this time.

Rosenkranz, hired by Vanderbilt in 1989 to start the Outdoor Recreation program, received an email on Thursday, June 11 inviting her to a 15-minute Zoom call on Friday, June 12. During that 15-minute call with Director of the Recreation and Wellness Center Kenny Moore and Senior Associate Athletic Director Lori Alexander, Rosenkranz was informed that Vanderbilt periodically reviews services and positions and that the university had ultimately decided to eliminate her position.

The university closed her Vanderbilt email account on June 15 and disallowed her return in the Fall 2020 semester. According to Rosenkranz, she offered to have her salary reduced and was told that the decision to terminate her position was already made. She also believes that the ORC will be shut down permanently.

“I just don’t understand why they want to take away the Outdoor Recreation program,” Rosenkranz said. “It’s been a successful program for a number of years.”

Gradual changes to the Outdoor Rec

Though currently, rentals are closed and adventure trips are cancelled, The Outdoor Recreation Center (ORC) rents out equipment including canoes, touring kayaks, whitewater boats and sleeping bags, which Rosenkranz said are the most popular rental item. Within the recreation center, the ORC also manages a climbing and bouldering wall and kayak clinics in the pool. The ORC offers adventure trips open to the entire Vanderbilt community from undergraduate students to alumni; these trips can range in price from five dollars for local trips to over one thousand for larger adventure trips to places like the Grand Canyon.

According to Rosenkranz, the number of trips per semester had decreased over time from 26 to 12 last semester. Rosenkranz said that she herself typically attended four or five trips, but that Director of the Recreation and Wellness Center Kenny Moore said that she had to attend every trip in the Spring 2020 semester. She attended five out of the regularly scheduled seven trips, with the other two cancelled due to COVID-19.

In her email, Rosenkranz attributed this trip reduction and change in attendance policy to the “micromanagement” of Moore, who Rosenkranz claimed had become more involved with trips and equipment rentals over time. Rosenkranz also said that her full time assistant was replaced with a graduate assistant in 2019. The current graduate assistant, Claire Dzierzak, did not respond to a request for comment.

Current Student Response

Rising senior Mila Sicorsky has worked at the ORC since the first semester of her sophomore year and served as a gear specialist this past semester. According to Sicorsky, ORC adventure trips were often completely booked, with a long wait list. Sicorsky described Rosenkranz as a great boss and said that during one particular trip, Rosenkranz had brought packs from Nashville to Las Vegas so that Sicorsky and a coworker could participate on a backpacking trip. 

Per Sicorsky, the trips also offered a unique opportunity for people from different parts of the Vanderbilt community to connect. On a Summer 2019 backpacking trip, Sicorsky interacted with alumni, staff from the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and graduate students, she said.

“The fact that Vanderbilt is going to be cutting this program that fosters this environmental awareness and sustainability, and is one of the few organizations and institutions at Vanderbilt that truly cares and does things for the environment, sends a very clear message to the community about what Vanderbilt’s doing,” Sicorsky said. “I just think that’s very wrong.”

Rising sophomore Riley Deutsch also worked at the Outdoor Recreation Center starting last December and instantly connected with Rosenkranz, Deutsch said.

Rosenkranz asked in the Zoom meeting if she could contact students like Deutsch and Sicorsky and inform them of her termination. According to Rosenkranz, Director Moore said that she could because he was not going to. 

Rosenkranz managed two list-servs, one with 902 people that had previously been on ORC adventure trips and another with roughly 2,500 people who had signed up out of possible interest in going on an ORC adventure trip. She emailed student workers first and wrote in her email not to count on a week of training or early move-in for the Fall 2020 semester. In her email to the larger list-serv, she thanked everyone who went on a trip and delivered the news of her termination.

Student and Alumni Collaborate and Respond

In response, Sicorsky said that students and alumni set up a Zoom meeting on Tuesday, June 16 to discuss possible ways to save Rosenkranz’s job and the ORC. Casey Chorens, BE 2016, was one alumna present at the Zoom session. Chorens started working for the ORC in her sophomore year at Vanderbilt as part of her Federal Work Study. 

“[Linda’s] an incredible person, a really great role model. She works harder than maybe anyone I’ve ever met and is a great person who leads by example,” Chorens said. “I learned so many valuable lessons from her that really serve me and my career today and have enabled me to be successful. I think a lot of the most important lessons I learned at Vanderbilt and the most important skills I learned were facilitated by her and the Outdoor Recreation Center.”

Chorens used the initial email to connect with a core group of students and alumni who wanted to fight the decision, Chorens said.

