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.


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)

Jessica M. Barker, News Editor

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.”