Dean of Students and Vice President of Student Affairs Robert Flot announced to the student body Aug. 17 via email that Jaime Hoffman, who had been on a leave of absence since October 2017, would not be returning to the position of athletic director (AD).
According to Flot, Hoffman has not been terminated or fired and remains on a leave of absence. According to Hoffman, she was fired over the phone Aug. 17.
With Hoffman not returning as athletic director, Flot will serve in the capacity of interim athletic director while maintaining his status as dean of students and vice president of student affairs.
“At the point of time in which I was moved into the interim athletic role, two head coaches had handed in their resignations earlier that week: the head men’s and women’s tennis coach, Rachel Manasse, and the head women’s lacrosse coach Stephanie Mark,” Flot said. “Rachel left to take a position at another institution here in the LA area, and Stephanie decided to move back to the East Coast to be closer to her family.”
With Mark and Manasse resigning over the summer, some athletes were hesitant about what their upcoming seasons would look like, according to Haley Jones (first year), a goalie for the women’s lacrosse team.
“I remember I was sitting at dinner, and the email popped up that Steph [Mark] was resigning,” Jones said. “Immediately our recruiting class had a group text. Everyone was asking what this meant and wondering if we were going to get cut. I think initially everyone was disappointed — we obviously respect her decision, but she was a big reason why a lot of us came here.”
While the AD and head tennis coach positions remain open, Flot recently named Hannah Khin as the new head coach for women’s lacrosse. Khin spent three years at Occidental serving under Mark as assistant lacrosse coach from 2015–2017 and spent the previous academic year as an assistant coach at Southwestern Texas University. Khin will return to Occidental to begin her new position as head women’s lacrosse coach Oct. 1.
“A lot of us have actually met [Khin], so that makes it easier,” Jones said. “Also, the seniors on the team have stepped up a ton. They’re treating us all like family, which is really nice to be a part of as a first year.”
Although the lacrosse coach position has been filled, according to Flot, he looks to employ a multi-constituent search committee to fill the remaining positions, including the AD position. Flot said that this committee will involve staff, faculty, students and administrators. Flot has invited Marci Raney, associate professor of kinesiology, to join him as co-chair of the search committee.
“Given that student-athletes are both students and athletes, it made sense to me to have a faculty member, representing the academic side of the house, co-chair the committee with me as the interim athletic director, to make sure the faculty voice was included as part of that process,” Flot said. “Marci and I are in the process of identifying the membership for the committee. There will probably be about 10 people or so, including students, faculty and staff.”
Once the search committee is formed, the committee plans to host three listening sessions to get input from the college community regarding the athletic director position, according to Flot. He explained that as the search committee convenes and begins its work in October, the major question they hope to answer is how each candidate meets the AD position’s requirements in terms of experience, education, character and fit within the overall Occidental philosophies.
The college will also convene a committee to oversee the gender equity assessment plan and make recommendations for the college, according to Flot. The committee, which has yet to receive an official title, is co-chaired by Jennifer Broomfield, the college’s Title IX coordinator, and Ali Haehnel, assistant director of athletics and deputy Title IX coordinator.
Flot said that he sees this committee as a vital component to addressing issues of gender equity within the athletics department.
“I believe that the gender equity process in athletics that we’re about to undertake needs to be as transparent and as open as possible,” Flot said. “To have a committee to shepherd that process, to provide feedback to the community, to solicit feedback from the community, instead of having someone, say, just me, try and do that process alone, it made sense to have a committee to put that forward.”
Occidental’s athletics department is simultaneously working with consultant Maureen Devlin, former executive director of the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. According to the organization’s website, The Knight Foundation is a panel of members from various academic and athletic communities, with an eye toward reform of college athletics. Devlin was previously hired as a consultant to help guide the task force developed by President Jonathan Veitch to examine the status of the football program during the 2017–2018 academic school year.
According to Flot, Devlin provided external, objective expertise to determine what steps needed to be taken to provide more gender equity in athletics. Devlin is currently conducting a gender equity assessment for the Occidental athletics department.
“I can say that the situation with football provided us with an opportunity to examine our overall athletics operation,” Flot said. “Do we have the varsity sports we want to have? Are our facilities the way we want them? I think a big task for me over the course of this year ahead in this interim role is really to answer the question, are we satisfied with our athletics operation as is? I don’t know the answer yet, and I think it’s the question that has been posed to me to answer moving forward.”