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“I donate every year and it’s always earmarked for the Outdoor Rec Center, and I’m never going to donate again if they don’t reverse this,” Chorens said. “It’s not like I’m a huge donor, but it matters a lot to Vanderbilt’s rank to have a high rate of alumni giving. That’s essential to their ranking calculation and obviously they care about that a lot.”

Outside Org and University Response

On June 17, the Wildlife Conservation Club also emailed their list-serv with a message of support for the ORC and in the email linked the petition, posted by Chorens, that was created as a result of the June 16 Zoom call. Those present at the Zoom call also drafted a letter to the Vanderbilt administration and created a Google form where students and alumni could share their experiences at the ORC. As of publication, the petition has over 1,300 signatures. 

The university said in an email statement on June 19 that they do not comment on personnel matters. They provided the following statement about the Recreation and Wellness Center and its programs:

The David Williams II Recreation and Wellness Center and Outdoor Recreation Program is instituting a number of programming changes in order to manage the situation brought on by the global pandemic and ensure the health and safety of the Vanderbilt community. In time, we hope to bring many of our in-person programs back to full capacity, informed by guidance from public health officials and experts at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.”

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The Vanderbilt Hustler welcomes and encourages readers to engage with content and express opinions through the comment sections on our website and social media platforms. The Hustler reserves the right to remove comments that contain vulgarity, hate speech, personal attacks or that appear to be spam, commercial promotion or impersonation. The comment sections are moderated by our Editor-in-Chief, Rachael Perrotta, and our Social Media Director, Chloe Postlewaite. You can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected].
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A
Austin Langley
3 years ago

The ORC was one of the most impactful aspects of my Vanderbilt education. Thanks to the role model I had in Linda, I have cultivated a career in the outdoor industry that is deeply rooted in all the learning had in the safe space Linda created. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the ORC. The lack of the ORC will take a toll on the Vanderbilt experience for current and future students.

M
Marne Zahner '10
3 years ago

My life at Vanderbilt was centered on the outdoors community: it’s how I made friends, who I spent time with, how I spent my weekends, and even how I spent my vacations. Ten years since graduation, I still regularly hang out with a number of alumni, all of whom I met through the outdoors community. During my time at least, the outdoors community was the primary non-Greek social scene, inhabited by not only outdoors enthusiasts but by artists, thespians, the frisbee team, and also anyone else who didn’t feel like they fit into the Greek scene. Numerous classmates told me that they were considering transferring before finding a home in the outdoors community. Outdoor Rec, under Linda’s leadership, was one of the two major anchors of this community (Wilskills being the other). Outdoor Rec’s wide range of beginner trips and engagement with the wider Vanderbilt community – grad students, faculty, staff, etc. – meant that it was a force for breadth, diversity, and inclusiveness. Many people were introduced to their home away from home through Linda’s Outdoor Rec. Please bring back Linda and the Outdoor Rec so as to reestablish this important pathway for students to find community at Vanderbilt!

M
Mike Banasiak
3 years ago

I hope the administration is carefully considering all options, particularly given that Linda has offered to work for a reduced salary. The ORC was a formative part of my college years, and has significantly influenced my career path and long lasting relationships.

A
Alisha Newton
3 years ago

I was close with Linda when I worked at the Outdoor Rec. The only campus event I’ve attended after graduating 3 years ago was the 25th anniversary celebration of the Outdoor Rec Center in summer 2017. I cross-stitched a pattern with canoes, tents and other camping equipment, to show my love and appreciation of the ORC. I just share this as an example of how much I felt at home at the ORC and staff. P.S. I just found out I was on the cover of the spring 2020 Adventure Guide for the ORC. What an honor! I certainly hope that it’s not the last guide that’s ever printed. I’m fighting this with everything I have.

A
Anica Sunshine
3 years ago

This is such heartbreaking news. I am an alumna of Vanderbilt who worked with Linda for two years at the ORC and I made some of my closest friends and had many of my best college experiences with this program; it was truly one of the best parts of my Vanderbilt experience. Linda was an incredible role model and leader, and I hope the university will strongly reconsider this disappointing decision.

A
Allison Gordon
3 years ago

Linda was such an amazing boss when I worked at the ORC 2007-2011. I really hope more students get to experience the ORC and Linda!

K
Kara Ferrell
4 years ago

My Vanderbilt Outdoor Rec. Experience remains on my resume 20 years later! People ALWAYS ask me about this experience. Trips to The Rio Grande, Grand Canyon, and even the simpler day trips from Nashville, plus the rentals and the influence of the program on the overall “Rec- Center” experience should not be underestimated.

A
Alyssa Evans
4 years ago

I’m so glad the Hustler covered this story! To lose the ORC and Linda Rosenkranz would be a terrible, sad day. The ORC is where I developed as a student and person as a whole. It connected me with people around campus, gave me relationships that I will have forever, and taught me about conservation, survival skills, and technical skills to enjoy and protect the outdoors. Although I know that the COVID-19 pandemic has made things difficult, I strongly advocate for a different strategy to allocate funds and to keep the ORC up and running. Without Linda, the ORC will be starved of one of its most experienced leadership and mentorship programs. Vandy, there has to be another way.

G
Gerald Tilma
4 years ago

It is an absolute disgrace to Vanderbilt that they would so unceremoniously fire someone with over 30 years of service, someone who started and ran a hugely successful and popular program. Furloughing employees because of economic downturn and uncertain future is one thing; this makes no sense and is completely outrageous. I drew great benefit from Outdoor Rec both as a trip attendee and as an employee, and can attest to Linda being a hardworking, caring, inspiring role model for students. When I returned to campus for Alumni Weekend after 15 years, it made my day to be able to visit with Linda and see the continued vibrancy of Outdoor Rec. If this action is not reversed, a significant bond I have with the University will be broken.

M
Maggie Drummond
4 years ago

Linda and the ORC were vital parts of my
Vanderbilt experience! They would be foolish not to offer her her position back- so many students have been touched by the services the ORC and Linda have offered.

A
Amy Simmonds Pridgen
4 years ago

My time at Vanderbilt was from 1990-1994 and while I had wonderful experiences with campus organizations, Greek life, classroom learning under phenomenal professors and even being invited to the homes of professors, undoubtedly the crown jewel of my college experience came at the hand of Linda Rosenkranz and the Outdoor Rec Center (ORC). As time has passed since I was on campus, nothing has remained as powerful as my experiences through ORC. Linda was visionary in her ability to empower students toward their best self. She made expensive equipment available to a diverse group of students for a very reasonable fee. Additionally she urged us into the out of doors where stress melted away and inspiration was around every bend. My time in her program has powerfully impacted the trajectory of both my personal and professional life and without it my time at Vanderbilt would have been simply been commonplace instead of exceptional. Firing Linda and ending ORC is a horrific decision by VU. On behalf of future students and the Vanderbilt experience, BRING BACK LINDA!

M
Michael Schopp A&S 2011
4 years ago

Great article and thanks for covering this issue. It is shocking that Vanderbilt would fire Linda after 30+ years creating a great organization and community at the ORC. I made lifelong friends working at the ORC and shared outdoor experiences with many students, staff, and alumni while leading trips. This was a terrible decision by Kenny, Lori, and Vanderbilt.

S
Shannon Telenko
4 years ago

Thank you for writing this article! I hope the university is listening the needs of students and the hopes of alumni, like me, who have so many special memories of the ORC and Linda’s leadership.

K
Kelly Dennen
4 years ago

As an alumna, I would also cease donating to Vanderbilt if they cut the ORC. One of the most worthwhile resources at the university and a huge boon to student mental health.

D
Daniel Birmingham ‘13
4 years ago

The ORC defined my college experience during the three years that I was a member of the community. Much more than a gear rental service, it is an institution that brought together students from all undergraduate and graduate colleges and connected them with alumni, faculty, and staff of the university, allowing them to connect around a common interest in the leaving the Vandy bubble and experiencing the great natural resources of Tennessee and the southeast. Needless to say the success and popularity of the ORC is completely attributable to its founder and leader during its entire existence, Linda Rosenkranz. I can’t imagine my Vanderbilt experience without having access to this incredible program and feel sorry for future students who will be denied the opportunity to ever participate in the community that Linda painstakingly built over three decades. A very disappointing decision to say the least.

S
Scott Simontacchi
4 years ago

I am a former ORC employee from over 10 years ago and many of my best experiences at Vandy were through the ORC. Having positive role models and regular leadership opportunities were critical to my growth in those years, and Linda’s leadership was what made the program run so well. It’s just tragic that such a gem of program would be eliminated (and the person who built it 30 years ago!). And it’s just a bunch of kayaks mostly scrubbed by students. How expensive could it really be? Linda spent decades pouring her heart and soul into this program, not to mention weekends, and it’s just not right to fire someone late in their career to save a few dollars. It’s an embarrassment.